Black History Month has already begun! So, whether you’re wondering why we celebrate Black History Month, we’ve got you covered.
We’ll share a few interesting facts, so keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Black History Month and beyond!
The first race riot in North America erupted in Canada
Canada was the site of North America’s first racial riot. Around the period of the American Revolution, the British offered escaped Black slaves land in Canada in exchange for fighting for them in the war. As a result, approximately 10,000 Black Loyalists fought for Britain, with 1200 settling in the Maritimes.
Racial tensions rose between Birchtown’s community of free Black Loyalists and the mostly white society of Shelburne County. In 1784, forty white Loyalists broke into the residences of David George, a Black preacher, and twenty others. This incident caused a ten-day commotion, with only one man charged.
The Underground Railroad provided an opportunity for enslaved people to escape
The Underground Railroad provided an opportunity for enslaved persons in the South to go to the free northern states or Canada. More and more people were seeking security in Canada. The Fugitive Slave Law, however, was passed by the United States Congress in 1850. Even inside free states, this law facilitated the capture of runaway Black people.
Only Canada and the United States observe Black History Month in February
In Canada, as in the United States, Black History Month is observed in February. However, this is not the case everywhere. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, October is established as Black History Month.
Do you know why this particular month was chosen to commemorate African Americans’ achievements? Black History Month also honours the births of two great men who, in their ways, brought an end to slavery. Former US President Abraham Lincoln and social activist Frederick Douglas were both influential in the abolition of slavery. Frederick Douglas fled slavery himself.
Black History Month has been celebrated since 1926
In the United States, Black History Month was first celebrated in 1926. Carter G. Woodson, an African-American and Harvard-educated historian, first suggested it in a press release. He proposed a period dedicated to honouring African Americans’ achievements and raising knowledge of Black history in the US. The concept quickly spread to Canada, resulting in the first Black History Month festivities here.
Ontario Adopts Anti-Discrimination Law in 1944
Ontario became the first province in Canada to implement the Racial Discrimination Act in 1944. The act made discriminatory public signage, newspaper advertisements, and radio broadcasts illegal. Soon after, Ontario enacted additional anti-discrimination laws, including the Fair Employment Practices Act (1951) and the Fair Accommodation Practices Act (1954). These acts would be combined to form the Human Rights Code of Ontario. They would guarantee equal rights and opportunities to all Canadians without discrimination.
It was called Black History Week at first
Until the 1970s, Black History Month was known as Black History Week. It was formerly titled ‘Negro History Week.’ When Black History Week was expanded to include the entire month in 1976, it was formally titled Black History Month. Since then, every US president has recognized February to be Black History Month. In Canada, February has been declared Black History Month.
Black History Month gained official recognition only in 1995
Even though Black History Month has been commemorated in Canada since the 1970s, it was not officially recognized until December 1995. Jean Augustine, the first African-Canadian woman elected to Parliament, introduced the resolution to officially recognize February as Black History Month.
Senator Donald Oliver, Canada’s first Black senator, proposed a resolution in 2008 to establish February as Black History Month in Canada. The motion was approved unanimously. As a result, on March 4, 2008, Canada passed the Motion to Recognize the Contributions of Black Canadians, and February was designated as Black History Month.
The first black man first came to Canada nearly 400 years ago
Mathieu Da Costa was the first black man to visit Canada in 1604. He arrived with French explorers and worked as a multilingual interpreter, speaking five distinct languages. Many Black groups have since been introduced to Canada or have immigrated from all over the world, particularly the United States.
Canada’s black community has been increasing
Along with increased engagement in Black History Month, the Black population in Canada has been steadily increasing. Between 1996 and 2016, the Black population more than doubled in size. In 2022, the Black population will account for 3.5% of the overall population in Canada.