African-Canadian Black History Month Background
Every year, Canadians are invited to participate in African-Canadian Black History Month festivities and events that honour the legacy of African-Canadians, past and present. Canadians take this time to celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Canadians with African heritage who, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate and prosperous nation we know today. It is also an opportunity for all of us to learn about the wide range of African-Canadian experiences, including dealing with racism, and the vital role this community has played throughout our shared history.
For 2019, the theme of the Government of Canada’s Black History Month campaign is Black Canadian Youth: Boundless, Rooted and Proud. To learn more about this campaign, view videos and download the poster, visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/black-history-month.html.
Black History Month becomes African-Canadian Black History Month
The Saskatchewan African-Canadian Heritage Museum (SACHM) has been one of the provincial leaders in promoting the importance of the historical and current contributions of people of African descent in the province. After years of reflecting and studying, this year they have chosen to change the title of the month to African-Canadian Black History Month. This is meant to align with the 1978 UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, which clarified that genetics do not support human racial classifications; however, race as a social, political and economic construct remains a reality that results in persisting racial discrimination, violation of human rights and social injustices. The new title is meant to be inclusive of all people of African descent. MCoS applauds the efforts of the many organizations and individuals who work on cultural continuity, who share their cultures at celebrations of diversity, who expose the cost of racism and how we can go beyond it, who reach out to build intercultural connections within and beyond the African-Canadian community, and who contribute to social cohesion in all communities in Saskatchewan in so many ways.
For more information on UNESCO Declaration visit: http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13161&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html
Saskatchewan has a rich African-Canadian Black History
Saskatchewan is experiencing high levels of immigration. We welcomed 11,823 permanent residents, 10,891 temporary residents and 110 refugee claimants in 2014. Nigeria is among the top ten source countries for immigrants and six of the top ten source countries for refugees are in Africa. The First Nations and Métis populations have increased from 92,400 in 2001 to 157,740 in 2011. These trends are expected to continue in the future. African-Canadian Black History Month events are an opportunity to focus on ways all people contribute to our cultural, social, political and economic life. It is also important to foster connections with other ethnic groups in ways that recognize and celebrate differences, while building a cohesive shared Canadian society. African-Canadian Black History Month is an excellent opportunity to remember the negative impacts of racism in the past and present, so that we may move forward with respect and equity.
The history of people of African heritage was mostly unknown and not documented in Saskatchewan. In 1995, Dr. Bruce Shepard wrote “Deemed Unsuitable” about the history of Blacks in Saskatchewan. MCoS has promoted African-Canadian Black History Month and sustained our civic memory through publications, events, advertising and public education, a DVD entitled “Prairie Black”, and support for our member organizations. The Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum Inc. has made it their mission “To preserve and celebrate the heritage of people of African heritage in Saskatchewan”.
As a result of further research, collecting and documenting information, the heritage and contribution of people of African descent in Saskatchewan over the last 100 plus years, is now available. There is more research being done. Each year, we make bilingual fact sheets, developed by the Saskatchewan African-Canadian Heritage Museum (SACHM), on the history of people with African heritage in Saskatchewan available to all schools in the province, and others who are interested. The purpose is to educate and inform others of the unknown history and experiences of some of the original African-Canadian settlers and newer immigrants. This resource and the planned school visits will increase awareness in all students, pride in students of African ancestry and foster citizenship based on making our communities welcoming for all people (See: African-Canadian Black History Month Events)
With recent increases in immigration, the population of francophone Africans has increased dramatically. La Communauté des Africains Francophones (CAFS) works to build community, meet the needs of newcomers and share the rich culture and history during African-Canadian Black History Month and throughout the year.
The African-Canadian Resource Network (ACRN) is another relatively new organization to support the full integration of people of African-descent in Saskatchewan. ACRN is an action-oriented, resource organization dedicated to supporting the capacity development of the African-Canadian Community in Saskatchewan in strategic areas such as public and business leadership. Members work toward the vision of “A united African-Canadian Community that adds value to the social, economic, political and cultural well-being of Saskatchewan”.(See: http://www.acrnsask.ca/)
Did you know?
- Dr. Alfred Shadd was the first Black resident of this province, moving from Ontario in 1896. He was a teacher, doctor, pharmacist, publisher and politician in the Melfort area.
- 2010 was the 100th Anniversary of the first migration of African American immigrants to Saskatchewan from Oklahoma. Shiloh Church stands near Maidstone as a testament to this community.
- The Canadian government considered passing an act that people of African descent were “deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada” in 1911.
- The Indian Head Rockets were an all Black baseball team that played to full crowds 1948-1955, at a time when African-Americans were banned from US major leagues.
Government of Canada – Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada Web Site
This web site contains in-depth information about Black History Month including games, quizzes, posters, featured biographies, etc.
Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum Inc. (SACHM)
SACHM’s web site has a virtual museum that features biographies and photos of Saskatchewan individuals and families with African heritage.
They also created fact sheets that document a hundred years of black history in Saskatchewan.
Fact Sheets: 1) The LaFayette Family, 2) Dr. Alfred Schmitz Shadd, 3) Oklahoma Pioneers and the Shiloh Baptist Church, 4) Historic Timeline, 5) Bibliography for Local Information, and 6) Baseball Heroes
Combined PDF file: Black History Month Fact Sheets by SACHM (pdf)
Web site: http://www.sachm.org/
La Communauté des Africains Francophones de Saskatchewan Inc. (CAFS)
This web site contains activities and photos from previous years.