Just as the lindy hop and jitterbug broke loose of traditional dance forms, so too, African Canadians began to break loose of the racist restrictions that had kept them down. Community and cultural activities continued to play an important role in people’s lives. As always, the community would produce those whose excellence and achievement could not be denied. However, many would still make the trek south to the United States. By contrast, the Canadian government – under pressure from the Black community to ease immigration restrictions – moved to admit Caribbean nurses and other professionals in the 1950s under the “exceptional merit” clause of the Immigration Act.
Just as the lindy hop and jitterbug broke loose of traditional dance forms, so too, African Canadians began to break loose of the racist restrictions that had kept them down. Community and cultural activities continued to play an important role in people’s lives. As always, the community would produce those whose excellence and achievement could not be denied. However, many would still make the trek south to the United States. By contrast, the Canadian government – under pressure from the Black community to ease immigration restrictions – moved to admit Caribbean nurses and other professionals in the 1950s under the “exceptional merit” clause of the Immigration Act.

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved

Black lodge women of the Order of the Eastern Star

Black lodge women of the Order of the Eastern Star, ADAH Chapter #7, Scenic City Lodge 22, Collingwood and Owen Sound, Ontario. Back Row (l to r) Rev. Ivan Moore, Yvonne Sheffield, Ilda Sheffield, Mamie Talbert, Jane Scott, Florence Sheffield and Ella Green. Front row (l to r) Mary Bowie, Estelle 'Flossie' Bowie, Alice Harrison, Viola Moore, Norman Green, Mary Johnson and Lelia Green.

The Grey Roots Archival Collection

© The Grey Roots Archival Collection, Owen Sound, Ontario


Artis Lane

Chatham Daily News, 1942. Artis Lane, née Shreve, won the Dominion of Canada Award for portraiture at age of fifteen. After receiving a scholarship to study at the Ontario College of Art, Lane moved to the United States in the 1950s and now paints and sculpts in California.

Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society

© Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society


Baptism Ceremony

Baptism ceremony in Detroit River.

North American Black Historical Museum

© North American Black Historical Museum


C.L. Morton of the Church of God in Christ

C.L. Morton of the Church of God in Christ established eleven churches in southwestern Ontario and the US and for years broadcast regular radio programs on CFCO in Chatham beginning in 1935 and on CKLW in Windsor.

North American Black Historical Museum

© North American Black Historical Museum


Children In Emancipation Day Parade

Children In Emancipation Day Parade

Emancipation Collection, North American Black Historical Museum

© North American Black Historical Museum


Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King at Windsor’s 1956 Emancipation Day festivities.

North American Black Historical Museum

© North American Black Historical Museum


Earl Walls

Earl Walls, from Puce, Ontario, was the Canadian Heavyweight Boxing Champion between 1952-55, retiring undefeated. He was ranked #1 in the British Empire and #5 in the world.

Allen Eugene Walls

© Allen Eugene Walls


Herb and Ossie Carnegie

Herb and Ossie Carnegie, fromSherbrooke, Quebec, 1946-1947. Dubbed the ‘Brown Bombers,’ the Carnegie Brothers, with Manny McIntyre became the first only all-black hockey line in Quebec’s Senior League. Toronto-born Herb Carnegie was later denied a spot in the NHL because of his colour.

Herb Carnegie Collection, Multicultural History Society of Ontario

© Multicultural History Society of Ontario


Mary MacLeod Bethune

Mary MacLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman College and appointee in US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s cabinet, was the guest speaker at Emancipation Day Celebrations in Windsor, 1954.

North American Black Historical Museum

© North American Black Historical Museum


Thomas Shadd

Thomas Shadd, tambour-major, et l'orchestre Maple Leaf de North Buxton, vers 1960.

Adrienne Shadd

© Adrienne Shadd


Walter Perry

Walt Perry, better known as ‘Mr. Emancipation,’ began the biggest Emancipation Day Celebrations Ontario had ever seen when he organized the event in Windsor beginning in 1931. What evolved was a four-day extravaganza with internationally-known guest speakers, a parade drawing bands and marchers from all over Ontario and the US, a barbecue at Jackson Park and a host of other events. Perry’s term for it: "The Greatest Freedom Show on Earth!"

North American Black Historical Museum

© North American Black Historical Museum


Emancipation Day Parade

Emancipation Day parade, Windsor, c. 1950. Walt Perry shown in white shirt on left.

North American Black Historical Museum

© North American Black Historical Museum


Wilson Woodbeck

Wilson Woodbeck, opera singer, from Owen Sound, Ontario.

The Grey Roots Archival Collection

© The Grey Roots Archival Collection, Owen Sound, Ontario


Emancipation Day Parade

Men with American Flags in the Emancipation Day Parade.

Emancipation Collection, North American Black Historical Museum

© North American Black Historical Museum


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • explain how Canada’s identity has been and continues to be shaped by its global participation;
  • comment on the political and social context of African Canadians between 1900 and World War II;
  • discuss civil rights of African Canadians from 1960 to now.

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