By the turn of the century, African Canadian men and women had earned the rights and privileges of all Canadians to live in equality and dignity. However, events in Canada and around the world would reveal that the position of Black people had reached a new low. Beginning in the 1880s, Europe colonized and carved up the continent of Africa. African people would remain under direct European rule for the next 70 years. In the same period, the rise of Jim Crow segregation in the American South took away rights and freedoms that African Americans had gained immediately after the Emancipation of the slaves in the United States. The rise of pseudo-scientific theories of race from 1870 – 1930 placed Africans at the bottom of the human hierarchy.

Canadian society was influenced by this chain of events. Whites did not view Blacks as equals and restricted them from partaking in much of the fruit of citizenship. As a result, Blacks could often not eat in restaurants, stay in hotels, sit on the main floor of theatres, play golf, tennis, or skate at local rinks – the gamut of activities other Canadians enjoyed. Many areas had restrictive covenants whereby African Canadia Read More
By the turn of the century, African Canadian men and women had earned the rights and privileges of all Canadians to live in equality and dignity. However, events in Canada and around the world would reveal that the position of Black people had reached a new low. Beginning in the 1880s, Europe colonized and carved up the continent of Africa. African people would remain under direct European rule for the next 70 years. In the same period, the rise of Jim Crow segregation in the American South took away rights and freedoms that African Americans had gained immediately after the Emancipation of the slaves in the United States. The rise of pseudo-scientific theories of race from 1870 – 1930 placed Africans at the bottom of the human hierarchy.

Canadian society was influenced by this chain of events. Whites did not view Blacks as equals and restricted them from partaking in much of the fruit of citizenship. As a result, Blacks could often not eat in restaurants, stay in hotels, sit on the main floor of theatres, play golf, tennis, or skate at local rinks – the gamut of activities other Canadians enjoyed. Many areas had restrictive covenants whereby African Canadians could not own or rent property and some towns had “sundown laws” that ordered them out before nightfall.

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Nanny and child

One of the few jobs open to Black women was in domestic service.

Multicultural History Society of Ontario

© Multicultural History Society of Ontario,


Billboard

Billboard advertisement depicting Aunt Jemima stereotype on Queen Street West in Toronto, 1938.

City of Toronto Archives
c. 1938
© City of Toronto Archives


Minstrel Show

Although Blacks found them degrading, minstrel shows with whites in Blackface were common in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

McCormick Playground Minstrels
c. 1916
© City of Toronto Archives


Public Washroom Attendant

Public washroom attendant

City of Toronto Archives

© City of Toronto Archives


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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