As in the United States, African Canadians often gained more acceptance as "entertainers" than they did in the everyday work world. Those with special talents made their mark as musicians, composers, actors, writers and sports figures. Many opted for the "big time" south of the border.
As in the United States, African Canadians often gained more acceptance as "entertainers" than they did in the everyday work world. Those with special talents made their mark as musicians, composers, actors, writers and sports figures. Many opted for the "big time" south of the border.

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved

Hattie Rhue Hatchett

Hattie Rhue Hatchett
musician and composer, North Buxton, Ontario.

Buxton National Historic Site and Museum

© Buxton National Historic Site and Museum


Leo Dorsey

A book of poems which he self-published in 1943. Leo Dorsey was born in St. Catharines, Ontario and served as a sergeant in No. 2 Construction Battalion, C Company in World War I. Upon his return, he continued his writing, lectures and musical recitals. Dorsey's poems and recitals were quite popular in his day and he boasted letters of appreciation from Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mrs. Herbert Hoover, and Lord R.B. Bennet of the United Kingdom.

St. Catharines Museum

© St. Catharines Museum


Leo Dorsey with Street Poetry Sign

Leo Dorsey with street poetry sign, Niagara Falls, New York.

St. Catharines Museum

© St. Catharines Museum


Record cover for “The Three Jolly Miners”

Record cover for “The Three Jolly Miners” compilation of recordings, 1925-1928, released 1966, New York. Photo of Elmer Snowden (banjo), left, Louis Hooper (piano), center, Bob Fuller (clarinet), right, 1925. Lou Hooper was a successful musician and composer from North Buxton, Ontario.

Eugene Miller

© Eugene Miller


Harold Lee Jackson

Harold Lee Jackson, 1922, became the first Black licensed ham radio operator in Canada, and city correspondent of the Ontario Division to the American Radio Relay League, 1923. He opened Jackson’s Radio Repair in 1925 in Chatham, Ontario.

Ada Jackson

© Ada Jackson


Royal Canadian Ambassadors

Myron Sutton, third from right, and the Royal Canadian Ambassadors, an all Black Ontarian jazz band, at the Gatineau Country Club, 1930s, Aylmer, Quebec.

Myron Sutton Collection, Concordia University Archives

© Concordia University Archives


Bethune Murray

Bethune Murray, Chatham musician and composer who earned success in Chicago.

Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society

© Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society


The Chatham Coloured All-Stars

The Chatham Coloured All-Stars, honoured by the Blue Jays in 2002 during the tribute to the Negro Leagues, won the Provincial Intermediate Championship in 1934.

Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society

© Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society


Souvenir program of “Green Pastures”

Souvenir program of “Green Pastures” a Pulitzer prize winning play by Marc Connolly in which Canadian-born actor, Richard B. Harrison, starred on Broadway.

North American Black Historical Museum

© North American Black Historical Museum


Richard B. Harrison

Richard B. Harrison, actor from London, Ontario, who starred from 1930-35 as “De Lawd” in the long running Broadway play “Green Pastures.” Harrison was once dubbed the greatest “coloured” actor on earth.

North American Black Historical Museum

© North American Black Historical Museum


Reproduction Recording Label

Reproduction recording label for “I'm So Glad Trouble Don't Last Alway” by R. Nathaniel Dett, produced 1924, New York.

Eugene Miller

© Eugene Miller


R. Nathaniel Dett

R. Nathaniel Dett, 1930, composer, musician, music professor, choral director. Taken from R. Nathaniel Dett: His Life and Works (1882-1943)

Vivian Flagg McBrier
Taken from R. Nathaniel Dett: His Life and Works (1882-1943) by Vivian Flagg McBrier (The Associated Publishers, Inc. Washington, D.C., 1976) p. 89, With the permission of Elisa Rice, Donigan Hills, New York

© Vivian Flagg McBrier


Sea Island Merrymakers

Sea Island Merrymakers, Owen Sound, Ontario, 1920s.

Bonita Johnson-de Matteis and Grey Roots Archival Collection

© Bonita Johnson-de Matteis and Grey Roots Archival Collection, Owen Sound, Ontario


Sheet Music Cover

Sheet music cover for “It's Awf'ly Hard to Say good-Bye to Someone You Love” by Shelton Brooks. Produced by Sunlight Music Company Inc., Chicago, Illinois, 1911.

Eugene Miller
Produced by Sunlight Music Company Inc., Chicago, Illinois, 1911.

© Eugene Miller


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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