Founded in 1978, the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS), is the organization in Canada that is at the forefront in the celebration of Black history and heritage with a demonstrated record in the study, preservation and promotion of Black history in Ontario. The OBHS is also the only Ontario Provincial Heritage Organization of the Ministry of Culture devoted to Black history and heritage.
We are the organization responsible for initiating the formal celebration of February Black History Month at all levels of government in Canada due to our yearlong efforts to extend this celebration. (i.e. The first formal declaration of February as Black history month with the City of Toronto in 1979; and with the Province of Ontario in 1993).
Dr. Daniel Hill, Donna Hill, Wilson Brooks, Joan Kazmarski, Lorraine Hubbard and others, co-founded the Ontario Black History Society in 1978. It became the first major public organization in Canada focused on the history of Blacks in the country. Daniel Hill remained at the helm of the Society for about six years.
Daniel Hill used his social aplomb and contacts to bring the celebration of Black history into the public domain. In 1980, Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton supported the launch of a major Black history exhibit at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Daniel Hill succeeded in discovering and unveiling a portrait of William Peyton Hubbard, a prominent Toronto Black politician in the early 20th century, who had become all but forgotten in the closing decades of the 20th century.
This photograph was taken during a reception that Attorney General Roy McMurtry held for members of the Ontario Black History Society in 1981, three years after Daniel and Donna Hill and four friends founded the organization. Attorney General’s reception for the Ontario Black History Society, February 16, 1981 .
(Photo: Dr. Daniel G. Hill (left), Lorraine Hubbard (second from left) and Attorney General Roy McMurtry (far right)
On Wednesday, George Brown College will honour the story of the Blackburns, naming a conference centre at their student residence, The George, after the courageous couple and unveiling a mural designed and painted by George Brown students.
“This goes beyond the incredible story of a couple fleeing slavery to seek freedom in Canada, building incredible community partnerships and opening up the doors to blacks in Toronto,” said Nikki Clarke, the President of the Ontario Black History Society. “Their story runs parallel to many people’s stories: taking refuge, seeking safety, and trying to start over in a new country. It resonates with many.”
Nikki Clarke, President of the Ontario Black History Society said she and her colleagues offered feedback on artifacts found prior to the exhibit’s launch. “I think it’s amazing we can have this exhibit to really exemplify the multiculturalism of this city,” she said.
Clarke said that once the items are no longer housed at city hall, she’s hopeful for the possibility of having a black museum in Toronto, where these objects can be housed permanently and this history can continue to be remembered.