Ontario Black History Society

402-10 Adelaide St. E, Toronto, ON, M5C 1J3

Temporarily closed due to COVID-19

Contact us at admin@blackhistorysociety.ca or (416)-867-9420

Charity Registration Number: 119930295RR0001

Profiles of Black Canadians

DR. DANIEL & DONNA HILL

LUCIE & THORNTON BLACKBURN

LINCOLN ALEXANDER

JOE FORTES

BLACK SETTLERS IN SASKATCHEWAN AND ALBERTA

ENSLAVEMENT IN CANADA: EARLY 1600s TO 1834

THE BLACK LOYALISTS

CARIBBEAN MIGRATION

HOGAN’S ALLEY

CURRENT AFRICAN MIGRATION TO CANADA

Contemporary Profiles

Rella Aylestock Braithwaite

Leonard A. Braithwaite

Dr. Daurene Lewis

Nelson Mandela

Robert ``Mark`` Smith

Deborah Brown

Kevin Junor

REV. GORDON FRANCIS AND REV. LILY FRANCIS

Submit your profile

HOGAN’S ALLEY

Hogan’s Alley was a Vancouver, BC, neighbourhood that was home to multiple immigrant communities but was known largely for its African-Canadian population. The name “Hogan’s Alley” was not official, but was the popular term for a T-shaped intersection. The Black community has established itself by 1923, when the African Methodist Episcopal Fountain Chapel was founded. Black settlement and high concentration of Black people were due to the proximity between the neighbourhood and the Great Northern Railway, where many men worked as porters. In addition, Black people faced housing discrimination in other parts of Vancouver, which lead them to the area of Hogan’s Alley. However, efforts of the City of Vancouver to construct an interurban freeway, put an end to a now distinct neighbourhood, which is now receiving recognition in the early 21st century. Courtesy of Canada Post.

Submit your profile

You may write about anybody you believe is successful or has made an impact in society. The main objective would be to create a vivid image of the subject, highlighting their areas of accomplishments and how their work has impacted society.

As with the historical profile, there is no need to dwell on the total life history of your subject. Concentrate on a specific angle and delve deep to bring out interesting aspects about your profile.

Preliminary research from autobiographies, biographies, newspapers and the internet is important to get some basic information about your subject before arranging an interview. Contact the subject by phone or letter. Let the person know what the information will be used for and how long the interview will take. Arrange a time when the interview is convenient for the person you want to profile.

Before meeting the subject for the interview, make arrangements to obtain photographs from the subject, and prepare the interview questions based on the preliminary research initially conducted. Ask for permission to tape the interview to ensure that correct quotes are used. Quotes often bring your contemporary profile to life, and makes the article more interesting.

Rev. Gordon Francis and Rev. Lily Francis

My name is Lily Agatha Francis, the wife of the late Reverend Gordon Francis. We have one daughter, Florence Harriet Elizabeth. Her name was inspired by a book I read about twelve wonderful women. When my daughter was born, the midwife said, “What are you going to name this child?” I replied, Florence from Florence Nightingale (Nurse) , Harriet from Harriet Tubman (Underground Railroad conductor) and also Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom's cabin), and Elizabeth after Elizabeth Fry (She worked with women and helped them due to the suffering they faced in those days).

Reverend Gordon Francis was the founder of the Pilgrim Methodist Church located at 778 Ossington Ave. in Toronto. The Church provided a place of worship for new Immigrants and the community. He was very involved in community work. In the 1960’s he spoke with the CEO of General Motors requesting that the company expand their hiring to Blacks in the community. In 1963-1964, he broadcasted morning devotionals on CKTB radio in St. Catharines. He also had a Radio Ministry which broadcasted from Chatham Radio Station and Sunday broadcasts in Windsor.

Reverend Lily Francis was born March 5th,1925 in Devonshire Castle, on the Essequibo Coast of British Guiana. Lily began her teaching career at age 15 at Success Canadian Mission in Leguan which was a Presbyterian school. She later continued teaching at St. Laurence's Anglican School, before migrating to Canada at Campbellville Government school in 1956. Lily ended her career in a local Government school (from kindergarten to grade 8).

Before immigrating to Canada, she assisted with pastoral duties and teaching Sunday school with Rev. Gordon Francis, who she married. Lily had many other roles as Sunday school teacher, pianist and organist. Rev. Markham made Lily the General Superintendent for the Sunday School at Christ Church.

Lily shared memories of early days of the Church First Baptist was the first Black Church in Toronto. It was led by Rev. Arthur Cariss, from Collingwood. I was ordained by Rev. Blackwood, Rev. Kofi, Rev. Harry Chan. I also assisted in the laying of hands by 9 Ministers. Did you know Addie Aylestock? Of course - she was staunch ..from Chatham. Daisy Clarke, (Lily remembers others in the Church) in St. Catharines, Frank Dorsey, always late, he had to practise in a band.. his father was Old Charlie Dorsey.

In 1963, Reverend Francis immigrated to Canada (from British Guiana) to continue his religious studies at Jarvis Baptist Seminary. Bishop A.S. Markham of the British Methodist Churches appointed Rev. Francis the Pastor in charge of three Black Churches... BERTIE HALL CHAPEL IN FORT ERIE - Niagara Peninsula, THE NATHANIEL DETT CHAPEL - Niagara Falls and THE SALEM CHAPEL - St. Catharines.*In the 1960's Rev. Francis spoke to the Dean of Windsor University to encourage the University to accept Blacks as Undergraduate students. In 1963, Rev. Francis was the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee and Treasurer of the St. Catharines Ministerial Association. Rev. Gordon Francis was on the Ministerial Advisory Board for Brock University when it was first being established. Actively involved with the YMCA, he promoted opportunities for Black Youth within the community. He had speaking engagements with the Kiwanis, the Rotary and Lion’s Club.

I remember the Annual Conference for the Ladies League and Gordon was late. Margaret Jackson, a lady I knew from Toronto said to me, “ You better get up there and start to preach until your husband arrives." Thankfully Gordon showed up, so I did not have to get up there. He was the only male member to be granted a Life Long Membership in 100 years with the Toronto Area Council of Woman and the Women’s Temperance Union. Rev. Francis was also involved with officiating the dedication of a plaque in honour of the 100 year anniversary death of Anthony Burns (Slave/Preacher).Lily was also very active in her community and was the Treasurer of both the Ontario and area Council of Woman and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

It was a pleasure to visit Lily’s family home, listen to her stories and look at pictures of the history she and her late husband created. As we end this interview, she wishes us well...
I would like to say, God be with you till we meet again, (Lily starts to sing) ..God be the tides that bind...

*THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE RT.REV.DR.GORDON HARRY FRANCIS. A Pilgrims Journey.-by Israelin Shockness.

Deborah Miller-Brown

As part of her training in high school, this Canadian track star ran against her male counterparts. She had two ambitions: becoming a member of Canada's national track team and competing in the Olympics. Deborah Miller-Brown displayed hard work and determination. In 1968, her dreams were realized, as she became the first Black Nova Scotian to participate at the Olympics. Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Brown began her track career at age of eleven in Brantford, Ontario. The track records she set while in secondary school were an early indication of the success to come. Miller-Brown ran her best time, which was only two seconds shy of the world record in a race shortly before the Olympics. During her career, Miller-Brown also broke the Canadian women's record, in the 100-yard dash.

At age seventeen, Miller-Brown was one of the youngest track participants at the Olympics. She competed in the 100-yard event and with the Canadian women's relay team. Though failing to qualify for the finals, Miller-Brown clocked a time that led to her being ranked eighth in the world. Her hometown of Brantford was so proud of her accomplishments that the residents provided financial support through various fund raising events. A special fund was also collected to pay for Miller-Brown’s mother to accompany her to Mexico for the 1968 Olympics. Upon returning from the Olympics, Miller-Brown was awarded a Medal of Excellence in Sports from the Prime Minister.

Still involved in the sport, Miller-Brown has exchanged her participant role for a coaching role. Miller- Brown is currently coaching the track and field team at Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

Robert "Mark" Smith

Robert "Mark" Smith, was born on June 27, 1959 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. During an impressive 25 year playing career he was considered one of the best softball pitchers in the world.

Smith had a desire to be the best softball pitcher in the world. Over an impressive twenty-year career at the world class level, Smith played in five different provinces as well as in southern California. He played for teams in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Smith then moved to the United States. There he played for the Camarillo Kings in California and won two International Softball Federation World Championships. He was also selected to the all-world team a record five times.

In 1984, Smith traveled to New Zealand where he played winter ball. Even though Smith was traveling around the world, he played for the Canadian national team winning three Pan American gold medals in 1979,1983 and 1991 as a player and another as a coach. While participating in a tournament in Las Vegas, one of Smith’s pitches was clocked at 109 mph by a radar gun. The result of this feat was an invitation to the training camp of Major League Baseball’s, Kansas City Royals.

Returning to Canada in 1985, Smith sought to raise the profile of softball in Nova Scotia. In 1993, Smith and Keith’s Breweries signed a three-year commitment in which he would play and coach for the Keith’s teams. Nineteen ninety-seven saw Smith establish his own team, the Halifax Jaguars. In August of 1998, Smith completed his playing career, capturing his first Senior Men’s Canadian championship gold medal. In 1999, Smith was voted tenth among Nova Scotia’s top ten male athletes of the twentieth century. In 2001, Smith was named the head coach of Canada’s national softball program. Smith has been inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Softball Hall of Fame and the American Softball Hall of Fame (ISC).

Dr. Daurene Lewis

Dr. Daurene Lewis was born and raised in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. She is a seventh generation descendent of Black Loyalist ‘s who settled in Annapolis Royal in 1783.

Lewis first entered political life in 1979, when she ran for a seat on the Annapolis Royal Town Council. In 1982, Lewis was appointed Deputy Mayor.

In 1984, Lewis was elected mayor of Annapolis Royal thus, becoming the first Black mayor in Nova Scotia and the first Black female mayor in Canada. In 1988 she entered provincial politics and was the first Black women in Nova Scotia to run in a provincial election.

She is also an accomplished textile artist and owned a weaving a design business in Annapolis Royal, for many years.

Lewis also holds a Master’s of Business Administration degree from Saint Mary's University. She has thirty years experience in the health care business, ranging from hospital staff, nurse to administrative positions in the provincial home care program.

Lewis trained as a registered nurse and graduated from Dalhousie University with a diploma of teaching in the schools of nursing.

Dr. Lewis has been the executive director of the Centre for Women in Business at Mount Saint Vincent University. Presently, Dr. Lewis is the principal for the Halifax Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College.

Dr. Lewis’ numerous awards include, 1993 recipient of an honorary degree from Mount Saint Vincent University, 1994 Black Cultural Centre’s Wall of Honour, 1995 Global Citizenship Award commemorating the United Nations 50th Anniversary, 1998 the Progress Club of Halifax Woman of Excellence award for Public Affairs and Communication, 2002 was YWCA volunteer award, 2002 Queen’s Jubilee Medal, and 2003 invested in the Order of Canada.

Leonard A. Braithwaite

Born in Toronto, of West Indian immigrant parents, Braithwaite was raised in the Kensington Market area during the Great Depression and attended Harbord Collegiate.

Joined the RCAF in 1943 - served Overseas. Graduated University of Toronto [B.Comm.1950], Harvard University [M.B.A.1952], Osgoode Hall Law School, Gold Key [LL.B.1958]. Order of Canada 1997, Order of Ontario 2005. The First Black Person elected to a Legislature in Canada [1963] and [1999] First Black Lawyer elected to be a Member of the Governing Council of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

1964, spoke out at Queen's Park that some rural, Coloured-only schools were still legally segregating Black children. His work led to the abolishment of the 114 year old Ontario Law permitting segregation. Fought for gender equality - 1966, - questioned Ontario Legislature why Student Pages working at Queen's Park were all Male. Later, Female Pages were appointed. Braithwaite's life-long actions in many fields have helped effect change and opened doors for many aspiring Minority Canadians.

https://encyclopediecanadienne.com/en/article/leonard-braithwaite?themeid=20&id=14

Rella Aylestock Braithwaite

Black Historian Rella Braithwaite passed away at age of 96. Rella and her late husband Henry “Bob” Braithwaite, a World War 11 veteran, settled in Scarborough in 1946 and were one of the first African-Canadian families to live in the neighbourhood. Together the couple raised six children, Bryan, Victor, Valerie, Cecil, Diana and Charlane.

Although she had moved to Toronto as a young adult, until her death on July 23, 2019, Rella was one of the last surviving elders that had grown up in the Wellington County Black community, the first African- Canadian Black pioneer community in Upper Canada that was formed in the late 1700’s.

Rella's sister Reverend Addie Aylestock was the first woman ordained as a minister in the BME church and the first Black woman ordained as a minister in Canada.

Seeing the need for their children to know their roots and rich cultural heritage, Rella developed a successful career as a Black historian, writer and researcher serving as co-president of the Ontario Black History Society for 3 terms.

Rella’s Favourite quote “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – Stephen Grellet.

CURRENT AFRICAN MIGRATION TO CANADA

The vast continent of Africa and its complex array of peoples has not had a close relationship with Canada. Prior to 1960, black Africans comprised a very small, scattered and almost unknown group of newcomers to Canada, although Africans of European and Asian ancestry had a clearer presence. Until recently, little formal documentation existed on any of these groups.

CARIBBEAN MIGRATION

In 1795, the Trelawny Town Maroons, one of five major Maroon communities in Jamaica, initiated an uprising that became the Second Maroon War First against the British. The government of Jamaica determined to exile the Trelawny Maroons after the Second Maroon War. They were the first group of people to come from the Caribbean to Canada (Nova Scotia) in 1796. There were three major waves of Caribbean migration to Canada (early 1900’s to 1960, 1960 to and 1971-present; multiculturalism policy). In which, most people who migrate from the Caribbean live in Quebec and Ontario.

THE BLACK LOYALISTS

The Black Loyalists were mostly runaway slaves, who were offered their freedom by the British to serve in the British military against the Americans during the American Revolution. In 1783 and 1784, approximately 3500 Black Loyalists were relocated to the Maritimes (Nova-Scotia and New Brunswick). There was also a small number in Ontario. They were promised their freedom and land in British North America. However, as they pledged their allegiance to the British Crown, Black Loyalists faced many hardships due to racism. They were slow in receiving their land grants and when they received them after years, they were smaller in size and of poorer quality than their white counterparts. Black Loyalists demanded shelter, land and provisions in Nova-Scotia. After experiencing racial discrimination and unjust treatment, one-third of the Black Loyalists accepted the proposal to go to a new settlement in Africa, their ancestral homeland. In 1792, approximately 1200 Black Loyalists emigrated to Sierra Leone and established the colony of freedom. However, there are still many descendants of the Black Loyalists that can mainly be found in Nova-Scotia today.

ENSLAVEMENT IN CANADA: EARLY 1600s TO 1834

In early Canada, the enslavement of African peoples was a legal instrument that helped fuel colonial economic enterprise. Enslavement was introduced by French colonists in New France in the early 1600s, and lasted until it was abolished throughout British North America in 1834. During that two-
century period, Canada was involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Within the country’s borders, people were bought, sold and enslaved. Canada was further linked to the institution of enslavement through international trade. The country exchanged products such as salted cod and timber for slave-produced goods such as rum, molasses, tobacco and sugar from slaveholding colonies in the Caribbean.

BLACK SETTLERS IN SASKATCHEWAN AND ALBERTA

Following the American civil war in 1865, thousands of former enslaved peoples migrated to the then territory, Oklahoma, where they could vote, study, and live in freedom. However, in 1907 when Oklahoma became a state, segregation became widespread and in 1910 dozens of African-American families made the journey to the prairie provinces in Canada (Saskatchewan and Alberta). The Canadian federal government at the time was offering free homestead land for settlers in the West. Some families settled in Eldon, Saskatchewan, while other families continued further West to establish the Northern Alberta community of Amber Valley, which is approximately 100 km North of Edmonton.

JOE FORTES

Joe Fortes was Vancouver’s first official lifeguard. He was born on February 9th, 1863, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. At the age of 17 he left Trinidad for England where he lived in Liverpool for
5 years. He learned how to swim at St. George’s Baths. He arrived in Vancouver on September 30th, 1885 and was a bartender, swimming instructor, and lifeguard. Around 1897, the city of Vancouver placed Joe on its payroll in recognition of his services as a lifeguard and instructor.

LINCOLN ALEXANDER

The oldest son of Caribbean immigrants, Lincoln Alexander began his education at McMaster University in 1949, followed by a degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1953. In 1965, he made his first run at politics, running as a Conservative MP for Hamilton West, but was defeated by less than 2,500 votes. In 1968, he won the seat, becoming the first Black Canadian to have a seat in the House of Commons. He served for 12 years and in 1979 was appointed Minister of Labour, making him the first Black Canadian to serve in Cabinet. In 1985, Alexander became the lieutenant-governor of Ontario— the first Black Canadian to serve in a viceregal position. He used his position in politics to fight prejudice and racism until the day he passed in 2012, and in the following year, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario declared January 21 as Lincoln Alexander Day.

DR. DANIEL & DONNA HILL

Born 1923 in Missouri, Daniel Hill obtained a BA from Howard University before attending the University of Toronto for his M.A. and Ph.D, bringing his future wife, Donna Mae Bender with him. A former state-staffer herself, she immediately made an impact with the Labor Committee for Human Rights, resulting in Ontario enacting anti-discrimination legislation. Over the next few decades, Dr. Hill used his voice in various levels of government before becoming the first full-time director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. And in 1978, the Hills along with a few others founded the Ontario Black History Society. It was the first major public organization in Canada focused on the history of Blacks in the country. Courtesy of Archives of Ontario.

LUCIE & THORNTON BLACKBURN

Born into slavery in Kentucky, Lucie and Thornton managed to escape from their chains and found refuge in Ontario via the Detroit River. Although Thornton was briefly jailed in Ontario while a formal request for his return was issued, the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada denied his extradition, marking Canada as a symbol of hope and change. Thornton rescued his mother from Kentucky, and upon settling in Toronto, the Blackburns became active in anti-slavery communities. They helped former slaves settle in the city, brought about the articulation of a legal defence against slavery, gave back to those less fortunate, and were eventually deemed “Persons of National Historic Significance” as emblems for what so many Black people went through.

You don't have permission to register