Ten Famous Black Canadians
Some celebrated black Canadians:
1. Long before Ben Johnson or Donovan Bailey, Harry Jerome was Mr. Canada and the world’s fastest man and one of our best-known athletes despite an injury-prone career. Born in Prince Albert, Sask., and residing in Vancouver, he won a bronze medal at the 1964 Olympics, and gold at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. His first world record was a 10-second flat 100-metre sprint.
2. Portia White was born in the town of Truro, Nova Scotia. She went from singing in her father’s African Baptist church choir as a child to performing around the world as a concert singer. As a teacher in rural Halifax schools, Ms. White was able to realize her potential through support of Ladies’ Musical Clubs and the Nova Scotia Talent Trust. One of her last major appearances was at the 1964 opening of the Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre for the Arts, where Queen Elizabeth II was in attendance.
3. The real McCoy was a black Canadian, born to escaped Kentucky slaves in Colchester, Ont. in 1843. Despite having studied engineering in Scotland, on his return to Canada, Elijah McCoywas unable to find any job other than as a railway fireman. As a mechanic in the 1870s, he noticed that machines had to be stopped every time they needed oil. Mr. McCoy invented a device to oil machinery while it was working, and soon no engine or machine was considered complete until it had a McCoy Lubricator.
4. In 1857, William Hall became the first Canadian sailor as well as first black Canadian to receive the Victoria Cross. Born in Horton Bluff, N.S., he joined the Royal Navy when only a teenager. He also was decorated for bravery during the Crimean War.
5. John Ware‘s saddle, spurs and gun can be seen at Alberta’s Dinosaur Park, remembering one of the best cowboys of the late 1800s. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, he helped establish the Bar U Ranch in the Northwest Territories, and his prowess at roping and trail breaking earned him a spot as a great cowboy.
6. Mary Ann Shadd was the first woman publisher in North America, establishing the Provincial Freeman, an abolitionist newspaper, with Rev. Ringgold Ward in 1853. Born in 1823 in Delaware, she moved to Canada in 1851, where she opened an integrated school. After the American Civil War she returned to teaching in the United States, and became the first woman to enroll in Howard University law school.
7. Niagara Falls, Ont. was the birthplace of Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), a composer, conductor, and pianist. His education included an MA from the Eastman School of Music, and time at Harvard. Mr. Dett’s compositions continue to be performed, most notably by the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, a professional chamber choir devoted to performing Afro-centric music.
8. Josiah Henson is most famous for his characterization in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Born to enslaved parents in Maryland in 1789, he himself was a slave for 45 years until escaping to Canada where he helped form the Dawn Settlement near Dresden, Ont.
9. The first ordained black woman minister in Canada was the Rev. Addie Aylestock, who served British Methodist Episcopal churches for over twenty years. She was born in Glenallen, Ont. but ministered in Toronto, Halifax and Owen Sound.
10. George Bonga was a successful and famous voyageur, who spoke French and several Native languages. He was said to have carried a load of 750 pounds for a quarter of a mile; the average weight was 250.