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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.

Portia White

Portia White

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.

Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy

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.

William Hall

William Hall

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.

Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Shadd

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.

Nathaniel Dett

Nathaniel Dett

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.

joshia Henson

Josiah Henson

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.

Rev. Addie Aylestock

Rev. Addie Aylestock

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.

Written by

Author of Mysteries of Canada

7 Responses to “Ten Famous Black Canadians”

By sheleen - 9 May 2015 Reply

Thank you, these people are just the type Candians I was looking for. I wanted to see just how significant blacks in the free land recovered.

By Lilly - 3 March 2015 Reply

This site is awesome!!!! But I have a suggestion maybe you can give more info on the famous people! PLEASE!

By Alex - 4 February 2015 Reply

Why don’t you have murtin luther king and rosa parks?

By SA - 17 February 2015 Reply

if you read the title, it says famous Canadians…. are martin luther king or rosa parks canadian? no they are americans

By Purplepanda7 - 20 February 2015 Reply

ikr? the person who wrote this should have included them they made a big difference in the equality of african americans and “whites”

By vp - 22 February 2015 Reply

Maybe you should RE read the tittle ‘Ten Famous Black Canadians’ … its sad that the two you mentioned are Americans and you have no reference to the hundreds more of Canadian famous Black people that are not in this list of ten, like Lincoln Alexander, The Honorable Donald H Oliver, Rosemary Brown, Portia White, John Ware… and so many more

By seaira - 4 February 2015 Reply

wow its amazing how the never backed down they Stand up for them-self and for other people and accomplished their dreams

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