We challenge all members of the Synod to engage with Black History Month. Every week, during the month of February, you will receive resources included with your weekly Synod Newsletter, that will help you. However, you might choose to read a book by a Black author, watch a documentary or video, listen to a podcast, etc…. then, discuss it with someone – tell your pastor what you learned! Ask your pastor what they are doing this month to engage with Black History Month!
Send an email to our Racial Justice Advisory Committee about your thoughts or whatever comments you may have. Whatever you do, just do something! We would love to hear from you!
Eastern Synod Racial Justice Committee
Week 1: Culture
Canadian jazz icon Jackie Richardson is among the 135 new appointments to the Order of Canada. The Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest civilian honours. It recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Jackie Richardson was named an honorary member of the Order of Canada “for her contributions as a Canadian jazz legend, and as a leader and mentor to young performers in her community.” Richardson’s career in music, film and theatre spans more than five decades. Known as Canada’s reigning queen of jazz, blues and gospel, she has toured across Canada and the world performing with renowned artists such as Ray Charles, Anne Murray, Dr. John and Celine Dion. She has won a Gemini Award and a Dora Award for her acting, and has received a Maple Blues Award for lifetime achievement. (By Adam Feibel, Jazz.FM91, Toronto)
Eleanor Collins, known as “Canada’s First Lady of Jazz,” is getting a commemorative postage stamp in her honour. Canada Post chose the 102-year-old music legend and civic leader as the subject of its stamp celebrating Black History Month. A trailblazing woman of colour, Collins made history by becoming the first Black artist in North America to headline a national TV series. Born in Edmonton in 1918, Collins moved to Vancouver in 1939, where her young family were the only Black residents. Neighbours started a petition asking them to move, and her children were bullied. Collins responded by volunteering in the school and teaching music to Girl Guides. As a musician, Collins went on to perform on a number of radio and television programs throughout the next several decades. In 1954, she joined the CBC’s Bamboula: A Day in the West Indies and became part of the first interracial cast on a Canadian television show. A year later, she starred in The Eleanor Show, making her both the first woman and the first person of colour to headline a national TV show, predating The Nat King Cole Show. Often compared to Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald, Collins also performed in clubs and in concert with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Phil Nimmons, Chris Gage, Lance Harrison, Doug Parker and Dave Robbins. In 2014, Collins was named a Member of the Order of Canada on her 95th birthday. (Excerpt from article by Adam Feibel, Jazz.FM91)
A poet, journalist, professor and activist living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was born in Wales and grew up in Winnipeg. She was Halifax’s Poet Laureate from 2013 to 2015. Her book, Live From the Afrikan Resistance! published in 2014 by Roseway, an imprint of Fernwood Publishing, is a collection of poems about resisting white colonialism. In 2015, she was a resident at the International Writing Program at University of Iowa. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization; she wrote in The Washington Post in June 2020 about “the realities of white-supremacist oppression that black people in Canada have long experienced.” Since 2016, she has co-hosted a radio show called Black Power Hour on CKDU-FM, an educational program which provides information on Black history and culture aimed at incarcerated people. Listeners from prisons call in to rap and read poetry that they have written, providing a voice to people who rarely get a wide audience. She is a contributor to the Halifax Examiner and the Huffington Post Canada. She has taught at Dalhousie University, Acadia University, Nova Scotia Community College, Saint Mary’s University and Mount Saint Vincent University. In 2017, she was named the 15th Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University. In 2021, Jones became a contributor to The Breach, an alternative, Canadian news website.
Lawrence Hill (born January 24, 1957) is a Canadian novelist, essayist, and memoirist. He is known for his 2007 novel The Book of Negroes, inspired by the Black Loyalists given freedom and resettled in Nova Scotia by the British after the American Revolutionary War, and his 2001 memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada. The Book of Negroes was adapted for a TV mini-series produced in 2015. He was selected in 2013 for the Massey Lectures: he drew from his non-fiction book Blood: The Stuff of Life, published that year. His ten books include other non-fiction and fictional works, and some have been translated into other languages and published in numerous other countries.
Hill was born in Newmarket, Ontario, to an American couple who had immigrated to Toronto from Washington, D.C., in 1953. His father was black and his mother was white. Hill is the second son of Daniel G. and Donna Mae (Bender) Hill, an interracial American couple who had married in 1953 and settled in Toronto, where his father was completing his doctorate in sociology at the University of Toronto. His father, a sociologist, civil servant and activist, later became the first director and chairperson of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Daniel Hill also served as the Ombudsman of Ontario. He published a still seminal work about Black history in Canada: The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada. Hill’s mother, Donna Mae Bender, came from a white Republican family in Oak Park, Illinois, and graduated from Oberlin College. She met his father in Washington, D.C., where she worked for a Democratic US Senator and became a civil rights activist. Lawrence Hill grew up with his brother Dan and sister Karen in the predominantly white Toronto suburb of Don Mills. Dan Hill became a singer-songwriter and writer, and their sister, the late Karen Hill (1958-2014), was also a writer. Hill’s paternal grandfather and great grandfather were university-educated, ordained ministers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816 as the first independent black denomination in the United States. After attending the University of Toronto Schools, Hill earned a B.A in economics from Laval University in Quebec City. He moved temporarily to the United States to earn an M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Lawrence Hill presently lives with his second wife, the writer Miranda Hill, in Hamilton, Ontario, and in Woody Point, Newfoundland. He has four daughters and a son. He has lived and worked in Baltimore, Maryland; Spain, and France.
Desmond Cole is a Canadian journalist, activist, author, and broadcaster who lives in Toronto, Ontario. He was previously a columnist for the Toronto Star and has written for The Walrus, NOW Magazine, Torontoist, The Tyee, Toronto Life, and BuzzFeed.
Week 2: Early History
Lucius Septimius Severus (Latin: [sɛˈweːrʊs]; 11 April 145 – 4 February 211) was Roman emperor from 193 to 211. He was born in Leptis Magna (present day Al-Khums, Libya) in the Roman province of Africa. As the son of Publius Septimius Geta and Fulvia Pia, Septimius Severus came from a wealthy and distinguished family of equestrian rank. He had Italian Roman ancestry on his mother’s side, and was descended from Punic forebears on his father’s side. Due to his family background on his father’s side he is considered the first provincial emperor as he was the first emperor not only born in the provinces but also into a provincial family of non-Italian origin. He spoke the local Punic language fluently, but he was also educated in Latin and Greek, which he spoke with a slight accent. Little else is known of the young Severus’ education but, according to Cassius Dio, the boy had been eager for more education than he actually received. Presumably, Severus received lessons in oratory: at the age of 17, he gave his first public speech. Severus’ father, an obscure provincial, held no major political status, but he had two cousins, Publius Septimius Aper and Gaius Septimius Severus, who served as consuls under the emperor Antoninus Pius r. 138–161. His mother’s ancestors had moved from Italy to North Africa; they belonged to the gens Fulvia, an Italian patrician family that originated in Tusculum. Septimius Severus had two siblings: an elder brother, Publius Septimius Geta; and a younger sister, Septimia Octavilla. Severus’s maternal cousin was the praetorian prefect and consul Gaius Fulvius Plautianus. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of the emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors. (Excerpt from Wikipedia)
Saint Augustine/Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo, also known as Saint Augustine or Saint Austin, was born in 354 in the municipium of Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) in the Roman province of Numidia. His mother, Monica or Monnica, was a devout Christian; his father Patricius was a pagan who converted to Christianity on his deathbed. He had a brother named Navigius and a sister whose name is lost but is conventionally remembered as Perpetua. Scholars generally agree Augustine and his family were Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa, but were heavily Romanized, speaking only Latin at home as a matter of pride and dignity. In his writings, Augustine leaves some information as to the consciousness of his African heritage. For example, he refers to Apuleius as “the most notorious of us Africans,” to Ponticianus as “a country man of ours, insofar as being African,” and to Faustus of Mileve as “an African Gentleman“. Augustine’s family name, Aurelius, suggests his father’s ancestors were freedmen of the gens Aurelia given full Roman citizenship by the Edict of Caracalla in 212. Augustine’s family had been Roman, from a legal standpoint, for at least a century when he was born. As his family were an upper class of citizens known as honorable men, Augustine’s first language was likely Latin. (Excerpt from Wikipedia)
Black History of Oakville, Ontario
By the mid-19th century, the town was home to Black families, farmers, and entrepreneurs — all part of a vital community that helped shape the area’s future. By Genelle Levy – Published on Dec 01, 2020. In 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month in Canada following a motion introduced by the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine. Black History Month honours the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present whose contributions have helped to make Canada the prosperous, compassionate and multicultural nation it is today. The Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton’s leadership in the community has ensured that the black history of our community is recognized and celebrated. Thank you for bringing our community’s rich black history to life, throughout Black History Month and beyond. How much do you know about the Black history of Oakville? Between 1850 and 1860, approximately 400 Black people settled in Oakville, representing 20 per cent of the town’s population of 2,000 people. By the mid-19th century, the town was home to Black families, farmers, and entrepreneurs — all part of a vital community that helped shape the area’s future. (From the weekly newsletter of Pam Damoff, MP-Oakville North-Burlington)
Odera Igbokwe is an illustrator and painter celebrating the magic of the African Diaspora and QTBIPOC communities. Her illustrations and paintings center the magic of the Africandiaspora, queer people of color, and intersectional healing.
An artist, sculptor and photographer living in San Diego, California, Jody Abssy was born in Endicott, N.Y. Educated in the U.S., she earned her B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.A. from Brown University. She enjoyed teaching art, sculpting and photography to students from around the world before moving to Toronto where she attended the Ontario College of Art to update her skills. While living in Toronto, Jody served as Head of the Art Department at St. Robert Catholic High School, 1976-2001, and lived with her family in Scarborough, Ontario. During that time, her husband taught at the University of Toronto where her twin grandsons are currently studying. Abssy’s passion for depicting female energy and encouraging the recognition of female strengths led her to create paintings of ancient and contemporary goddesses from cultures around the world. Her goddesses embody a quality she believes that women have whether it is merciful kindness, erotic power, a control of earth energies or wisdom seeking justice. Whatever attribute the goddess has, comes into full focus when honouring her through Abssy’s powerful paintings. The image of each goddess is inspired by many sources. Photos of actual contemporary women become the faces of these goddesses in her interpretation and re-working of icons.
The African Connection
Many goddesses that are celebrated in ceremonies, rituals, private devotion and as national symbols came from West Africa with slaves. Their descendants in North, South and Central America embrace them and their powers today. Their stories in myths and legends vary throughout time and in different cultures, but their presence cannot be denied. Visit our RJC website for a tour of four of Jody Abssy’s beautiful goddesses!
Week 3: Systemic Racism
Africville, Nova Scotia
Africville was founded by Black Nova Scotians from a variety of origins. Many of the first settlers were formerly enslaved African Americans from the Thirteen Colonies, Black Loyalists who were freed by the Crown during the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812. Other residents arrived later, in association with Black people being recruited from the American South for jobs in mining at Glace Bay. Africville was a primarily Black community located on the south shore of the Bedford Basin, on the outskirts of Halifax. The first records of a Black presence in Africville date back to 1848, and it continued to exist for 150 years after that. Over that time, hundreds of individuals and families lived there and built a thriving, close-knit community. There were stores, a school, a post office and the Seaview United Baptist Church, which was Africville’s spiritual and social centre. Unfortunately, discrimination and poverty presented many challenges for the community of people in Africville. The City of Halifax refused to provide many amenities other Haligonians took for granted, such as sewage, access to clean water and garbage disposal. Africville residents, who paid taxes and took pride in their homes, asked the City to provide these basic services on numerous occasions, but no action was taken. The City compounded the problem by building many undesirable developments in and around Africville, including an infectious disease hospital, a prison and a dump. Instead of providing proper municipal services to the community, the City of Halifax eventually decided to relocate the residents of Africville. The City said it wanted to build industry and infrastructure in the area. But it also used the language of human rights, claiming that relocation would improve the standard of living for residents. In January 1964, Halifax City Council voted to authorize the relocation of Africville residents in order to develop the nearby A. Murray MacKay Bridge, related highway construction and the Port of Halifax facilities at Fairview Cove to the west. Before this decision was made, there was no meaningful consultation with residents of Africville to gather their views. In fact, it was later reported over 80 per cent of residents had never had contact with the Halifax Human Rights Advisory Committee, which was the group charged with consulting the community.
Birchtown, Nova Scotia
Birchtown is a community and National Historic Site in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, located near Shelburne in the Municipal District of Shelburne County. Founded in 1783, the village was the largest settlement of Black Loyalists and the largest free settlement of ethnic Africans in North America in the eighteenth century. The two other significant Black Loyalist communities established in Nova Scotia were Brindley town and Tracadie. Birchtown was named after British Brigadier General Samuel Birch, an official who helped lead the evacuation of Black Loyalists from New York. Birchtown was first settled by Stephen Blucke, who has been referred to as “the true founder of the Afro-Nova Scotian community“. Birchtown was the major settlement area of the African Americans known as Black Loyalists who escaped to the British lines during the American War of Independence. These were Africans who escaped from slavery and fought for the British during the war. The majority of Nova Scotian settlers who later immigrated to the new colony of Sierra Leone in 1792 were such African Americans who had lived first in Birchtown. Most Birchtown blacks entered Nova Scotia through the nearby town of Port Roseway, soon renamed Shelburne. Brigadier General Samuel Birch recorded the names of these African-American settlers in the Book of Negroes. They were issued passports which established their freedom; these were signed by General Birch, and became known as General Birch Certificates. The core of the settlement were five companies of the Black Pioneers who were Black Americans who helped the British forces during the American War of Independence. More than two thirds of the Blacks who immigrated to Canada were from the American South. Birchtown was acknowledged as being the largest settlement of free African Americans in the world by newspapers in New York City and in London. Birchtown’s population grew further in July 1784 when free Blacks who lived in Shelburne were attacked by whites in the Shelburne Riots. Many blacks, such as the clergyman David George, fled to Birchtown for safety.
The departure for Sierra Leone
Poor land, inadequate supplies, harsh climate, discrimination and broken promises of assistance led many Birchtown residents to petition the British Government for a remedy, led by Thomas Peters. As a result of these grievances, many Birchtown residents chose to accept Britain’s offer and join a 1792 migration to found a free ethnic African settlement in Sierra Leone in West Africa. The majority of blacks who left for Sierra Leone were from Birchtown. Of the blacks who left for Sierra Leone, 600 were from the Birchtown and Digby areas, 220 were from Preston, 200 were from New Brunswick, and 180 were from the Annapolis–Digby area. Fifty-five had been born into slavery in Virginia. Although the population of Birchtown was greatly reduced by the migration to Sierra Leone, many settlers remained. They formed the ancestral basis of the Black Nova Scotian population of Shelburne County today. Employment opportunities in the nearby town of Shelburne attracted many families to move to Shelburne in later years. Birchtown stayed as a small rural community of a few hundred based on farming, fishing and forestry. A two-room schoolhouse was built in 1829. A new eight-room school was built in 1959. Birchtown was declared a National Historic Site in 1997. A seasonal museum complex commemorating the Black Loyalists was opened in that year by the Black Loyalist Heritage Society; it included the historic Birchtown school and church. The offices and archives of the museum were largely destroyed by an arson attack in 2006. The remaining archives were moved to temporary quarters on the site. A new facility, the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, opened its doors in June 2015; it tells the story of the Black Loyalists in America, Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone through their staff and interactive digital displays.
Black Wall Street
In 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street, was one of the most prosperous African-American communities in the United States. But on May 31 of that year, the Tulsa Tribune reported that a black man, Dick Rowland, attempted to rape a white woman, Sarah Page. Whites in the area refused to wait for the investigative process to play out, sparking two days of unprecedented racial violence. Thirty-five city blocks went up in flames, between 30 and 300 people died, and 800 were injured. Defense of white female virtue was the expressed motivation for the collective racial violence. Accounts vary on what happened between Page and Rowland in the elevator of the Drexel Building. Yet as a result of the Tulsa Tribune’s racially inflammatory report, black and white armed mobs arrived at the courthouse. Scuffles broke out, and shots were fired. Since the blacks were outnumbered, they headed back to Greenwood. But the enraged whites were not far behind, looting and burning businesses and homes along the way. The massacre took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents, some of whom had been deputized and given weapons by city officials, attacked Black residents and destroyed homes and businesses. Alternatively known as the Tulsa pogrom, the Tulsa race riot or the Black Wall Street massacre, the event is considered one of “the single worst incident[s] of racial violence in American history“. The attackers burned and destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the neighborhood. More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals, and as many as 6,000 Black residents of Tulsa were interned in large facilities, many of them for several days. The Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics officially recorded 36 dead. A 2001 state commission gave several estimates ranging from 75 to 300 dead. Examination of events was able to confirm 39 dead, 26 Black and 13 white, based on contemporary autopsy reports, death certificates, and other records.
Black Seneca Village/Central Park, NY
Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room, like any of The Met’s period rooms, is a fabrication of a domestic space that assembles furnishings and objects to create a fiction of authenticity. Rather than affirm a fixed moment in time, however, this structure reimagines the immersive experience of the period room by embracing the African diasporic belief that the past, present, and future are interconnected. Join us for a virtual tour of this exhibition whose narrative is generated by the real, lived history of Seneca Village, a vibrant community founded predominantly by free Black tenants and landowners that flourished from the 1820s to the 1850s just a few hundred yards west of The Met’s current site. By the 1850s, the village comprised some fifty homes, three churches, multiple cemeteries, a school, and many gardens. It represented both an escape from the crowded and dangerous confines of lower Manhattan and a site of opportunity, ownership, freedom, and prosperity. In 1857, the City of New York destroyed Seneca Village, using eminent domain to seize land for the construction of Central Park, displacing its residents and leaving only the barest traces of the community behind. Acknowledging that injustice, the exhibition asks: What if this community had the opportunity to grow and thrive? Powered by Afrofuturism—the inspirational, creative mode that centers Black imagination and self-determination—the exhibition transforms a 19th-century domestic interior into a speculative future home for Seneca Village residents, only one proposition for what might have been had the community been allowed to thrive into the present and beyond.
Week 4: Additional Resources
Critical Race Theory
Critical race theory (CRT) is a cross-disciplinary intellectual and social movement of civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to examine the intersection of race and law in the United States and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. For example, the CRT conceptual framework is one way to study how and why US courts give more lenient punishments to drug dealers from some races than to drug dealers of other races. (The word critical in its name is an academic term that refers to critical thinking, critical theory, and scholarly criticism, rather than criticizing or blaming people.) It first arose in the 1970s, like other “critical” schools of thought, such as Critical Legal Studies, which examines how legal rules protect the status quo. A key CRT concept is intersectionality—the way in which different forms of inequality and identity are affected by interconnections of race, class, gender and disability. Scholars of CRT view race as a social construct with no biological basis. One tenet of CRT is that racism and disparate racial outcomes are the result of complex, changing, and often subtle social and institutional dynamics, rather than explicit and intentional prejudices of individuals. CRT scholars argue that the idea of race advances the interests of white people at the expense of people of color, and that the liberal notion of U.S. law as “neutral” plays a significant role in maintaining a racially unjust social order, where formally color-blind laws continue to have racially discriminatory outcomes.
Benny Bing is a contemporary Canadian artist of Nigerian descent. His vibrant hues embrace the complexities of race while highlighting the uniqueness amongst us all. As a self-taught artist, he takes pride in shaping the way we view ethnicity and identity, while emphasizing a positive representation of black women in his work. The CBC named Benny an “influential Black Canadian who is expanding and redefining black representation”.
Ekene Emeka Maduka
Ekene Emeka-Maduka is a Canadian-Nigerian contemporary artist, whose work draws on her Nigerian heritage and is known for its use of self-portraiture
Laurena Finéus is a Haitian visual artist, educator and art administrator specializing in painting. She was born and raised in Gatineau, Québec, and is currently based between Ottawa and Toronto, Ontario. In her practice, Finéus has been concerned with representations of Haiti, relationality within its Diaspora, and its growing archives across the globe through an array of figurative and painterly imagined landscapes. These elements are juxtaposed with personal memories of her life in so-called Canada. Finéus’ strategies include the collapsing of history in order to question history production and its mechanisms. The teachings of Haitian scholar Michel Rolph-Trouillot in ‘Silencing the past’ informs her understanding of visual narration in her practice.
Tau Lewis (b. 1993) is a Jamaican-Canadian artist living and working in Toronto, Canada. Recent and forthcoming solo exhibitions include: Frieze New York, Atlanta Contemporary, Jeffrey Stark, NY. Recent and forthcoming group exhibitions include: MoMa PS1, New York, Chapter Gallery, New York, COOPER COLE, Toronto, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, New Museum, New York. Tau Lewis’ self-taught practice is rooted in healing personal, collective and historical traumas through labour. She employs methods of construction such as hand sewing, carving and assemblage to build portraits. She considers the history and symbolism of each material, exploring the political boundaries of nature, identity and authenticity. Her work is described as “bodily and organic”, with an explicit strangeness. The materiality of Lewis’ work is often informed by her surrounding environment; she constructs out of found objects and repurposed materials, as well as live plants and organisms sourced from urban and rural landscapes. She connects these acts of repurposing and collecting with diasporic experience. Her portraits are recuperative gestures that investigate black identity and agency, memory and recovery.
Andre Leon Talley
Called “a creative genius,” he was the rare Black editor at the top of a field that was mostly white and notoriously elitist. André Leon Talley, the larger-than-life fashion editor who shattered his industry’s glass ceiling when he went from the Jim Crow South to the front rows of Paris couture, parlayed his encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history and his quick wit into roles as author, public speaker, television personality and curator. Mr. Talley was the receptionist at Interview magazine under Andy Warhol; the Paris bureau chief of Women’s Wear Daily under John Fairchild; the creative director and editor at large of Vogue under Anna Wintour. He helped dress Michelle Obama when she was first lady, was an adviser and a friend to the designer Oscar de la Renta, and became a mentor to the supermodel Naomi Campbell.
Read more about Andre Leon Talley on the Racial Justice Committee (RJC) website
Rashaan & Yanick Allwood
Amanda S. C. Gorman is an American poet and activist. Her work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. Gorman was the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate. She published the poetry book The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough in 2015. Known for works that address Black identity, feminism, marginalization, and climate change. She gained international fame when she read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 inauguration of U.S. Pres. Joe Biden.
Youth, Ages 4-18 Years Old
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Desmond Mpilo Tutu OMSG CH GCStJ was a South African Anglican bishop and theologian, known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He was Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, in both cases being the first black African to hold the position.
Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, in Cordova, Maryland, U.S., February 1817 or 1818; died February 20, 1895 in Washington, D.C., U.S., aged 77-78) was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, becoming famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. Accordingly, he was described by abolitionists in his time as a living counterexample to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Likewise, Northerners, at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave. Douglass wrote three autobiographies, describing his experiences as a slave in his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), which became a bestseller and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). Following the Civil War, Douglass was active campaigner for the rights of freed slaves and wrote his last autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. First published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his death, the book covers events both during and after the Civil War. Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held several public offices. Without his permission, Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket. Douglass believed in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, as well as in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under the motto “No Union with Slaveholders”, criticized Douglass’s willingness to engage in dialogue with slave owners, he replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”
Jean Madeline Augustine
Jean Madeline Augustine PC CM OOnt CBE is a Grenadian-Canadian educationalist, social advocate and politician. She was the first Black Canadian woman to serve as a federal Minister of the Crown and Member of Parliament. From 1993 to 2006, Augustine was a Liberal member of the House of Commons of Canada, representing the district of Etobicoke—Lakeshore in Toronto, Ontario. She served as the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women in the Cabinet of Canada from 2002 to 2004 and was the Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien from 1994 to 1996. Before her election, she had been a school principal. From 2007 to 2015, she served as the first Fairness Commissioner of Ontario. Following her retirement, she has served as the patron of several non-profit organizations across Canada.
The first Black performer to win the Academy Award for best actor, for “Lilies of the Field,” he once said he felt “as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every move I made.” Sidney Poitier’s Academy Award for the 1963 film “Lilies of the Field” made him the first Black performer to win in the best-actor category. He rose to prominence when the civil rights movement was beginning to make headway in the United States. Sidney Poitier, whose portrayal of resolute heroes in films like “To Sir With Love,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” established him as Hollywood’s first Black matinee idol and helped open the door for Black actors in the film industry, has died at 94. Although often simmering with repressed anger, his characters responded to injustice with quiet determination. They met hatred with reason and forgiveness, sending a reassuring message to white audiences and exposing Mr. Poitier to attack as an Uncle Tom when the civil rights movement took a more militant turn in the late 1960s. (William Grimes, NY Times)