By Yolanda T. Marshall
It’s February, and many people across Canada take part in Black History Month events to celebrate the legacy of Black Canadians. Some people aren’t aware of the Black Canadians whose contributions shaped this nation. For many of us, Black history is celebrated 365 days a year. More so, Black history is Canadian history and here are a few of my suggested books written, edited, and illustrated by Black Canadians to bolster your knowledge.
Unsettling the Great White North: Black Canadian History
Edited by Michele A. Johnson, a history professor at York University whose research and teaching focuses on Black people in the Americas, on issues of race/racialization, gender relations, labour, and cultural productions. This book was also edited by Funké Aladejebi, an author and assistant history professor at the University of Toronto.
“The book considers histories and theoretical framings within the disciplines of history, sociology, law, and cultural and gender studies to chart the mechanisms of exclusion and marginalization in “multicultural” Canada and to situate Black Canadians as speakers and agents of their own lives. Working to interrupt the myth of benign whiteness that has been deeply implanted into the country’s imagination, Unsettling the Great White North uncovers new narratives of Black life in Canada.” – University of Toronto Press, March 2022.
Performing Postracialism: Reflections on Antiblackness, Nation, and Education through Contemporary Blackface in Canada.
Written by Philip S.S. Howard, an associate professor in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University.
“The book looks at the ostensible humour and dominant conversations around blackface, arguing that they are manifestations of the particular formations of antiblackness in the Canadian nation-state and its educational institutions. It posits that the occurrence of blackface in universities is not incidental and outlines how educational institutions’ responses to blackface in Canada rely upon a motivation to protect whiteness.” – University of Toronto Press, February 2023.
Black Writers Matter
Edited by Whitney French, a writer, multidisciplinary artist, and publisher. Foreword by Afua Cooper, a Jamaica-born Canadian historian, multidisciplinary scholar, author, and artist.
“An anthology of African Canadian writing, Black Writers Matter offers a cross-section of established writers and newcomers to the literary world who tackle contemporary and pressing issues with beautiful, sometimes raw, prose. As editor Whitney French says in her introduction, Black Writers Matter “injects new meaning into the word diversity [and] harbours a sacredness and an everydayness that offers Black people dignity.” – University of Regina Press, 2021.
Movers, Shakers, History Makers: The Canadian Black History Book of Rhymes
Written by Akilah Newton and illustrated by Danielle Murrell Cox.
“Learn about dozens of inspiring politicians, artists, trailblazers, and athletes in this full-colour, rhyming children’s storybook.” – Big Dreamers, January 2021.
Little Black Lives Matter
Written by Khodi Dill and illustrated by Chelsea Charles.
“Little Black Lives Matter empowers all children, but Black children especially, by affirming that their lives matter, however little they may yet be. Featuring fifteen great Black heroes of the past and the powerful words they spoke and actions they took. Little Black Lives Matter is a rhyming board book that incorporates memorable quotations and reminds little ones that each of these great people once lived a little Black life themselves.” – Triangle Square, January 2023.
The Time Travel Adventures of Ara: Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad
Written by historian, geographer, public speaker, and Black History consultant Channon Oyeniran.
“In this debut like no other, historian Channon Oyeniran brings Black History to life in a magical way. What started as a simple journey turned into an extraordinary one through a series of mysterious events that find Ara transported over a century back in time. A thrilling adventure and a mission to free enslaved people.” – Oyes Education, May 2022.
Welcome To Blackhurst
“Welcome to Blackhurst: An Iconic Toronto Neighbourhood”, produced by Blackhurst Cultural Centre, formerly A Different Booklist Cultural Centre – The People’s Residence, features the stories of 30 people who lived, owned businesses or continue to call the area their home. Some of the trailblazers featured in this iconic coffee table book includes: civil rights activist Harry Gairey Sr., dentist and art curator Dr Kenneth Montague, and award-winning jazz artist Molly Johnson, to name a few.” – Purchase your copy from A Different Booklist.
Please support your local Black-owned bookstores, such as A Different Booklist, Notability mobile bookstore, Nile Valley Books, Knowledge Bookstore and Manifest Bookstore.