Celebrating Black History Month in Canada

February is Black History Month—a time to honour the history, stories, lived experiences, and profound contributions of Black communities across the globe. This month serves as an important reminder of the ongoing struggle for social justice and equity faced by Black people worldwide. It’s also a meaningful opportunity to celebrate the richness of Black heritage and to take time to learn, explore and engage with resources and Black voices.

In Canada, thousands of Black leaders have played vital roles in breaking down barriers, empowering communities, creating change and inspiring others. This year’s theme is “Black Excellence: A Heritage to Celebrate; a Future to Build,” which reminds us just how important it is to reflect on history and those who have shaped it, to recognize leaders of the past and the present, and to empower the future of the Black community in Canada.

Celebrating excellent Black leaders of past and present: 

Viola Desmond
A business owner and civil rights activist who courageously challenged racial discrimination. In 2018, Viola Desmond became the first Black Canadian woman to be featured on our money—the $10 bill.

Mary Ann Shadd
A lawyer, educator and abolitionist, who was the first Black woman in North America to publish and edit a newspaper.

Alphonso Davies
A professional soccer player for FC Bayern Munich and Canada’s Men’s National Football Team. In 2021, he became the first Canadian to be appointed a Global Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Angela James
Known as the “Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey” after leading the Canadian women’s hockey team to four world championships.

Dr. Clement Ligoure
Halifax’s first black doctor who opened his own private practice, treating hundreds of patients at home after he was denied hospital privileges.

Oscar Peterson
A renowned jazz pianist, composer and educator who has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and International Jazz Hall of Fame.

Violet King
The first Black woman to become a lawyer in Canada.

Willie O’Ree
The first Black hockey player to play in the National Hockey League, and who has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Lillian Allen
A Canadian poet and activist known for her spoken word and dub poetry about social and political issues.

Jean Augustine
The first Black female woman in Cabinet, who officially declared February as Black History Month in 1995.

Donald Oliver
A senator, lawyer and businessman who became the first Black Canadian man to be appointed to the Senate of Canada. 

Check out these Black History Month resources:

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