Canada Post is issuing new stamps to mark Black History Month, including one that honours a former American slave who became a pioneer of Alberta's ranching industry.

Born into slavery in South Carolina, John Ware travelled to Texas after the U.S. Civil War to become a cowhand.

In 1882 he settled in what became Alberta after he was hired to bring a giant herd of cattle up to the Bar U Ranch.

"John Ware was certainly one of those main builders of southern Alberta and the ranching community," said Loraine Lounsberry, curator of Calgary's Glenbow Museum.

After first living in the Calgary area, Ware established his own ranch in the Foothills in 1890 and later near Brooks, east of the city.

"Skilled with the lariat, he pioneered steer-wrestling and won his first competition at the Calgary Summer Fair of 1893, setting a precedent for what would become a highlight of the Calgary Stampede," said Canada Post on its website.

Rights crusader honoured

Viola Desmond is the other prominent black Canadian featured on a new commemorative stamp.


Nova Scotia civil rights crusader Viola Desmond is featured on the commemorative stamp on the right. (Canada Post )

The Nova Scotia entrepreneur and civil rights champion was arrested in 1945 for sitting in the whites-only section of a New Glasgow movie theatre.

"After being dragged from the theatre, sitting up all night in jail still wearing her white gloves, Desmond was tried without counsel and convicted of defrauding the province of the additional one-cent tax for seats in the whites-only section, and fined $20," said Canada Post.

Despite a lengthy legal battle, Desmond's conviction was never overturned.

But her lawyer refunded her fees, allowing Desmond to help fund the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP).

In 2011 the lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia granted Desmond a posthumous pardon and the government of Nova Scotia formally apologized.

Both commemorative stamps can be purchased across the country beginning Wednesday and will be available all year.