Black history in Canada: A reading list

Books to read and movies to watch for a better understanding of black history in Canada. Suggestions from Nikki Clarke, Afua Cooper, Andrea Davis and Karen Flynn.
Amanda Parris, Afua Cooper, Nikki Clarke and Andrea Davis explore black history in Canada. Karen Flynn joined the discussion via Skype. (CBC)

On May 16, we hosted a live digital discussion about black history in Canada. Panelists Nikki Clarke, Afua Cooper, Andrea Davis and Karen Flynn and moderator Amanda Parris explored how much we know about black history in Canada — and what we lose when we don't include black stories in our history. 

For viewers "eager and desiring to learn more," each panelist shared recommendations for books and films — and then, the audience chimed in with more suggestions. Feel free to add your favourites in the comments below.

Karen Flynn

Associate Professor, Departments of Gender and Women's Studies and African-American Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Books

  • Moving Beyond Borders: A History of Black Canadian and Caribbean Women in the Diaspora by Karen Flynn
  • The Hanging Of Angelique by Afua Cooper
  • The Promised Land: History and Historiography of the Black Experience in Chatham-Kent's Settlements and Beyond edited by Boulou Ebanda Dd B'béri, Nina Reid-Maroney and Handel Kashope Wright
  • Black Like Who? by Rinaldo Walcott 
  • The Reverend Jennie Johnson and African Canadian History, 1868-1967 by Nina Reid-Maroney

Flims

  • Journey to Justice, directed by Roger McTair

Nikki Clarke

President, Ontario Black History Society

Children's Books

  • The Story of Albert Jackson: Toronto's First African Canadian Postal Worker 

Afua Cooper

James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies, Dalhousie University
President, Black Canadian Studies Association

Books

  • ​North to Bondage: Loyalist Slavery in the Maritimes by Harvey Amani Whitfield  
  • Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal by David Austin  
  • The Promised Land: History and Historiography of the Black Experience in Chatham-Kent's Settlements and Beyond edited by Boulou Ebanda Dd B'béri, Nina Reid-Maroney and Handel Kashope Wright
  • Burnley "Rocky" Jones Revolutionary: An Autobiography by Burnley "Rocky" Jones by James St.G. Walker and Burnley "Rocky" Jones
  • Check out the hashtag #BlackCDNSyllabus for many more suggestions

Children's Books

  • My Name is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom by Afua Copper
  • My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom by Afua Cooper

Andrea Davis

Chair of Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University
Associate Professor of Black Cultural Studies

Novels

  • The Second Life of Samuel Tyne by Esi Edugyan
  • No Crystal Stair by Mairuth Sarsfield​
  • What We All Long For by Dionne Brand
  • The Book Of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Amanda Parris

Host of Exhibitionists on CBC Arts and Marvin's Room on CBC Radio

Books

  • Eyeing the North Star: Directions in African-Canadian Literature edited by George Elliott Clarke
  • Frontiers: Essays and Writing on Racism and Culture by M. NourbeSe Philip
  • Black Canadians: History, Experiences, Social Conditions by Joseph Mensah
  • Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature

Films

  • Sisters in the Struggle (NFB)
  • Coming to Voice
  • The Little Black Schoolhouse
  • Home to Buxton
  • It Takes A Riot: Race, Rebellion and Reform
  • The Akua Benjamin Legacy Project Short Films:
    • Dudley Speaks for Me: The Legacy of Dudley Laws
    • Rosie, the Fearless Rebel: The Legacy of Rosie Douglas
    • Book of Love: The Legacy of Gwen and Lenny Johnston of Third World Bookstore
    • Charley: The Legacy of Charles Roach
    • Revolutions in Black Education: The Legacy of Marlene Greene

From the Audience

Books

  • Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895-1925 by Fosty George
  • Fear of a Black Nation by Davis Austin

Films

  • "The NFB has a great collection of documentaries on black Canadian experience, such as Speakers for the Dead, Journey to Justice, The Road Taken and Remember Africville." 

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