Black History Educational Package

Originally presented in the winter of 2018 in digital-only format, we are pleased to offer this expanded version of Black History in Canada, produced in 2022. If you received the 2024 edition, this is the link to the 2024 digital version.

This edition of Kayak, featuring guest co-editor Natasha Henry, shares some amazing stories and examples of the ways Black Canadians built and shaped this country. Not only will you get the same great stories as the original, we’ve added three new articles featuring people who have helped preserve and promote Black history, Black women’s organizations with long histories, and we will introduce you to Canadians with Afro-Indigenous heritage.

Black people have lived in what we now call Canada since the 1600s. From that time until the early 1800s, hundreds were forced to come here as enslaved people.

After slavery was abolished here in 1834, thousands of people of African descent from the United States, the Caribbean and Africa chose to come to Canada at different times for different reasons.

For 400 years, Black men and women have contributed to all areas of society. They have fought for Black people to be treated with fairness and equality in the struggle against racial discrimination, a fight that has benefited all Canadians.

The United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent (2015 to 2024) encourages us to “promote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies” and this issue of Kayak helps to do just that.


Our Thanks

We are grateful to the Department of Canadian Heritage for their support of this educational initiative.

Lesson Plans and Activities

The Use of Media in Exploring Afro Indigenous Ancestry

This lesson will ask students to use creative, academic, and observational skills to define terms which are important to understanding Afro Indigenous ancestry and to reflect on how media has been used over time to express important ideas about justice and ethnicity.

The History of Black Canadians: Strength in Unity

In this lesson, using art and technology, students will learn about the reasons behind the establishment of unions and associations dedicated to Black Canadians. They will come to understand the ways in which Black Canadians have been able to achieve racial equality in various spheres of society.

Turtle Island: A Picture of Afro-Indigenous History in Canada

The history of Afro-Indigenous peoples is largely underrepresented in classrooms and curricula due to the group’s intersectionality. Afro-Indigenous peoples have a unique history in Canada — and more broadly across Turtle Island — that deserves to be integrated into the narrative of Canadian history and Canadian identity. The following lesson is designed to better highlight the history of this marginalized group.

Strength, Melanin, and Estrogen

The goal of these activities is to give students an opportunity to explore the role that Black women play in the great Canadian mosaic.

Sleeping Car Porters

In this lesson, students will analyze artifacts to learn about the experiences of Black sleeping car porters on the job. 

Slavery and its Gradual Abolition in Upper Canada

This lesson examines the viewpoints on the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada — immediate abolition, gradual abolition, or no abolition. 

Explore the Role of Black People in the Fur Trade Industry

These lessons will provide students with the opportunity to explore and investigate interactions among European, Black, and Indigenous people, with a focus on delving deeper into the often untold experience of Black fur traders.

The Historical Exploration Continues

This lesson focuses on exploring what is known about specific Black fur traders and learning more about their life and character at the Hudson’s Bay Company or North West Company. 

Related Videos

Railway Men

Ride the rails across Canada with Black sleeping car porters as they fight for labour rights and civil rights.

Remembering Africville

The city of Halifax bulldozes a Black settlement that had stood for 150 years, destroying a community but not its spirit.

Viola Desmond: An Unlikely Crusader

Viola Desmond didn't set out to be a civil rights leader. But in 1946 when she was removed from a theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, she fought back in court.

Portia White Sings "Think on Me"

Portia May White became an international singing sensation in the 1940s but her career was short-lived due to management difficulties and ill health. Although she never made a commercial recording, some of her practice sessions were recorded backstage. In this video, White performs her signature song, “Think on Me.”