Canadian black history matters

Black history needs to be taught all year not just during Black History Month. Photo credit: Leslie Ishimwe

I remember every day after the break in high school, I would get excited because I was looking forward to going to history class. Learning about Canadian history was different and new to me from what was taught about Burundian history before I came to Canada.

As years went by, my excitement for Canadian history slowly died down as I felt like I was constantly hearing the same names of individuals, such as Sir John A. MacDonald and William Lyon Mackenzie King.

I wondered if there were any recognizable black Canadians like the civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States.

I became less interested in history because I felt like I wasn’t represented enough and had to do my own research to find out that Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary was the first black Canadian female news publisher and Harry Jerome represented Canada in 1964 and won a bronze medal in Tokyo. His grandfather, John Howard, was the first black Olympic athlete to represent Canada, going to the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Ontario Ministry of Education’s Secondary Curriculum has 17 subjects, including Canadian and World Studies, as well as Native Studies. Black Studies are not included. This curriculum needs to be revised so students can gain more knowledge on the history of black Canadians.

Canadian black history is a part of Canadian history and anyone interested in this history should not have to go out of their way to learn about it.

A student in high school should learn the history of Africville and where it was located. Africville was situated south of Bedford Basin, Nova Scotia. It existed from the 1800s to 1960s until it was demolished while individuals were still living there, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. Many are not aware of this tragedy yet it’s a part of the Canadian history.

Everybody knows Rosa Parks but Viola Desmond sat in designated all-white seats in a theatre in 1942, 13 years before the American activist refused to give up her seat in the all-white section of a bus in Alabama.

Desmond was convicted without legal representation for an obscure tax offense. Her bravery helped start the Civil Rights movement in Canada.

Even though she was put on the 10-dollar bill, making her the first black person to be featured on currency in Canada, her story isn’t told enough. Many people see the image but don’t know who she is or why she is featured.

World War I and World War II were the highlight of Canadian history like any other country that was involved. We acknowledge many Canadians who fought during the war but very little is mentioned about the No.2 Construction Batallion which black militia formed in Nova Scotia. The battalion consisted of about 600 men who volunteered to fight in the war, according to Veterans Affairs Canada.

The Ontario Ministry of Education should implement courses to teach students about Canadian black history so black students can have better representation and others can gain more knowledge.

Sir John A. MacDonald and William Lyon Mackenzie King should not be the only names a student can remember from history class.

So always remember the following names: Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary, Harry Jerome, John Howard and Viola Desmond.