Key events in Black Canadian history
In 1628, Olivier LeJeune was recorded as the first enslaved African to live in Canada (i.e. New France). Olivier LeJeune’s birth name is not known, as he was taken from Africa as a young child and eventually given the last name of the priest who purchased him.
People of African descent were enslaved in Canada from 1628 until slavery was abolished in Upper Canada in 1793 and throughout the entire British Empire in 1833.
During the War of American Independence (1775-1783), the British offered freedom to enslaved Africans in America who joined the British side during the war. Many accepted the invitation, and as a result 10 percent of the United Empire Loyalists coming into the Maritimes were Black.
In 1793, the Abolition Act was passed in Upper Canada (now known as Ontario). This law freed enslaved people aged 25 and over and made it illegal to bring enslaved people into Upper Canada. The Abolition Act in Upper Canada and court decisions in Nova Scotia in the 1790s contributed greatly to a decline of African enslavement in Canada, and made Canada a safe haven for those seeking freedom and an important base for the abolitionist movement.
In 1807, the Act on the Abolition of the Slave Trade in the British Empire received Royal Assent and became law throughout the British Empire. In 1833, the Act on the Abolition of Slavery in the British Empire, abolished enslavement in most British colonies, including Canada. These were the results of a long and arduous campaign in the British Parliament led by William Wilberforce, M.P. (1759-1833) and supported by an alliance of Evangelical Anglicans, Quakers and Black Abolitionists. Between 1800 and 1865, approximately 30,000 Black people came to Canada via the Underground Railway.
During the War of 1812, the Coloured Corps fought in the Battle of Queenston Heights, a decisive engagement with the Americans. The Corps had been established thanks to Richard Pierpoint, a Black Loyalist and true Canadian hero.
Railway porters played a major role in the struggle for Black rights in Canada. Starting in the late 1880s, they emerged as leaders of Black communities in Montréal and other urban centres. Through their unions, such as the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Order of Sleeping Car Porters, they gained recognition for Black workers. After the Second World War, the porters made important contributions to the campaign for human rights, particularly through their struggle to end discrimination in railway employment.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: