Government of Canada honours innovative Black athlete with historic designation
One of the top boxers of the late 19th century, George Dixon, recognized as a person of national historic significance
December 21, 2021 Gatineau, Quebec Parks Canada Agency
Widely regarded as one of the top boxers of the late 19th century, George Dixon (1870–1908) was renowned for his stamina, speed and defence, and was the first Black athlete and first Canadian to win a world title.
Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Steven Guilbeault, announced the designation of George Dixon as a person of national historic significance under the National Program of Historical Commemoration, on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
Born in Africville, Halifax, George Dixon competed primarily out of the boxing hub of Boston as a bantamweight and featherweight. He became the first fighter to win world titles in multiple weight classes and the first to have multiple reigns with a world title. Dixon’s contributions to the sport extended beyond the ring – he is credited with inventing innovative training techniques, most notably shadowboxing, that are still common practice in the sport.
As a Black athlete, he confronted racial prejudice throughout his life and career. Dixon used his platform and popularity as world champion to create opportunities for Black boxers and Black boxing fans and regularly contributed his in-ring earnings to causes combating discrimination and supporting Black communities.
National historic designations reflect the rich and varied heritage of our country and provide an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about our diverse history. The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes significant persons, places, and events that have shaped our country as one way of helping Canadians connect with their past. By sharing these stories with Canadians, we hope to foster understanding and reflection on the diverse histories, cultures, legacies, and realities of Canada’s past and present.
The designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made nationwide. To nominate a person, place or historical event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/clmhc-hsmbc/ncp-pcn/application.
“Facing prejudice and discrimination, George Dixon persevered to become one of the best fighters of his era and a pioneer of scientific boxing techniques that endure today. Dixon is an important historical figure in Canada and representative of the integral role Black Canadians played in building of this nation and its history. On behalf of the Government of Canada, it’s an honour to commemorate the national historic significance of George Dixon.”
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
“Racism and racial injustice deeply affected Dixon’s personal and professional life, but his popularity and success in the boxing ring gave him a platform to combat discrimination and support Black communities. Today’s announcement speaks to the many contributions Black Canadians have made and continue to make to Canada and our shared heritage. Historic designations like these help raise awareness of Black history in Canada and the unique challenges faced by Canadians of African and Caribbean descent.”
The Honorable Greg Fergus,
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Chair of the Parliamentary Black Caucus
“We honour and celebrate this great African-Canadian athlete from Africville in Halifax, Nova Scotia and acknowledge the blows that Anti-Black Racism would have dealt him in his time and his courage to stand up and fight.”
Poet, Author, and Arts Educator
Nominated George Dixon for designation as a person of national historic significance
Canada officially recognizes the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, which began in 2015 and will be observed until 2024. The International Decade promotes greater global recognition of and respect for the cultures, history and heritage of people of African descent.
Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national significance of persons, places, and events that have marked Canada’s history. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized under the National Program of Historical Commemoration and these important stories are shared with Canadians.
The designation of persons, places and events of national historic significance in Canada helps to tell the stories of who we are and connect us to our past, enriching our understanding of ourselves, each other, and our country. Heritage places provide a wide range of cultural, social, economic, and environmental benefits to their communities.
Parks Canada is committed to working with Canadians in our efforts to tell broader, more inclusive stories in the places that it manages. In support of this goal, the Framework for History and Commemoration, outlines a new, comprehensive, and engaging approach to sharing Canada’s history through diverse perspectives, including shedding light on tragic and difficult periods of Canada’s past.
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Parks Canada Agency
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