Sylvia D. Hamilton

Sylvia D. Hamilton

Sylvia D. Hamilton is a Nova Scotian and one of the most influential public historians working in Canada today, earning a reputation for excellence over four decades of active history-making. A direct descendent of the Black Refugees-Survivors of the War of 1812, Hamilton has made an indelible mark on Black history, while enriching and reframing conceptions of Canadian history and its subjects.

She has devoted her life’s work to uncovering stories of the struggles and accomplishments of African Canadians, and introducing these to mainstream audiences by producing, writing and directing documentary films, giving public lectures, writing essays and poetry, and creating multimedia art installations.

Her award-winning films include Black Mother Black Daughter, Portia White: Think on Me and The Little Black School House. Her essays are foundational pieces of scholarship in this field and, along with her poetry, are widely used in schools and universities. She co-created New Initiatives in Film, a program within the National Film Board’s Studio D, to provide filmmaking opportunities for women of colour and Indigenous women filmmakers.

She has played a critical role in reshaping the narratives of Canadian culture and history and the role of Black survival and resilience within these. Her work, creative and volunteer, underlines her belief in the possibility of transformative social change. 

Hamilton's recognitions include the CBC Television Pioneer Award, honorary degrees, and 2019 Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media.

“Had my bold ancestors not been imaginative, they would never have survived. They were the original Afro-futurists. I am who they imagined.”

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