Little Burgundy in Montreal was the heart of the English-speaking Black community from the late-19th century through 1960s. It helped spawn a vibrant jazz scene. From the 1920s tothe 1960s clubs like The Terminal, Café St. Michel and the most famous of them all,Rockhead’s Paradise, were home to Canadian and American legends. Many Black Montrealers were connected to the  railway porters, such as jazz pianist Oscar Peterson who grew up in Little Burgundy, and whose father worked as a porter. Like Vancouver’s Hogan’s Alley and Halifax’s Africville, Little Burgundy was razed for the Ville Marie Expressway. Between 1967 and 1973, the Ville-Marie, as an East-West autoroute sliced through Little Burgundy (and Chinatown), and the remainder of the neighbourhood was demolished to make way for public housing. The fight for Hogan’s Alley and Little Burgundy as Black spaces and places but also communities that have contributed to Canada’s cultural heritage remain ongoing for Black community-members in Vancouver and Montreal. 

“Little Burgundy map,” Google.

“Negro Community Centre is Inaugurated in Montreal,” editorial, April 8, 1927. Source: The Dawn of Tomorrow, front page. 

Black history in Quebec has often been ignored in the larger narrative of the province’s history. Haitians, in particular, began immigrating to Montreal, Laval, and other cities in Quebec, as well as Ottawa in the 1960s. This group has contributed to Canadian culture through their art, music and language yet they are often erased and not celebrated the way that they should be. Black people are the largest non-white group in the city of Montreal, yet, their histories, stories, and experiences scarcly factor into the city’s political culture. Hence, there has always been a strong Black activist culture in Montreal, dating back to the 1960s when 200 students - most of whom were Black (Caribbean) - at Sir George Williams University (present-day Concordia) led an occupation of the campus computer room in response to the anti-Black racist actions of a white professor. Known as “The Sir George Williams Affair,” on February 11, 1969, the police intervened forcefully in the protest, which resulted in over $2 million in damages and the arrest of 97 people, some of whom were subsequently deported. Then-student Anne Cools, who was from Barbados, was among several sentenced to a prison term. Cools would go on to become the first Black member and the longest serving member of the Senate of Canada. There were many lives that were forever changed by Sir George, but what it ignited in Montreal’s Black community was an ongoing sense of having to fight for freedom and justice in a province that has, historically, disenfranchised Black Anglophones and Francophones.

“Rev. S.R. Drake, General Superintendent of Methodist Episcopal Baptist Church, Guelph,” photograph, July 14, 1923. Source: The Dawn of Tomorrow, p. 1. 

“Miss Ethel Shreve,” photograph, July 28, 1923. Source: The Dawn of Tomorrow, p. 2.

“Rev. Mary E. Taylor, Pastor, Walkerville A.M.E. Zion Church, Windsor,” photograph, October 23, 1923. Source: The Dawn of Tomorrow, front page.

In Ontario, there are historical Black communities in North BuxtonAmherstbergChatham-KentLondonHamiltonOwen Sound (Grey County), and many other places in between. However, the largest community is in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), a region that is home to historical Black communities (those who pre-date the 1960s), and waves of Caribbean and African immigration since the 1960s. Black people in Ontario have contributed to the national narrative in education, politics, sports, arts and entertainment, and culture, arguably more than any other region in Canada. The City of Toronto, in particular, has a long history of Black resistance and protest to anti-Black racism, leading up to and including what the media labelled, the 1991 Yonge Street Riots. It would be exhaustive to list all of those achievements here, but there are websites that have acknowledged the tremendous talent that has emanated from this region.




Heritage Minute: Oscar Peterson

Source: Historica Canada, YouTube.


OK Computer Riot (Sir George Williams Affair)

Source: Thelinknewspaper, YouTube.

Home to Buxton (1987), dirs. Claire Prieto and Roger McTair

Source: Archives of Ontario, YouTube.


90 Seconds with BLACK CANADA: Dudley & Charley, Mr. Jane and Finch (2019), dir. Ngardy Conteh George. 

Source: Oya Media Group, YouTube.







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