Canada’s Black community is not a monolith. In Western Canada, there are deeply rooted Black communities whose histories are actively being recuperated and preserved. Most notably, Hogan’s Alley, Vancouver’s first concentrated Black community. Beginning in 1967, the City of Vancouver began leveling the western half of Hogan’s Alley to construct an interurban freeway through Hogan’s Alley and Chinatown. The freeway was ultimately stopped, but construction of the first phase – the Georgia viaduct – was completed in 1971. In the process, the western end of Hogan’s Alley was expropriated and several blocks of houses were demolished. The neighbourhood was home to railway porters, jazz musicians, and people who had deep connections with the African American community. Most notably Nora Hendrix, grandmother to rock legend Jimi Hendrix, a vaudeville dancer who moved to Vancouver in 1911 with her husband Ross Hendrix, was a cook at Vie’s Chicken and Steak House, a legendary eatery that was a thriving late-night spot for food, music and community from the 1940s through 1970s.

“Alberta’s History Plague, Keystone’s Black Settlers, Alberta. Source: Government of Alberta, Cheryl Thompson, photographer.

 “View of Hogan's Alley,”  April, 1958. Source: City of Vancouver Archives, [Creative Commons] A.L. Yates, photographer.

Following violent mob attacks by white supremacists in Oklahoma between 1905 and 1930, culminating with the Massacre at Tulsa in 1921, many Black families immigrated to the prairies. Now known as The “Black Pioneers,” Black Oklahomans began arriving in Western Canada in 1905, but the first sizable group of settlers arrived in Saskatchewan in 1910. In Alberta, migrants from Oklahoma settled at Junkins (now Wildwood) and Campsie (in the County of Barrhead, northwest of Edmonton), while larger settlements were established in Keystone (now Breton, southwest of Edmonton), and Amber Valley (situated just east of the town of Athabasca). Alberta also had its jazz legends. Melvin Crump (1916-2009), born in Edmonton to Robert and Ester Crump who were part of the Oklahoman migration to Alberta, became a jazz drummer and CPR railway porter. His nephew, Willis Day, who grew up in Keystone (Breton), was part of a jazz band in Edmonton in the 1930s called the “Harlem Aces.” A photograph of this band is on display at the Breton and District Historical Museum. Filmmaker, playwright and author Cheryl Foggo has dedicated her life to bringing the stories of Black Alberta to life. Most prominently one of Canada's first Black cowboys, John Ware, who was born into slavery in 1845, and who, following the end ofthe Civil War in 1865, learned to ranch before heading north to Alberta where he became a cowboy. There are also organizations in Manitoba, such as Black History Manitoba, that are actively working to reclaim and disseminate stories about Black communities in the province.



Vie's Chicken & Steak

  Source: Black Strathcona, YouTube.


Secret Alberta: The Former Life of Amber Valley

Source: StoryHive, YouTube.






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