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20th century


Talented musician, vaudevillian and prolific composer, Shelton Brooks, moves from his hometown of Amherstburg, Ontario to the United States, where he goes on to write hit songs such as "Dark Town Strutter's Ball" and "Some of these Days." The latter song was popularized in the 1970s television show "All in the Family."


Hattie Rhue Hatchett, a teacher and composer from North Buxton, writes "That Sacred Spot." It becomes the Canadian military's official marching song for the troops during the First World War.


The segregated No. 2 Construction Battalion is formed for Black men who want to serve during the First World War. Over 600 men join from across Canada and the United States.


Black volunteers are accepted into the Canadian forces during the Second World War and hundreds serve alongside whites on the battlefields of Europe.


The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters is organized in Canada. In 1945, it becomes the first all-Black union to sign a collective agreement with Canadian Pacific Rail.


Hugh Burnett and fellow Blacks from Dresden, Chatham and Buxton organize the National Unity Association to combat discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation.


The Government of Ontario passes the Fair Employment Practices Act that outlaws discrimination in employment based on race, creed or national origin.


The Government of Ontario passes the Fair Accommodations Practices Act making discrimination in public facilities illegal.


In an act of resistance, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest leads to a year-long bus boycott by the Black community. Buses are desegregated in December 1956. Rev. Martin Luther King, one of the leaders of the boycott, emerges as a national civil rights leader in the United States.


The Ontario Human Rights Commission is established to administer the Ontario Human Rights Code. Dr. Daniel Hill – a noted Canadian sociologist, civil servant, human rights specialist and Black Canadian historian – becomes its first director.


The Ontario Human Rights Code is enacted, the first of its kind in Canada.


Leonard Braithwaite is the first Black Canadian to be elected to a provincial legislature as the member for Etobicoke, Ontario.


Canadian immigration policy is liberalized with the points system that allows un-sponsored immigrants to enter Canada based on their skills and education. Hundreds of thousands of Blacks immigrate to Canada from the Caribbean, Africa and other regions over the next 30 years.


Lincoln Alexander is the first Black Canadian to be elected to the House of Commons in Ottawa, representing Hamilton West. He later becomes the federal Minister of Labour in 1979.


The National Black Coalition of Canada is formed in Toronto at a meeting of 28 organizations.


The first national Congress of Black Women is held in Toronto, hosted by the Canadian Negro Women's Association.


Rosemary Brown, Member of the Legislative Assembly in British Columbia and the first Black woman to be elected to a Canadian legislature in 1972, becomes the first woman to compete for the leadership of a national political party (New Democrat Party); she comes second in a tight race. She later serves as Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission from 1993 to 1996.


Stanley Grizzle becomes the first appointed Black Canadian judge in the Canadian Court of Citizenship.


Lincoln Alexander is sworn in as Ontario's Lieutenant Governor. He is the first Black Canadian to be appointed to this vice-regal position.


Jean Augustine becomes the first Black woman in Canada to be elected to the House of Commons. She is elected in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding and later serves in Cabinet as Minister of State and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

17th century

18th century

19th century

20th century

21st century

Come to the cabin!

Come to the cabin!

Learn about Josiah Henson, recognized for his contributions to the abolition movement and for his work in the Underground Railroad, at Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site in Dresden
Online exhibits

Online exhibits

Ontario’s stories are compelling and informative. Explore some of them through our online exhibits