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We're rooted here and they can't pull us up

We're rooted here and they can't pull us up: Essays in African Canadian Women's History

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    We're rooted here and they can't pull us up
    Book Description:

    Despite the increasing scope and authority of women's studies, the role of Black women in Canada's history has remained largely unwritten and unacknowledged. This silence supports the common belief that Black people have only recently arrived in Canada and that racism is also a fairly recent development. This book sets the record straight.

    The six essays collected here explore three hundred years of Black women in Canada, from the seventeenth century to the immediate post-Second World War period. Sylvia Hamilton documents the experiences of Black women in Nova Scotia, from early slaves and Loyalists to modern immigrants. Adrienne Shadd looks at the gripping realities of the Underground Railroad, focusing on activities on this side of the border. Peggy Bristow examines the lives of Black women in Buxton and Chatham, Ontario, between 1850 and 1865. Afua Cooper describes the career of Mary Bibb, a nineteenth-century Black teacher in Ontario. Dionne Brand, through oral accounts, examines labourers between the wars and their recruitment as factory workers during the Second World War. And, finally, Linda Carty explores relations between Black women and the Canadian state.

    This long overdue history will prove welcome reading for anyone interested in Black history and race relations. It provides a much-needed text for senior high school and university courses in Canadian history, women's history, and women's studies.

    Winner of the Ontario Historical Society's 1996 Joesph Brant award.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8327-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    We are six Black women who share a collective concern that the history of Black people in Canada and of Black women in particular is missing from the pages of mainstream Canadian history. Black people in Canada have a past that has been hidden or eradicated, just as racism has been deliberately denied as an organizing element in how Canada is constituted.

    We are of diverse social and political backgrounds and experiences – two of us are fifth- and sixth-generation Canadian, and four of us came to Canada as immigrants from the Caribbean. Through our discussions we recognized that we...

  7. 1 Naming Names, Naming Ourselves: A Survey of Early Black Women in Nova Scotia
    (pp. 13-40)

    This paper looks at the lives of some early Black women who came to Nova Scotia: enslaved, Loyalist, Maroon, and Refugee. The period surveyed begins in the mid-1600s and concludes with the early years of the twentieth century. While researchers and historians have written generally about Nova Scotiaʹs ʹindigenousʹ Black community, they have paid little attention to the specific condition of Black women in this community. Since Black women, for the most part, have been left out of this history, it has perhaps been assumed that their status and experience were the same as that of males within the community,...

  8. 2 ʹThe Lord seemed to say ʺGoʺʹ: Women and the Underground Railroad Movement
    (pp. 41-68)

    Between 1815 and 1865, and particularly after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,³ it is estimated that tens of thousands of African-Americans sought refuge on Canadian soil. Some of these settlers were free Blacks migrating from northern free states and upper slave states. Others were fugitive slaves, for whom the road to freedom was made via the legendary Underground Railroad.⁴

    Thus far, few studies have focused on the plight of women on the Underground Railroad and the tremendous difficulties they found in escaping and successfully eluding capture. In his classic workThe Underground Rail Road,⁵ William Still...

  9. 3 ʹWhatever you raise in the ground you can sell it in Chathamʹ: Black Women in Buxton and Chatham, 1850–65
    (pp. 69-142)

    On 30 June 1855, Mary Ann Shadd Cary wrote in theProvincial Freeman, ʹTo colored Women we have a word – we have broken the ʹEditorial Iceʹ whether willingly or not for your class in America, so go to editing as many of you who are willing and able as soon as you may, if you think you are ready.ʹ¹ As the first woman in Canada to establish, publish, and edit a newspaper,² Shadd Gary was one of the many Black women in Chatham in the mid-nineteenth century who chose living in British North America over the denial of legal,...

  10. 4 Black Women and Work in Nineteenth-Century Canada West: Black Woman Teacher Mary Bibb
    (pp. 143-170)

    My decision to do a paper on Mary Bibb came out of my study of the history of women and education in nineteenth-century North America. A study of Black female teachers who taught in Canada West during this period presented itself as a useful task. After discovering several names – including Matilda Nichols, Mary Shadd, Sarah and Mary Anne Titre, and Mary Bibb – I realized that to do a study on all these women would be too great a task at the moment. Therefore, I decided to be less ambitious and study only Mary Bibb. Although she was ʹwell...

  11. 5 ʹWe werenʹt allowed to go into factory work until Hitler started the warʹ: The 1920s to the 1940s
    (pp. 171-192)

    The purpose of this essay is to review, through oral accounts, the experiences of Black women in Canada between the wars, their location in work outside the home, and the impact of the Second World War on their job opportunities. Using the accounts of several women born between 1900 and 1924, I will examine how race and gender structured life for Black women in this country during the period 1920 to 1946. The oral accounts used here are from the oral history project that I coordinated between 1988 and 1990 – ʹLives of Black Working Women in Ontarioʹ – which...

  12. 6 African Canadian Women and the State: ʹLabour only, pleaseʹ
    (pp. 193-229)

    Given the terms under which women of African descent in Canada (African Canadian, Black) first arrived in this country, as slaves and later as escaped slaves or newly freed women from the American South, they have long understood that they have been assigned just about the lowest status of any group in Canada at the time. Historically, these women have not had easy access to state services such as education and welfare, and have a long and documented history of working outside the home for wages. The legacy of this combined history has played a key role in defining the...

  13. Picture Credits
    (pp. 230-230)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 231-248)