February is Black History Month in Canada. It is a time to honour and celebrate the diversity, history, future, and culture of Black people in Canada. During this month, we recognize the past and present contributions that Black Canadians have made to our country.
At The Erb Group, we are dedicated to learning about and celebrating this important month. With this, we want to share a little bit about Black History Month’s origins, resources to learn more and ways to honour and celebrate Black History Month yourself.
Black History in Canada
Black Canadians and their communities have been a part of shaping Canada’s heritage and identity since the arrival of Mathieu Da Costa, a navigator, and interpreter, whose presence in Canada dates back to the early 1600s.
The role of Black people and their communities in Canada has largely been ignored as a key part of Canada’s history. There is little mention that some of the Loyalists who came here after the American Revolution and settled in the Maritimes were people of African descent, nor the fact that many soldiers of African descent made many sacrifices in wartime as far back as the War of 1812.
Few people in Canada are aware that African people were once enslaved in the territory now known as Canada or of how those who fought enslavement helped lay the foundation of Canada’s diverse and inclusive society.
Black History Month is a time to learn more about these Canadian stories and the many other vital contributions that Black Canadians and their communities have made to this country’s history and continued growth.
Committing to learning more and honouring Black history and the contributions Black communities have made is only part of what one can do to support this month. To find great educational resources and learn more, please check out this link.
In 1978, the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) was established. Its founders, including Dr. Daniel G. Hill and Wilson O. Brooks, presented a petition to the City of Toronto to have February formally proclaimed as Black History Month. In 1979, the first-ever Canadian proclamation was issued by Toronto.
In December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month in Canada following a motion introduced by Dr. Augustine, the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament. The House of Commons carried the motion unanimously.
Honouring Black History in the Trucking Industry
It is hard to believe there once was a time when produce, meat, medicine and other cold-chain items couldn’t be hauled across the province, let alone the country, until the invention of the portable air-cooling unit for trucks, nowadays known as a reefer. Frederick McKinley Jones was a Black American born in 1893 and, from a young age, was recognized for his natural mechanical abilities.
Jones moved from Cincinnati to Minnesota, where he worked as a mechanic on a farm and eventually joined the U.S. Army during World War I. His experience strengthened his knowledge of ‘ intricacies in mechanics, which led him to build one of the first radio transmitters and create a revolutionary cinema device that combined sound and film simultaneously. His inventions caught the eye of Joseph A. Numero, owner of the cinema and sound equipment company.
In 1938, Jones designed the first portable air-cooling units used on trucks, and by 1940, he had received a patent for them. Numero decided to sell his cinema and go into business with Jones, resulting in a multi-million dollar business and the product we use today, Thermo King. As a result of his inventions, Jones became the first African American to receive the National Medal of Technology and holds over 60 patents.
Embracing diversity and recognizing the value of different perspectives have been the foundation of our roots. As we move forward, we encourage you to seek ways to acknowledge and amplify the various perspectives within the black community. By doing so, we can continue to push the narrative forward and work towards building a better future for everyone. Learn more about Black History Month in Canada and how you can get involved through the link here.