Sharing Canadian Culture. Creating Digital Stories.
Above: Michaëlle Jean and Donovan Bailey, tow of the immigrants featured in Mike’s Famous Caribbean Canadians unit.

February is Black History Month

Black History Month is an important education opportunity that comes every February. 

What does Black History Month mean to you? Do you have resources? Are you looking for more?

Ancestry Project has a number of resources for teachers and in this blog post I’ll describe a few resources I’ve found on the web. And of course you can go as mainstream as you like, and look at the life and words of Martin Luther King Jr, or explore broadly and discover less famous but equally important activists like Viola Desmond.

As a Canadian teacher and education developer I’ve worked on a few resources that were very rewarding to research and develop. Keeping in mind the bigger picture of colonial history, it’s a moving experience to consider aspects like slavery, civil rights, human rights and migration.

On a personal note, I’m not dissimilar to many Canadians of white European background. I have tended to learn about black culture via pop music and movies or festivals and foods. This is not necessarily shallow but it is a limited perspective (though it feels rich in many ways to me!).

Jackie Mittoo at the airport in Kingston, Jamaica. 
When I think of African Canadians or Black Canadians, as we call the group in Canada, one that comes to mind that I enjoyed on an artistic and cultural level is the reggae artist Jackie Mittoo. Arriving in Canada in the mid 1970s, Mittoo was a virtuoso keyboard player who was instrumental in growing the Toronto reggae and music community. I’ll never forget discovering his album “The Keyboard King At Studio One,” and revelling to tracks like “Summer Breeze” (a Seals & Crofts cover). Sadly Jackie passed at the young age of 42 from cancer. He was memorialized in a massive tribute concert in Jamaica.

In some neighbourhoods of Toronto one can find Caribbean shops selling patties, roti or jerk chicken, all of which are fabulous and delicious examples of the variety of menu available to us in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). I can honestly claim to know that ordering a “coco bread” with my patty or “oxtail and gravy” with my rice and peas can elevate my meal to another level.

 When I was pursuing an upgrade of my BA at the University of Toronto I took some English literature courses including a favourite “Sub-Saharan African Literature.” That was incredible and introduced me to some great works by writers like Chinua Achebe, Ousmane Sembène and Nadine Gordimer. In my first years at university I also browsed the library for works on Rastafarianism and Black Power – some very interesting books were discovered!

For my Famous Canadians units have written about black Canadian heroes such as Viola Desmond, Michaëlle Jean and Donovan Bailey. They represent a diverse range of experience including origins from Nova Scotia (Desmond) and islands such as Jamaica (Bailey) and Haiti (Jean). All three overcame adversity and contributed to the identity of modern day Canada.

I’ve included links and descriptions of a few of my favourites. They include two resources from Ancestry Project, as well as the Toronto Public Library, New York Times and PBS.

Thank You

If you have any questions please get in touch! I appreciate your support!

Hope you, your students and your colleagues can make use of these awesome resources during Black History Month!

Mike Simpson

Black History Month Recommended Resources


View Viola Desmond resource on Ancestry Project

Viola Desmond, is a civil rights hero who came to her activism accidentally. Her story is inspirational and to honour herCanada is putting her on the $10 bill.


View Guess Who’s Coming to Peanuts? on New York Times

Interesting article on racial integration in 1960s America and the role of Franklin from the Peanuts cartoon


View Move On Up…or Not | Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise  on PBS Learning Media

In this lesson, students explore how the Civil Rights Movement unleashed a wave of change that followed into the 1970s.

Toronto Public Library

Libraries are a great resource. If you are in the Greater Toronto Area you can attend over 60 events in libraries around the city.  Activities include film screenings, music performances, presentations and book readings, among others.

Check out their website:

Films at Kanopy

The Calgary Public Library has a great list of 12 Great Films for Black History Month from Kanopy, the streaming platform you can access via your library or school accounts. Great job CPL!

Kanopy is a fantastic service that offers movies and television programs, and they have a very strong documentary film collection. Check it out!

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.