Significance of Black History Month

Dr. Malinda S. Smith, vice-provost (equity, diversity and inclusion)

Most of us recognize the names Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks

Whether through movies, books or monuments, we know their stories. We know the impact of the words and deeds these prominent Americans left on our shared history.

What of Lulu Anderson or Violet King – Black Canadians who were trailblazers in advancing civil rights in Alberta decades earlier than American or other Canadian counterparts. Do you know their names? Can you share how their stories are part of Canadian history?

There is power in story and danger in the single story. That is why Black History Month is so important. We all need to understand the diversity and complexity of the Black historical experience here in Canada. We need to know the names of those who wrestled with systemic injustice, who fought for equality and who experienced adversity that was in itself distinctively Canadian.  We need to know our own Black stories.

  • Lulu Anderson tried to buy a ticket to see ‘The Lion and The Mouse’ at an Edmonton theatre in May of 1922. The staff denied her entry based on the colour of her skin. Lulu decided to stand up for racial justice. She sued the theatre.
  • Violet King Henry was born in Calgary to a family of Black pioneers. She was the first Black person in Alberta to graduate with a law degree, the first Black person to be called to the Alberta Bar in 1954 and the first Black woman lawyer in Canada. King advocated for women’s rights, women in leadership, and equal pay for equal work throughout her career.


Black History Matters

Black history is Alberta’s history. It is Canadian history. It’s about more than just learning of the people who shaped our province and country, individuals who are often left out of our history books, school curriculum, museums, science labs, and institutions. By remembering our ancestors' hidden contributions, you can also take the time to challenge and unlearn some of the myths and biases you might hold.

I challenge you to research more about Black Canadian history, discover the stories of Black Canadian pioneers and trailblazers, and share their contributions and impact with others.

Consider ordering takeout from Caribbean or African restaurants or purchasing a book from a Black Canadian author.  

We learn about the past so that we may avoid its pitfalls and perils. We honour Black history to celebrate the talented Black leaders and innovators who continue to shape our society today.  


Addressing anti-Black racism on campus - University Affairs (article)

One year after a mass reckoning, we examine what universities are doing to address anti-Black racism in their own institutions.  Last year, amidst a global reckoning around anti-Black racism, Canadian universities stood back to take stock of how the problem exists and operates at their own institutions. Schools made statements of solidarity across the country, declaring that racism had no place in their campuses and pledging to support Black students, staff, and faculty.  Read more