Why do we recognize February as Black History Month? 

In Canada, this idea was first celebrated in Toronto by railroad porters within the Black community by 1950; the porters had learned of it on their travels in the United States. The Canadian Negro Women’s Association also hosted a few celebrations. It was not until the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) was founded in 1978, and petitioned the City of Toronto by 1979 to have February proclaimed Black History Month that the celebration started to trickle into the entire community. The OBHS has successfully lobbied the federal government to have February declared as Black History Month. In December 1995, the Parliament of Canada officially recognized February as Black History Month, following a motion introduced by the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine, MP of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

Events in Chatham-Kent 

Buxton National Historic Site and Museum 

February 24, 3 p.m. (North Buxton Community Church)

The Museum along with Buxton's Next Generation are pleased to present "A Snapshot in the Family Album. Everyone is invited to take a step back in time and learn more about the stories of the Boswell family, the Hanson family, the Morris family, the Steele family and the Timbers family. Click HERE for the poster. 

Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum 

February 1, 11am

Children can learn more about Viola Desmond. She is the latest woman to be featured on a Canadian ten dollar bill. Hear the story "Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged" and design your own banknote. Parents must remain with their children. RSVP at info@blackhistoricalsociety.org  Click HERE for the poster. 

Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site

February 15, 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
As part of a unique workshop series on strategies for teaching Black history in elementary and secondary grades, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site will be offering an engaging workshop aimed to help educators and parents incorporate the history of African enslavement in Canada into their history studies.
Facilitated by Black history curriculum specialist, educator, author and historian Natasha Henry, this informative and interactive workshop is designed for Junior/Intermediate teachers (Grades 3 to 10) who may not be familiar with the subject matter. The workshop’s aim is for participants to leave with the knowledge, skills and tools to bring intriguing stories of African-Canadians to life. For more details click here

February 18, 10:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.

A Chatham-Kent Tapestry: A Visual History to 1950 by Jim and Lisa Gilbert

Beginning with records preserved from the mid-19th century, A Chatham-Kent Tapestry carefully curates photographs from the Chatham-Kent Museum and other community archive collections, as well as surviving negatives from the Chatham Daily News, to tell the remarkable story of one of the oldest communities in Upper Canada.
Jim and Lisa Gilbert have been bringing local history to life for almost 40 years, in Chatham-Kent. They have won local, regional, national and international awards for their radio shows, newspaper columns, historical presentations and heritage programming.  Following the presentation, join the authors at Union Block Bakery, downtown Dresden’s newest eatery, for a specially priced luncheon. Click HERE for the poster.

Thames Art Gallery 

January 18 - March 10 

Learn about black feminism in an exciting new exhibit at the gallery with artists Allyson Mitchell and Madelyne Beckles. Together they strive to make thought provoking, eye-opening, powerful work about feminism, sexuality and social stigmas. Thinking through intersectional queer feminist embodiments and new materialism, they have created an interactive, sensorial environment in the gallery informed by pop culture, deconstruction and feminist gestures. Their artwork often leverages traditional domestic practices, using recycled materials and imagery, including craft techniques and found objects. Using a destabilizing humour, this collaboration also addresses complicated negotiations facing artists engaged with politics and identity today, particularly when the impetus is on bringing gender and racial inequality into focus. Click HERE for the poster. 

NFB FILM SCREENING: Sisters in the Struggle

Friday, February 15, 7:00 - 8:00PM | Doors open at 6:30PM | Kiwanis Theatre | Free Admission

Made in the final years of the Studio D’s existence, the first publicly funded feminist film-production unit in the world, "Sisters in the Struggle" adopts the classic National Film Board documentary style—including talking heads and vérité shooting. Despite the conventional form, the film remains radical in its amplifications of the voices of Black Canadian women, who reflect on the legacy of the intersection of racism and sexism, alongside their personal battles in community, labour and feminist organizing. Directed by Dionne Brand and Ginny Stikeman, 1991, (49 minutes, colour, English). Concessions stand open before and after the film. 

FAMILY DAY: Poster Making - Take Creative Action!

Monday, February 18, 11:00AM - 4:00PM | Studio One | Drop in Activity | Free Admission

In 1946, businessperson Viola Desmond challenged racial segregation at a cinema in Nova Scotia by refusing to leave a whites-only area. Desmond's case is one of the most publicized incidents of racial discrimination in Canadian history and helped start the modern civil rights movement in Canada. Learn how you can take creative action and affect change! Participants will think critically about protest, study poster design, and identify an issue they care about, then consider the pros and cons. They will create a poster from these ideas.


Thursday, February 21, 7:00 - 9:00PM | Studio One | Free Admission

Jamaican-Canadian artist Michael Chambers will discuss his prolific photographic career in conjunction with the anticipated catalogue launch of Shadows to Silver. The publication documents his retrospective exhibition, which focused on diverse representations of the Black body, held at the Thames Art Gallery last summer. With essays by writers Donna Lypchuk and Tiana Reid, this bilingual catalogue, signed by the artist, will be on sale for $25.00. Refreshments and cash bar available.
Also visit the gallery’s current exhibition, What Motivates Her? Allyson Mitchell and Madelyne Beckles’ collaborative multi-media installation is informed by pop culture and personal politics. Beckles’ video work explores Black feminism through key texts, while both artists raise awareness of gender and racial inequities alongside their everyday concerns about contemporary life. 

Chatham Capitol Theatre 

February 3, 4 p.m. (Tickets range in price from $25 to $25) 

Join Ben Heppner and the Toronto Mass Choir for a Gospel Celebration. Click HERE for the poster. 

Black Gold / Black Donnellys - Movie Double Feature with Q&A
Saturday, February 9, 7:00PM 

True Canadian history brought to life in this award winning “Heroes & Outlaws” short-film series.
Tickets at: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/black-gold-black-donnellys-movie-double-feature-with-qa-in-chatham-tickets-50384787255

Other ways to Recognize Black History Month 

University of Windsor, Faculty of Human Kinetics, Room HK 140

February 5, 6:45 p.m.
Attend a free screening of "Soul on Ice" presented by the Faculty of Human Kinetics. This film presents and retells the unknown contributions of black athletes in ice hockey. Special dedication at 6:45, film starts at 7. Donations to benefit the CKBHS. Click HERE for the poster.

Chatham-Kent Public Libraries 

Our libraries are filled with a great assortment of black history collections, books written by black authors and a host of biographies featuring signifiant individuals from history. 

Visit Local Sites 

Both Buxton National Historic Site & Museum and the Chatham Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum are open during the month of February to explore and learn more. While Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site doesn't open until later in the spring, you can visit their website to learn more now. You can also down the read about all three sites and download the Underground Railroad Brochure here

What do others have to say about the sites? 

Still Standing "Buxton" episode

In this episode, Jonny travels back in time, kisses a less than desirable woman and learns that Buxton, Ontario is the happy ending to the most shameful era of American history. 

Canadian Geographic

In the fall of 2018, Chatham-Kent Tourism hosted Travel Writer and Influencer Heather Greenwood Davis who visited all three Underground Railroad sites in Chatham-Kent. You can pick up a copy of the January/February edition of Canadian Geographic to read what she has to say about Buxton National Historic Site & Museum and the Chatham Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum. She also has an exclusive online story profiling Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site which you can find here