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Black History of Montreal Black History Month 

Black History of Montreal

In honor of it being Black History Month, I figured why not learn more about black history in our city? We tend to often learn about black history in the U.S. while we remain completely oblivious to the rich cultural heritage of the Black community in Montreal. It is important to use this month to celebrate black achievement and resilience In the late 18th century, numerous black immigrants from the West Indies and the United States arrived in Montreal’s Little Burgundy borough when racial segregation was outlawed in Canadian law (technically, they were still fallacies about that) (Source: Canadian Encyclopedia). 

They immigrated because the construction of the railway required laborers and offered better wages and conditions than elsewhere. As the community grew, the need for social services and support from the city did consequently. Unfortunately, city law restricted them from receiving the majority of social services, which led to the marginalization of an entire neighborhood. In response, cultural and social changes were attained through a collective effort, thanks to the activism of thought and effervescence of a whole community. 

Initiatives like the Union United Church acted as a gathering place for the community, a place to get help with essentials, and, obviously, a place to pray and go to church. The Reverend Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela were guests at the Union United Church. 

The local women made up the neighborhood’s core because the men frequently worked away as porters. They thus founded the Coloured Women’s Club, where they provided both material and emotional aid for the needs of the community. The Coloured Women’s club is the oldest black women’s institution in Canada, and its legacy is nonetheless tremendous as it remained the backbone of the neighborhood. 

Moreover, The Little Burgundy developed into a hub for jazz music thanks to well-known players who were born and raised there, like Oliver Jones and Oscar Peterson. Peterson has won eight Grammy awards, one of which was given to honor his outstanding career. Daisy Peterson, Oscar’s sister, taught piano to many children in the borough and laid the groundwork for later-emerging talents like Jones, who studied with her.

By: Sofia Marsico

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