Skip to main content

Teaching Black Canadian histories at WSCSS Conference

Paulette Thompson stands in front of a world map.

March 20, 2023

K-12 educator and Ph.D. student Paulette Thompson (Multicultural Education) presented on teaching Black Canadian histories at the Washington State Council for the Social Studies Conference in March 2023.

African/Black Canadian educators and artists have been embracing “Sankofa”, an Akan concept loosely translated as “go back and get it”. In this spirit, Paulette Thompson began her presentation, “Sankofa: African Routes, Canadian Roots” with a clip of Toronto-born Jully Black’s rendition of the Canadian national anthem, in which she changed one word: “O Canada/Our home on Native land.”

Black Canadian history is deeper than the 30 years of Canada’s significant role as the northern terminus of the Underground Railroad, stretching back 400 years. Thompson reminded people of Sir James Douglas, the Guyana-born biracial Black and Scottish B.C. Governor General. She also shared Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke sestinas “Snow job: An incorrect sestina” on enslavement in Canada before showing a clip from Sylvia Hamilton’s classic documentary “Speak It: From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia”, a community going back before 1776.

The presentation wrapped up by examining the work of Dr. Afua Cooper and her response to the Vancouver Sun’s erasure Black Canadian History for British Columbia’s 150th anniversary. The resulting discussion gave an opportunity for educators to dig deeper by examining the ways that local communities work with artists and educators to bring about curricular change in Canada.