Each year in February, the City of Toronto is proud to support events and exhibits scheduled for Black History Month, inviting members of the public to explore and celebrate the heritage, traditions and culture of African-Canadians.

Black History Month began in the United States as “Negro History Week” in February 1926, through the work of African American scholar Dr. Carter G. Woodson. His aim was to raise awareness and understanding in the school curriculum of the African experience around the world. The United States began to formally celebrate Black History Month in the 1960s. Through community activities, organizers sought to present a more balanced and accurate picture of Black history.

In the 1950s, community organizations such as the Canadian Negro Women’s Association began to celebrate the importance of the history of the black community in Toronto. In 1979, Toronto became the first municipality in Canada to proclaim Black History Month through the efforts of many individuals and organizations such as the Ontario Black History Society. In 1995, Toronto Area MP Jean Augustine introduced a motion that was passed unanimously by the House of Commons to recognize Black History Month across Canada.

Black History Month is an opportunity for the City of Toronto to recognize the past and present contributions that African Canadians make to the life of Toronto in such areas as education, medicine, art, culture, public service, economic development, politics and human rights.

A schedule of events is listed below.

John Tory Mayor of Toronto - Proclamation

Black History Month
February 2021

WHEREAS Toronto became the first municipality in Canada to proclaim Black History Month in 1979 to honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present.

During Black History Month we commemorate, celebrate and recognize the achievements of Canadians of African descent and recognize their rights to equal opportunity and freedom from discrimination in Canada.

The City of Toronto has developed the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism to eliminate barriers and to ensure systemic changes are made to eradicate anti-Black racism and help create a culture that values inclusion, opposes racism and intolerance and prioritizes the well-being and advancement of Black Torontonians.

The City’s efforts coincide with the United Nations’ declaration of the International Decade for People of African Descent from 2015 – 2024. This International Decade encourages Canada and other countries to take action to protect and promote the human rights of people of African descent, and to recognize the invaluable contributions that people of African descent or origin have contributed to communities worldwide, including Toronto.

Black History Month is our history and this is a month in which we learn of both great accomplishment and trauma, both of which are important for all of us to understand. That understanding and a commitment to act make us stronger and better as a city.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Mayor John Tory, on behalf of Toronto City Council, do hereby proclaim February 2021 as “Black History Month” in the City of Toronto.

On February 4, the Awakenings program at Toronto History Museums will release new online content for Black History Month including music, film and discussions of the effects of racism on physical and mental health.  

Launched in December 2020, Awakenings is a series of art projects by Black, Indigenous and artists of colour, operating under the principles of anti-oppression, anti-colonialism, and anti-racism. The series is part of the City’s efforts to address anti-Black racism.

Explore an unseen view. Awaken a new perspective. Join the conversation.

Program details available at toronto.ca/museums.

The City of Toronto Archives is proud to share its Black History in Toronto webpage, which was launched in November 2020. Created with the support of the Ontario Black History Society and the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, the webpage highlights the history of Black communities, activists and leaders, service organizations and much more!

Be sure to follow the Archives’ Twitter and Instagram accounts, as they will posting images and links to celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth and help you to discover more about the records and resources available at the Archives and beyond.

Toronto Public Library celebrates Black History with year-round events and programs that honour Black heritage and consider the historical significance and contemporary contributions of Black activists and artists from around the world. Discover upcoming events, reading lists, videos, podcast episodes and more at tpl.ca/blackhistory.