Women in front of YWCA’s Ontario House, 698 Ontario Street ca. 1912 Photographer: William James City of Toronto Archives Fonds 1244, Item 71.22
Women in front of YWCA’s Ontario House, 698 Ontario Street ca. 1912 Photographer: William James City of Toronto Archives Fonds 1244, Item 71.22

Each year, 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 efforts of many individuals and organizations such as the Ontario Black History Society. In 1995, Toronto Area MP Jean Augustine introduced a motion which 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.

2019 Black History Month Events

Art ‘n’ Soul: Art & Wellness for Cultural Communities

Presented by The Empress Walk in partnership with Toronto History Museums

Saturday, February 16, 2019, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This Family Day weekend, join The Empress Walk to discover the connection between the arts, health and wellness in Toronto’s cultural communities. Art ‘n’ Soul will feature a panel discussion, workshops, and a special presentation by Giselle Wilson, founder of The Empress Walk.

Admission is free. Registration is required.

Hungry for Comfort: A Celebration of Food History

Saturday, February 23, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Calling all foodies! Join tastings, workshops and demos that explore how people thrived during Canada’s bitter winters. In partnership with the Ontario Black History Society, the spotlight is on the culinary stories from various Black communities across Canada. Pre-registration is required. Ticket price includes refreshments and lunch.

Early bird ticket price: $65 plus tax (until February 3, 2019)

Regular ticket price: $75.00 plus tax

Advance tickets are required.

Mackenzie House Celebrates Black History Month

Weekends in February, 12 to 5 p.m.

Toronto has a rich legacy in the literature and the newspapers of the early Black community in Ontario. Visit the museum on weekends in February, and learn more about some of the Black Victorians of Toronto, featuring those who published newspapers during that era. Visitors can take a piece of this important history home when they print a souvenir copy of Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s newspaper, The Provincial Freeman, in the re-created 1850’s print shop. Included with regular admission.

Exhibit: Enslaved Africans in Upper Canada

This exhibition from the Archives of Ontario, touches on the lives of enslaved Africans in Ontario and focuses on their actions to resist servitude. This exhibit will be on display at Mackenzie House until Sunday, April 28. Included with regular admission.

Beer Diversity

Friday, February 22, 7 to 10 p.m.

Enjoy a cold pint in a legendary 1840s barroom as craft beer expert Ren Navarro discusses diversity in Canada’s beer industry. Cash bar available. Participants must be 19 years of age or older. $35 plus tax. Advance tickets are required.

Free programming and events for adults and children will take place at community recreation centres across the city including art and poster displays, movie nights, Black history presentations and more. Visit or call your local Recreation Centre to find out what is available.

Black History Month event featuring an opera – “Scenes from Joshua”

Performers from the Black opera company ArsMusica bring together music, drama and local history in Scenes from Joshua on Saturday, February 23 in the Scarborough Civic Centre rotunda, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Scenes from Joshua is based on the life of Joshua Glover, an escaped enslaved man from Missouri who finds his way to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Joshua settled in Islington Village in the mid 1800s, rented a cabin and farmland from Thomas Montgomery, owner of Montgomery’s Inn. Additional entertainment by The Evolution of Jazz Ensemble and remarks will be provided.

Exhibit: The Canadian Multicultural Inventors Museum is a travelling exhibit that promotes diversity within the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The exhibits recognizes the historical and present-day contributions of the multicultural communities to the world of innovation by showcasing to all nationalities the inventions and innovations that diverse communities throughout the world have given to society.

Registration is required.

Online exhibits

Toronto Archives invites members of the public to visit these two online exhibits entitled Black history in Toronto and Caribbean Connection: One Man’s Crusade.

Celebrate Black History Month at Toronto Public Library with a packed schedule full of fun and thought-provoking events.

Toronto Public Library celebrates Black history and culture with a collection of programs and special events that honour Black heritage, and consider the historical significance and contemporary contributions of Black activists and artists from around the world.

Check out their program and events happening at branches across the city.

Black Canadians in Sports

A Black Canadians in Sports exhibit from the Ontario Black History Society, showcasing Canadian values, culture and identity, will be on display in the Toronto City Hall Rotunda, 100 Queen St. W. from February 25 to March 1.

Exhibit:  Blacks in the Military

A Blacks in the Military exhibit from the Ontario Black History Society, will be on display in the Metro Hall Rotunda, 55 John Street, from February 4 to 7.

Us. Here. Now. & A Thousand Paths Home

Us. Here. Now. & A Thousand Paths Home is a photography and digital art exhibit curated by Wan Lucas, that combines the mediums of photography and digital art with the theme of “connections” to highlight the plethora of talented multi-disciplinary artists and unique personalities from within Toronto’s black community. This digital art exhibit is on display at Union Station (west wing) until February 28.