Black Montreal: A Brief History

Black Montreal is diverse and growing.

Broadly speaking, there are two prominent groups with little mixing between them: the older segment of the community has roots in Canada, the United States and the English-speaking West Indies while more recent Black Montrealers likely originate in Haiti or French-speaking African countries.

Canadian Black history started long ago. Some historians believe that Libyans may have visited Canada in 500 A.D. and that Africans landed here in the 14th century.

The first recorded Black visitor was Matthew da Costa, in 1606, who is listed as Champlain’s translator, having learned a native language, Mic Mac, on a previous voyage.

It would be a long time between this visit and the beginnings of a real Black community since slavery, of both Black and natives, was legal in Canada until 1834.

Blacks began settling in this country during the American revolution following British promises of freedom and land. They could be considered Canada’s first refugees and were followed by many who escaped during the American Civil War. They first settled in Nova Scotia or Ontario, with some then moving to Montreal.

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