Dreams brought to life

By Humber River Health


While the role of Blacks in Canadian history has not always been viewed as a key feature, people of African descent have been a part of shaping Canada’s heritage and identity since the arrival of Mathieu Da Costa, a navigator and interpreter, in the early 1600s.

This February in honour of Black History Month, Humber River Health is excited to celebrate past and present achievements as well as the contributions of African descent peoples in healthcare, art, education, public service, economic development, politics, and human rights.

In fact, did you know…

1721, Onesimus, an enslaved African, describes to Cotton Mather the African method of inoculation against smallpox. The technique, later used to protect American Revolutionary War soldiers, is perfected in the 1790’s by British doctor Edward Jenner’s use of a less virulent organism.

1852, Robert Sutherland becomes the first Black student and graduate in Canada. He won 14 academic prizes, and graduated with honours at Queen’s University\

1861, Anderson Ruffin Abbott become Canada’s first Black doctor. In 1874, he is appointed coroner and becomes the first Black man to hold that office.

1893, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performed the first successful open-heart surgery

1948, Ruth Bailey and Gwennyth Barton become the first Black Canadians to graduate from a Canadian school of nursing

1983, The last segregated school in Canada closes down, in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia

1984, Daurene Lewis becomes mayor of Annapolis Royal. She is the first Black woman to become mayor in Canada.

Throughout February, Humber River Health invites you to learn more by visiting an interactive and mobile Black History Month museum during these times:

  • February 26th  – Wilson Site – All day
  • February 26th –  Finch Site – All day
  • February 27th  – Wilson site  – All day
  • February 27th – Church Site – All day

Additional resources:

  1. Noteworthy Historical Figures of Black Canadian Women
  2. Black History in Canada: Education Guide
  3. Black History Month: A Medical Perspective: Chronology of Achievements
  4. Canada’s first Canadian-born Black doctor got his MD licence in 1861
  5. Black health needs to become a priority
  6. Chika Stacy Oriuwa: “In My White Coat, I’m More Black than Ever”