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Alyssa Fearon November 20, 2020, 3:07 PM

John Ware Reclaimed

Documenting the rich history of African-Canadians in the Prairies is a formidable task, given that the presence of Black people in the Prairies dates back to at least the 1800s (and as far back as the 1600s in other parts of Canada); but a handful of scholars and artists have taken on the work of shedding light on these lesser-known Canadian histories. Scholars and artists such as Dr. Karina Vernon, professor and author of Black Prairie Archives, and Cheryl Foggo, filmmaker and director of John Ware Reclaimed, have been diligently researching, writing, and telling the stories of Black communities who shaped Canadian society and brought their contributions to the Prairies.

In the early 1900s, Black migrants were forced to leave their homes in the United States during the Jim Crow era – a time when the US legal system enforced racial segregation and sought to disenfranchise Black people from any political and economic gains – often through violent means of suppression. Black migrants came to the Prairies seeking refuge, hoping to establish communities in a place less volatile and dangerous than the ones they were fleeing. Once in Canada, Black communities would still face challenges, including racism, inarable land, and isolation; nonetheless, life in Canada offered hope and new possibilities. 

While mainstream retellings of African-Canadian history focus heavily on the Underground Railroad, there is so much more to the little-known history of Black life in Canada. Learn more by checking out the new books we’ve added to the RPL Collection and joining us for thought-provoking programs.

Regina Public Library has recently added the following two titles to the Prairie History Room:

The Black Prairies Archives: An Anthology, edited by Dr. Karina Vernon 
The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology recovers a new regional archive of "black prairie" literature, and includes writing that ranges from work by nineteenth-century black fur traders and pioneers, all of it published here for the first time, to contemporary writing of the twenty-first century. This anthology establishes a new black prairie literary tradition and transforms inherited understandings of what prairie literature looks and sounds like.

Pourin’ Down Rain: A Black Woman Claims her Place in the Canadian West by Cheryl Foggo –
First published in 1990, Pourin' Down Rain is a coming-of-age memoir about growing up in prairie communities with small Black populations. It thematizes the family, civil rights, and the learned art of Black Canadian storytelling.

And check out the upcoming programs, organized by Dunlop Art Gallery and RPL Film Theatre:
John Ware Reclaimed Film screening: A Canadian documentary film, directed by Cheryl Foggo and released in 2020. The film profiles John Ware, an African American man who moved to Alberta in the 1880s and became one of the province's first significant ranchers.

In Conversation: Cheryl Foggo, Karina Vernon, and Alyssa Fearon
Join us for a discussion with Cheryl Foggo (Director: John Ware Reclaimed and Author of Pourin’ Down Rain: A Black Woman Claims Her Place in the Canadian West), Karina Vernon (Editor, The Black Prairie Archives Anthology) and Alyssa Fearon (Director / Curator, Dunlop Art Gallery).

About Author

Alyssa Fearon

Alyssa Fearon is the Director/Curator at Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina Public Library. She is a curator, educator, and arts manager, and enjoys the outdoors.

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