Tubman Talks: “In/visibility: Black Bodies in Canada—Historical and Contemporary Perspectives”

Michele Johnson will present a paper entitled, “In/visibility: Black Bodies in Canada—Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” on 5 May 2016 at the Harriet Tubman Institute from 2:30-4:00. Immediately following will be the launch of Dan Grafton Hill III: Proceedings of a symposium on his life and work, a book co-edited with Frank Luce.


Largely expunged from national narratives, the presence of persons of African descent in Canada has usually been represented as fairly recent, almost entirely Caribbean with some more recent “continental” African communities, and certainly problematic. While there have been some strategic gestures of acknowledgement towards other marginalised groups, there are few strands of the national “founding”, “settler” and/or “contributory” narratives that include “African Canadians”. This tendency is in keeping with the propensity for Canada to imagine itself as truly the “Great White North,” typified by images of snow, wilderness, emptiness, innocence and also pseudo- or descended-European-ness. While some have actively challenged and deconstructed the very idea of that fundamental “whiteness”, the project to excavate, recover and insert the African presence, to account for the “in/visibility” of  “black bodies” in Canada’s “white spaces”, has far fewer proponents. Indeed, for many who occupy so-called “black bodies” which are treated with varying levels of suspicion/scepticism and responded to with demands for scrutiny/surveillance, their right to claim and belong to those allegedly pristine spaces often turn on assumptions of who can and who cannot belong to the “nation.” This discussion aims to continue the dialogue about the historical and contemporary experiences of “black bodies” in Canada, and endorses a recognition of the factual and discursive statement that black lives do, in fact, matter.

Book Launch: Dan Grafton Hill III: Proceedings of a symposium on his life and work

Daniel G. Hill and his three sisters from left: Margaret, Doris and Jeanne, [ca. 1937-1939] Daniel G. Hill fonds Reference Code: F 2130-9-2-6.2 Archives of Ontario, I0027949

In September 2010, the Harriet Tubman Institute, in partnership with the Ontario Black History Society, organized a daylong symposium on the life and work of Daniel Grafton Hill III, the first director of Ontario’s Human Rights Commission who later served as Ontario Ombudsman. The Tubman Institute has now made available the proceedings of the symposium, in a volume published by the York University bookstore, and in an e-book version available on the Tubman website. By following the links from the Tubman website, the videotaped presentations of the symposium participants may be viewed on YouTube. As co-editors of the published volume, Michele Johnson and Frank Luce will provide a synopsis of the symposium proceedings, with comments on the various presentations.

Posted in Events, Tubman Talks.