Department of History



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Melissa N. Shaw

Ph.D. Candidate
20th Century Black Canadian History


Phone: 613-533-2150
Fax: 613-533-6298


M.A., Queen's University
B.A. (Honours), University of Toronto


Melissa was awarded her B.A. (Hons.) from the University of Toronto with a Specialist in History and Political Science and Minors in Francophone Studies and Philosophy of Science. She then came to Queen's where she completed her M.A. in nineteenth century Canadian history focusing on the dynamic activism of Mary Ann Shadd Cary. Pursuing a doctorate in twentieth century Canadian history under the supervision of Professor E. Jane Errington, her dissertation, “Blackness and British “Fair Play”: Burgeoning Black Social Activism in Ontario and its Responses to the Canadian Colour Line, 1919-1939,” explores the symbiotic relationship between anti-Black racisms in Canada and the rise of Black Canadian activism in Ontario. Focusing on the social articulations of race consciousness within a variety of Black Canadian organizations, it examines the ways activism initiatives contended with anti-Black racism by claiming rights for Blacks as Canadian citizens and British imperial subjects through local, continental, and Pan-African methods and race politics networks.

Research Interests

19th and 20th Century Canadian History
North American Colonial Societies
Migrations, Kinship Connections, and Communities
Black Canadian Activism and Black Internationalism
Identities and Intersectionality
Race, Gender, the Politics of Respectability, and Residual Patriarchy


“‘Most Anxious to Serve their King and Country’: Black Canadians Fight to Enlist in WWI and Emerging Race Consciousness in Ontario, 1914-1919,” in Histoire sociale/Social History, Vol. XLIX, No. 99 (November 2016): 543-580.

“Dawn of Tomorrow, ‘A Noble Tradition to be Maintained’ in the Historical Memory of Canada,” in Paul E. Lovejoy and Vanessa S. Oliveira, eds., Slavery, Memory, Citizenship. Trenton: Africa World Press, 2016, 165-190.

Review of Making Freedom: The Underground Railroad and the politics of slavery, by R.J.M. Blackett, in Journal of African American History Vol. 100, No. 3, (Summer 2015): 529-531

Review of The Hanging of Angelique: the untold story of Canadian slavery and the burning of old Montreal, by Afua Cooper, in Race and Class 52, 1 (July 2010): 111-113.

“James Francis Jenkins,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Forthcoming.

“William Peyton Hubbard,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Forthcoming.

Conference Presentations

“Black Canadian Garveyite Women and Continuums of Race Activism in Ontario during the 1920s and 1930s,” From Far and Wide: The Next 150, Canadian Historical Association (CHA) 96th Annual Meeting, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, May 29-31, 2017. Forthcoming.

“‘That Ladies Be Empowered’: The Intersectionalities of Residual Patriarchy and Race Politics in Toronto’s UNIA, 1919-1939,” Intersectional Inquiries and Collaborative Action: Gender and Race, Intersectional Inquires Conference, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, March 2-4, 2017. Forthcoming

“‘Let us forget whether we are Americans, Canadians or West Indians’: Race Politics in Ontario during the Interwar Period,” Historical Scale: Linking Levels of Experience, American Historical Association (AHA) 131st Annual Meeting, Colorado Convention Center, Denver, Colorado, January 5-8, 2017.

“‘The War of 1914 Woke Him Up to Better Things’: An Enlistment Battle and Reawakened Black Canadian Race Consciousness in Ontario,” To Do Our Share: The African Canadian Experience in WW1, Symposium in Commemoration of Reverend William A. White & the No. 2 Construction Battalion, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, October 21-22, 2016.

“‘No Place for the Ku Kluxers in Ontario’: Black Canadian Activisms Straddling the 49th Parallel,” Rethinking Interdisciplinary in History, Canadian Historical Association (CHA) 94th Annual Meeting, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, June 1-3, 2015.

“‘Stand Up as British Freemen’: Mary Ann Shadd and the Politics of Becoming an Adopted Black Canadian British Subject,” 15th Annual John Brown Festival, Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society, Chatham, Ontario, May 2-3, 2014.

“‘Our Brethren Across the Line’: From Atlanta to Ontario, James F. Jenkins and Canadian ‘New Negro’ Race Politics,” Crossing Borders, Organization of American Historians (OAH) 105th Annual Meeting, Hilton, Atlanta, Georgia, April 10-13, 2014.

“‘A Studied and Silent Sinister Prejudice’: The Canadian State and Society’s Interwar Anti-Black Racisms,” Histories of Capitalism, Social Science History Association (SSHA) 37th Annual Meeting, The Westin Bayshore, Vancouver, British Columbia, November 1-4, 2012.

“‘More Than 200 Years of Unbroken, Unblemished Citizenship’: Confirming Black Canadian Citizenship Amidst the Colour Bar, 1920-1930s,” Seminar 2012: The Contribution of the African Canadian Community to Multiculturalism in Canada, The Canadian Studies Centre “William Albert Charles Ryan" of the University of Matanzas “Camilo Cienfuegos”, Matanzas, Cuba, February 27-28, 2012.

“‘Spiritual and Mental Lynchings are Just as Bad as Physical Lynchings’: Black Colonial Professionals and Anti-Black Sentiment in Britain, 1919-1939,” Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies (MACBS), 2011 Annual Meeting, Penn State Abington, Abington, Pennsylvania, March 26-27, 2011.

“‘Prejudice is in the Land’: The Dawn of Tomorrow Narrates Canada’s Anti-Black Racisms of the 1920s,” Revisiting the Promise: Time, Place and Contested Space in African Canadian Communities, 4th Annual Promised Land Symposium, Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, May 6-8, 2011.

Teaching and TA Experience

2012 Teaching Fellow, Queen’s University
Gender in North American History (HIST 280)
2006-2013 Teaching Assistant, Queen’s University
Slavery in North America: Colonial Era to 1865 (HIST 258)
Canada from the Conquest to the Present (HIST 260)
Canada from the Conquest to 1896 (HIST 278)
Issues in History: Canadian Military History (HIST 242)
The United States, Colonization to 1865 (HIST 248)
The United States, 1865 to Present (HIST 249)
The Holocaust (HIST 295)