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BHM Student Work Feature: "Cold Case: The Forgotten Story of how Black People Lost Their Identity to the Judicial System" by Jennifer MacAdam

In honour of Black History Month, the Department of History is featuring undergraduate student research that addresses Black histories, Black cultures, and Black experiences. Throughout the month of February, we will post the eight essays deemed to be the strongest of the many exceptional projects we received during our open submission call. We hope you enjoy reading our students’ work.

The Selection Committee would like to thank all of those who submitted their work for consideration.

Our third selection is an essay entitled "Cold Case: The Forgotten Story of how Black People Lost Their Identity to the Judicial System" written by Jennifer MacAdam for the first year History course, HIST 104: Pre-Confederation Canada.

Jennifer's paper illustrates the relationship between the judicial system and slavery and how the law worked to create barriers to racial progress. Using primary sources from the Nova Scotia Archives digital collection, Charmaine Nelson's research on the history of slavery in Nova Scotia, and Harvey Amani Whitefield's scholarship, Jennifer argues that despite the rhetoric of Canada's freedom, Black people in Canada continued to face discrimination within the judicial system. She also tells the stories of various Black people who lived in pre-confederation Canada, including Elizabeth Watson, Lydia Jackson, and the Black settlers of Manchester, all of whom faced discrimination within the legal system. 

As Jennifer explains,

"I use the sources from my research to [prove how] Canada’s historical ties to slavery interconnect with the legal system and laws. I further explain that by understanding the extensive role of Canada in slavery, we can better understand the racial differences and injustices present in today’s society."

Jennifer is a first-year student at Queen's University.


Read the full essay here

Jennifer MacAdam

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.