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 final student research showcase is "The Legacy of Slavery: The Law's Role in Entrenching Anti-Black Racism in Canada," an essay written by James Goodyear in the first year History course, HIST 104: Pre-Confederation Canada.
The students of HIST 104 were asked to explore a theme in pre-Confederation Black Canadian History and link this theme to present-day issues. Using primary sources from the Nova Scotia Archive and secondary sources from a variety of authors, James examined the intersections of slavery and the law. He chose this project because, he "wanted to examine to what degree racism is systemic within Canadian institutions like courts and legislatures ... [and] to observe the reasons for and the historical development of this purported institutional racism to contemplate how society can minimize institutional racism today."
As James reflects,
While researching this project, I learned that one cannot separate anti-Black racism in Canada from Black Canadians' history of enslavement. Modern-day anti-Black racism is very much a product of intergenerational prejudice against a race historically denigrated to the status of property in the eyes of white Canadians. As it has been less than two centuries since the abolition of slavery in British North America, this prejudice, reinforced by discriminatory laws, court decisions and the press, has yet to fade entirely out of the public consciousness. However, the institutions that initially entrenched this prejudice within Canadian society have evolved. For instance, it is now a Canadian citizen's constitutional right not to be discriminated against based on their skin colour. However, while Canadian institutions have evolved, they are still staffed by people harbouring explicit or implicit biases as a product of intergenerational conditioning. Therefore, in seeking real change, I argue that it is more productive to tackle "systemic" racism relating to the social system as a whole rather than just the institutions that supposedly define it.
James is a first year student at Queen's University.