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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Leon Jamerson AncestorsIn 1911, Beulah Heslop-Carothers, Samuel Carothers and their eight children, Lee Roy, Maceo, Benjamin, Grace, Louella, Ladell, Doris, and Alvey, chose to flee the Jim Crow Laws and racial discrimination of Oklahoma in search of a better life. Having crossed the Canadian border at Emerson, Manitoba, they continued by train to Edmonton. From Edmonton, the family, along with several others, formed a mule train and travelled another 100 miles (161 kilometres) to Athabasca Landing, where they then blazed a trail to Pine Creek, later known as Amber Valley.

Alberta’s Black Pioneer heritage dates back to the mid-19th century, when several Black pioneers found jobs in the untamed West. By the turn of the 20th century, hundreds of individuals, many accompanied by their families, left their homes in Oklahoma and other nearby states to begin a new life in Canada. Anxious to purchase affordable homesteads offered by the Government of Canada and desperate to escape a life of racial discrimination, Alberta’s Black pioneers travelled north to Manitoba and eventually settled on scattered homesteads throughout northern Alberta.

The Alberta’s Black Pioneer Heritage Web site tells individual and community stories from the pioneer era to contemporary urban society. Throughout the past 100 years, Alberta’s Black pioneers and their descendants have changed and adapted. In Alberta, they could not escape racial discrimination and prejudice and theirs is a story of perseverance and courage.

Alberta’s Black pioneer descendants have always maintained a strong commitment to preserving their unique heritage and are an integral part of Alberta’s multicultural society.

  • History
    This section provides a brief history of the African-American experience in the United States and focuses, in particular, on the social and political conditions during the 19th and 20th centuries that influenced emigration. Broken into chronological segments, this section allows for an in-depth look at Black pioneer immigration to Alberta and an analysis of social developments decade by decade.

  • People
    This section tells the story of Alberta’s Black Pioneer communities. Discover the stories of Alberta’s Black pioneer families and of specific individuals who have contributed to the growth and development of Alberta.

  • Communities
    This section expounds the communities, towns, and cities directly affected by Black settlement. Uncover the history of Amber Valley, Keystone, Junkins, Campsie and see how urbanization influenced the development of Alberta’s Black pioneer population in the second half of the 20th century.

  • Cultural Lifeways
    This section explores the various aspects of cultural enrichment dear to Alberta’s Black pioneer community. It also examines dynamic cultural experiences, including, but not limited to, customs and traditions centred around food and music, leisure and recreation, religion, education, and the creation of formal organizations to preserve and promote Black Pioneer heritage.

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            For more on Black settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.

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