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Alberta Online Encyclopedia


During the last half of the 20th century, Blacks in Alberta have successfully integrated into Canadian society and found a wide range of work at various professional levels. The challenge for Alberta’s Black pioneer descendants since the 1970s and beyond has been in preserving the legacy of Alberta’s first Black settlers. The late 1970s and early 1980s marked a resurgence of Black pride among the Albertan-born descendants of Alberta’s Black pioneers whose efforts focused on recognizing their important history of their forebears and on preventing what the Edmonton-based newsletter The Communicant called a “gradual loss of identity.” In the 1970s and 1980s, the challenge of preserving and maintaining a distinct identity became increasingly arduous when an influx of Black immigrants arriving from the Caribbean introduced a new, unique mix of customs and traditions into the Canadian way of life.

Blacks in Alberta have a remarkable history. More than escaped slaves, athletes, and entertainers, Alberta’s Black pioneers have been explorers, translators, farmers, soldiers, scholars, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. They have forged a rich history, beginning with the Black Americans who established farming communities like Amber Valley and Keystone, to inspirational figures like the southern Alberta rancher John Ware and Violet King, the first Black woman to practice law in Canada. The declaration of February as Black History Month in 1976 provided a great opportunity for Black pioneer descendants and other Canadians to celebrate the accomplishments of Alberta’s Black community. The Breton Museum proudly showcases the history of Black settlers in the area by depicting the founding, settlement, and development of Keystone (later known as Breton), a community located approximately 1 hour southwest of Edmonton. In Amber Valley, located between the central Alberta communities of Athabasca and Lac La Biche, a large sign erected by the Government of Alberta commemorates the contributions Black pioneers made in the area and recognizes Amber Valley as an historical landmark. The current community hall contains a small museum outlining the history of the community.

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††††††††††† For more on Black settlement in Alberta, visit Peelís Prairie Provinces.

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