Our second installment for Black History Month will focus on some of the contributions Black women have made to both civil rights and labour.
In 1985 Janice Gairey became the acting President of CUPE 1874. In 2006, she was the first Canadian elected to the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists International Board where she further went on to become the longest standing President of CBTU-Ontario. Gairey is well known for bringing forward hard hitting resolutions at conventions throughout her Presidency.
Carrie Best was a journalist and activist born in Nova Scotia. She founded the Clarion, one of the first newspapers in Canada to be owned and published by Black Canadians. She put owning a newspaper to good use by using the Clarion to speak about Black rights. The Clarion became an important mainstay in highlighting racism and discrimination in Nova Scotia as well as delving into the lives of Black Nova Scotians.
In 1974, Best was made a member of the Order of Canada and was further promoted to Officer in 1979. She passed away in 2001, and in 2002 she was posthumously awarded the Order of Nova Scotia.
Violet Henry King
In 1953 Violet Henry King was the first Black woman to become a lawyer in Canada. Additionally, she was the first Black Canadian to obtain a law degree in our own province of Alberta. She was also a local labour union Treasurer for the Calgary Brotherhood Council.
In her early life King studied at Crescent Heights High School in Calgary where she was the president of the school’s Girls Association. King practiced law here in Calgary until 1956, where she then moved to Ottawa to take on a role in Citizenship and Immigration Canada. In the early 1960’s King moved to the United States and as a result in 1976, she was appointed Executive Director of the National Council of YMCA’s Organizational Development Group, becoming the first woman named to a senior management position with the American National YMCA.
These are but a few examples of the incredible accomplishments of Black women in Canada. Each of the women mentioned here today achieved incredible things in their lifetimes. Let us celebrate their triumphs and remember them for the amazing work they did and lives they led.
Join us next week for our third installment in this blog series on Black History Month.