Studying the real history of slavery in Canada

Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art & Community Engagement and Founding Director of NSCAD’s Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery Dr. Charmaine Nelson will deliver several presentations examining the history of slavery in Canada throughout February during African Heritage Month.

Preserving Black Heritage Sites presented by the Embassy of the United States, Ottawa on February 25 at 1 p.m. AST.

Register here

Dr. Nelson will moderate this interactive webinar featuring Jobie Hill and Joseph McGill, Jr., who are changing the way we preserve and interpret history. Join these two leaders in their fields for a discussion on best practices, from engaging with communities and historic sites on preservation of Black heritage buildings and spaces, to crafting innovative interpretation to reach a wide-ranging audience.


“Ran away from her Master…a Negroe Girl named Thursday”: Examining Evidence of Punishment, Isolation, Trauma, and Illness in Nova Scotia and Quebec Fugitive Slave Advertisements hosted by the Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History on February 20 at 4 p.m. AST

Register here

While histories of physical abuse and corporal punishment have been rigorously explored in tropical plantation contexts like Jamaica, Canadian Slavery (when it is acknowledged at all) is generally falsely identified as “kinder and gentler” because of an erroneous equation between the size of the enslaved population and the benevolence of the slave owners.

By reading fugitive slave advertisements as “portraits” (however dubious) of the runaways, Dr. Nelson attempts to recuperate the signs of physical and other forms of trauma inflicted upon enslaved populations in order to better understand the ways in which the bodies of the enslaved came to bear the signs of enslavement and how they resisted such subjugation.


Enslaved and Free Black Presence, Experience and Representation in Quebec Winter hosted by the Amherstburg Freedom Museum on February 9 at 3 p.m. AST.

Facebook link

Although present in the region from at least the early seventeenth century, both free and enslaved blacks, regardless of ancestry, have been continuously unhomed in Canada. The erasure of an historical black Canadian presence has in part been facilitated by historical pseudo-scientific ideas of African unsuitability to Canada’s cold climate. This lecture develops a case study of the representation of black people in the Canadian winter, through a close reading of a nineteenth-century studio portrait of African-Canadian sitters by the prominent Montreal photography studio William Notman and Son.


Grappling with the Colonial Archive: The Production and Circulation of Information in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Canadian Slavery hosted by Dalhousie University’s Master of Library and Information Studies program on February 8.

Register here.

Historical representations of transatlantic slavery in most media presents corporal punishment as the main tool of social oppression. However, the terror which slave owners sought to inspire in the enslaved was also produced through the control of information and the strategic (mis)representation of the enslaved for the legal, social, and economic ends of mainly middle and upper class whites. Dr. Nelson will explore the nature of printed and manuscript sources as they were created in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Canadian Slavery to highlight the ways in which information was used to dehumanize and immobilize the enslaved.


10th Annual Humanities Symposium “Reconnections” hosted by Vanier University on February 2 at 9:30 a.m. AST.

Zoom link

Dr. Nelson will discuss the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery in Montreal and Quebec, slavery in colonial art, and imagery and the relevance and importance of the slave period to our understanding of present-day struggles against racism.