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Black History in Canada: Watch

Films & Documentaries

Students, faculty, and staff at Centennial College have access to thousands of films through Centennial Libraries. Check out a few documentaries about Black communities in Canada below or check the playlists section to find more.

Playlists & Collections

Speakers for the Dead (2000) available via NFB

This documentary reveals some of the hidden history of Black people in Canada. In the 1930s in rural Ontario, a farmer buried the tombstones of a Black cemetery to make way for a potato patch. In the 1980s, descendants of the original settlers, Black and White, came together to restore the cemetery, but there were hidden truths no one wanted to discuss.

Ninth Floor (2015) available via NFB

Director Mina Shum makes her foray into feature documentary by reopening the file on a watershed moment in Canadian race relations – the infamous Sir George Williams Riot. Over four decades after a group of Caribbean students accused their professor of racism, triggering an explosive student uprising, Shum locates the protagonists and listens as they set the record straight, trying to make peace with the past.

Show Girls (1998) available via NFB

Show Girls celebrates Montreal's swinging Black jazz scene from the 1920s to the 1960s, when the city was wide open. Three women who danced in the legendary Black clubs of the day - Rockhead's Paradise, The Terminal, Café St. Michel - share their unforgettable memories of life at the centre of one of the world's hottest jazz spots.

Becoming a Queen (2021) available via Criterion-on-Demand

The rise and legacy of Toronto's nine-time Queen of Carnival, Joella Crichton who is aiming to win a historic tenth crown in her last ever performance.

Mr. Jane and Finch (2019) available via Can-Core

Winston LaRose, a beloved 80-year-old activist/amateur documentarian who has documented the Black community throughout the Black Diaspora for the past 60 years throws his hat into local politics and is met with unflinching systemic racism in the Canadian political system. This award-winning film gives an insider perspective of Black community activism in Canada.

Journey to Justice (2000) available via NFB

This documentary pays tribute to a group of Canadians who took racism to court. They are Canada's unsung heroes in the fight for Black civil rights. Focusing on the 1930s to the 1950s, this film documents the struggle of 6 people who refused to accept inequality. 

Black Mother, Black Daughter (1989) available via NFB

Black Mother Black Daughter explores the lives and experiences of Black women in Nova Scotia, their contributions to the home, the church and the community and the strengths they pass on to their daughters.

Soul on Ice: Past, Present, and Future (2015) available via Can-Core

Soul On Ice: Past, Present, and Future presents and retells the virtually unknown contributions of Black athletes in ice hockey. For decades, hockey was seen as a homogeneous sport - exciting to watch but played by one kind of player. Soul On Ice presents the exploits of athletes who dared to stand out, and dared to make the sport their own. These Black athletes dared to give their sport soul. At the heart of the story is Jaden Lindo, a young man chasing after his lifelong dream to play in the NHL. The film follows Jaden in the most important year of his hockey life, mirroring the journey that many other Black athletes have faced to make it to the NHL.

Our Dance of Revolution: The History of Toronto's Black Queer Community (2019) available via Can-Core

This untold history of Toronto's Black queer community spans four decades of passionate activist rebellion. Refusing to be silenced and raging with love, the featured trailblazers demanded a city where they could all live their truths free from the threat of violence. In the spaces they found for loud laughter and sweaty block parties, they also found themselves. Each bit of revolutionary ground was gained collaboratively, whether protesting police brutality, forming feminist collectives or making room for grief and healing in the wake of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Their transformative creativity and visionary organizing made Toronto more livable for generations to follow. Our Dance of Revolution celebrates the living legends among us by unearthing what has been made invisible. Come honour this hidden chapter of Toronto's history and witness the courage it took to dance in the street for the struggle.

Cool Black North (2019) available via Can-Core

Cool Black North explores the unique and vibrant Canadian Black Community and its role in our country’s contemporary identity. Through a series of intimate profiles, we are witness to a wide spectrum of life experiences, including the arts, entertainment, law, business, science and social activism. Though each person’s pathway to success is unique, they all share a common purpose and strength in overcoming often racially-based obstacles to succeed at the highest levels in their respective fields. 

How Much Do You Know About Black History in Canada?
Available via CBC Curio

How much do we know about Black history in Canada? Who were the key figures? What do we lose when we don't include Black stories in our history? Moderated by Amanda Parris, host of Exhibitionists on CBC Arts, the panel includes: Nikki Clarke, Ontario Black History Society; Afua Cooper, Dalhousie University; Andrea Davis, York University; and Karen Flynn, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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