"Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy": The Honourable Lincoln M Alexander: A Memoir


254 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 1-55002-663-1
DDC 971.3'04092





Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the former editor of the journal, Ontario History. He is the author
of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality, Canadian History to
1967, and Marriage of Minds: Isabel and Osc


As Canadians reinvent themselves, icons are needed to herald new
directions. A country once solely Aboriginal saw an accretion of
francophones, Brits, and sundry others beginning in the 17th century,
but today it looks increasingly to people of more diverse racial
backgrounds. For these newer Canadians who are engaged in the process of
remaking Canada, Lincoln Alexander stands as a role model for our times.

Born in Toronto in 1922, Alexander scored several significant firsts,
especially as first African-Canadian federal Cabinet minister and first
African-Canadian lieutenant governor (of Ontario). This refreshingly
readable autobiography, created in conjunction with journalist Herb
Shoveller, is perhaps a bit too uncritical, but it does present an
updated Booker T. Washington Up from Slavery story of how the son of a
railway porter rose to prominence in Canadian life.

Alexander is remarkably frank about the skeletons in his family’s
closet, about the difficulties he faced in his early years, and about
how as a youth he became “a mean son of a bitch.” Going to law
school as a result of the discrimination he encountered, he joined a
Hamilton law firm that became a mini-United Nations employing people of
four colours. His public career was promoted by Ellen Fairclough,
Canada’s first woman federal Cabinet minister and someone who could
readily appreciate minority concerns. Despite the trying circumstances
of his first decades, Alexander emerged as a beacon for racial tolerance
and service to others.


Alexander, Lincoln M., with Herb Shoveller., “"Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy": The Honourable Lincoln M Alexander: A Memoir,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16869.