The Blacks in Canada: A History


546 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1631-X
DDC 971'.00496




Reviewed by Joseph Leydon

Joseph Leydon teaches geography at the University of Toronto.


This superbly researched book provides a comprehensive history of blacks
in Canada, from the arrival of the first African slaves in New France in
1628 to the late 1960s. The author’s main purpose in writing the book
was to examine the history and nature of black Canadian life, the nature
of prejudice in Canada, and Canadian attitudes toward immigration and
ethnic identity.

Like other immigrants, blacks arrived in Canada with dreams of freedom
and prosperity. Unlike that experienced by most other immigrants, their
reality was one of disappointed hopes, discrimination, segregation, and
poverty. Their land allotments were inadequate, their job opportunities
were extremely narrow, and their economic and social advancement was
continually stunted by the prejudice of the Canadian mainstream.
Canadian blacks sought to improve their situation, but owing to their
relatively small populations and scattered settlements they were less
successful than their southern counterparts at developing major
institutions of racial protest.

Now in its second edition, Winks’s book (originally published in
1971) remains the most comprehensive historical survey of blacks in
Canada. In establishing a continual black presence in Canada since the
earliest days of settlement, Winks effectively refutes those who would
equate black immigration into Canada with the period after 1960. In
addition, his book powerfully deflates the myth of Canada as a promised
land of racial equality and acceptance. Unfortunately, as was the case
over a quarter of a century ago, few Canadians are aware of the history
of blacks in this country.


Winks, Robin W., “The Blacks in Canada: A History,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024,