Women of VIsion: The Story of the Canadian Negro Women's Association, 1951-1976
Contains Photos, Illustrations
Joseph Leydon teaches geography at the University of Toronto.
The Canadian Negro Women’s Association was formed in 1951, with a
mandate “to become aware of, to appreciate and to further the merits
of the Canadian negro.” The association had some notable achievements.
It established a scholarship program to assist outstanding black
students with their education. It ran the Calypso Carnival, a
celebration of Caribbean culture that ultimately inspired Toronto’s
annual Caribana extravaganza. It engaged in social
actions—specifically, in lobbying the government for changes in
immigration policy and in challenging the media’s stereotypical
negative images of black people. The association’s crowning
achievement was organizing the First National Congress of Black Women in
Toronto in 1973.
This book, which begins with a foreword by Rosemary Brown (chief
commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission) and concludes with
her inspiring address to the First National Congress of Black Women,
traces the association’s origins and its subsequent activities.
Unfortunately, Hill reveals little of the attitudes, character, and
vision of the association’s presidents and influential members.
Especially when one considers black activism in the United States during
the same period, the association appears to have been politically
conservative. The author seems reluctant to broach this and other
controversial issues, such as the reasons for the association’s
demise. Did it cease to exist as a result of its failure to inspire a
youth wing, its image as an elitist and conservative club (some labeled
it “the fur coat club”), or the inability of its predominantly
indigenous black membership to understand the more radical attitudes of
the black immigrants who began arriving in the 1970s? The story of the
Canadian Negro Women’s Association would have been better served by a
more in-depth, incisive, and critical analysis.