Being Black


162 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-895837-77-4
DDC 305.896'071





Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University.


This collection of personal essays by sociologist, university lecturer
and writer Althea Prince examines various aspects of the
African-Canadian experience. After documenting her early encounters with
racism in Toronto in the 1960s, Prince moves on to critique present-day
celebrations of Black History Month and the ways in which language
defines African-Canadian identity.

While blackness is no longer quite so remarkable as it was when Prince
first arrived in Toronto, black people still struggle to define
themselves in a world that persistently defines them as “the other.”
Prince argues that history texts, by consistently referring to enslaved
Africans as “slaves,” limit African identity to the African’s
relation to the people who enslaved them; and that Black History Month,
which is generally seen as a triumph of recognition, segregates
African-Canadian history from the “real” history of the dominant
culture, which appropriates the celebration for its own purposes.

Similarly, Prince writes that, in spite of gestures of inclusiveness
such as Black History Month, African-Canadian efforts at
self-definition, support, and solidarity are met with hostility: the
struggles encountered by the organizers of the Writers’ Union’s
“Writing Thru Race” conference in 1994 are emblematic of the
dominant culture’s desire to hold onto its power. This provocative
book can be read in conjunction with Dionne Brand’s Bread Out of


Prince, Althea., “Being Black,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,