Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Ultimate Canadian Race

Black spinster in US. With a little training, could this woman make a good wife for a home-steader out West, Maclean's Magazine asks in 1911?

A few blogs ago I wrote about Marion's school trip in 1905, to see Booker T. Washington and hear him speak. And I scoped the Montreal Gazette to find articles that might have influenced her ideas about the Black Community in Montreal, some of whose children she likely taught in her school in Little Burgundy.

Then I went on to writing about the Fannie Farmer Cook book. Well, what would fall out of Marion Nicholson's edition of the 1912 cookbook but a poem.

The Negro's Dog

Upon his playful hands the great hounds leap,

They fawn around his knee and eye his face,...

Do they not see the Man is Black? etc.

And then yesterday, I discovered some Maclean's Magazines from the era, posted on (public domain) and noticed a 1911 article on the Canadian Negro.

I read it and cringed. I know from my previous research that this article isn't an anomaly. It reflects the entrenched beliefs of the day.

The article starts out in a promising way:

"To be perfectly honest with ourselves, there is no such thing as a Canadian. Canadian so far is a geographical and political term. There are English Canadians and French Canadians, Galacian Canadians, Icelandic Canadians, Yellow Canadians, Red Canadians, Black Canadians. And one day, all these people's may mix their blood and become a Canadian Race.

Then the author, a Britton B. Cooke, writes: The simplest division that could be made is the division of colour. There are white Canadians and the rest.

The article then talks about the Underground Railroad, already a legend in 1910, and the Southerners who are heading out West.

And then the ugly stuff starts, a deconstruction of the character of the negro (the stereotypes) leads the author to claim that the Negro is not right for assimilation in Canada and in the making of the Ultimate Canadian Race. (Neither, he says, is the Yellow man, as it has been proven in B.C.)

Hmm. This is history I think we need to know. White-washing the past (to use a poor pun) doesn't help future generations deal with the present. Remember, the Canadian Government was actively seeking Americans to come to Canada to work the land out West, preferring these nearby immigrants over the others from overseas.

Canadians can be smug about their past, largely because they don't know it. We often feel ourselves superior to the US, a kinder more inclusive country. But are we?

The Servant Problem: I've written about it on Many suffragist sympathizing rich women were hypocrits when it came to the women they employed. Indeed, many of the recommendations of the Royal Commission were designed to solve the servant problem.