The Canadian Observer

African American Newspapers, Part XIV: The Canadian Observer, 1914-1919 expands the historical newspaper coverage of the descendants of former American slaves who traveled the Underground Railroad to Canada  – the Underground Railroad and the quest for freedom in Canada is a central theme in many of Accessible Archives’  African American newspapers.

The Canadian Observer

Thousands of African Americans resided in Canada after the abolishment of slavery in the U.S. These African Americans established families, built homes, and formed communities, contributing to the development of the Canadian provinces they lived in as well as to the newly formed Dominion of Canada.

African-Canadians have a long history of fighting for social justice in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Canadian Observer, was a newspaper published for the black community by J.R.B Whitney from 1914 to 1919 and became the voice of the Black community in Toronto and throughout Ontario.

The Canadian Observer, 1914-1919, “The Official Organ for the Coloured People in Canada,” was published by the prominent activist, J.R.B. Whitney. It contained a wealth of information about African-Canadian culture and day-to-day life during a turbulent period in Canadian history – 1914-1919.  The first-hand reporting, news articles, editorials, and letters to the editor discussed the major events and issues of the day:

  • World War I
  • Social activism regarding racial discrimination and segregation
  • Business and finance
  • African diaspora, particularly West Indian immigration
  • Activities of African Americans below the border

The Canadian Observer

Like other newspapers of the day, The Canadian Observer, 1914-1919 also devoted a large portion of their coverage to:

  • National and provincial news of interest to the African-Canadian community
  • Political, financial, and economic events, analyses, and personalities
  • International events (other than World War I)
  • African-Canadian literary activities
  • Religious activities
  • Advertising of consumer goods and services of interest to the African-Canadian community

In addition, the pages of The Canadian Observer, 1914-1919 included short biographies, vital statistics, and a wealth of appeals and broadsides, all of which contributed to  the African-Canadian experience.

Throughout its run from 1914 to 1919, The Canadian Observer’s eyewitness accounts, vivid descriptions of daily life, press reports, editorials, and activities of its publisher sought to improve the life of African-Canadians in Canada’s society. The newspaper promoted racial politics and social activism which led to the rise of racial consciousness in Canada.

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