An Introduction to Canadian Slavery - Lecture at the McCord Museum

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Monday, February 22, 2021, at 12 p.m.

An Introduction to Canadian Slavery


As part of its Black History Month programming, the McCord Museum will host An Introduction to Canadian Slavery, a lecture by art historian Charmaine A. Nelson, to shed light on the history of slavery in Canada.

Charmaine A. Nelson, Scholarship on Canadian Slavery falls far short of the research that has been produced on the American South, the Caribbean, and South America. Although slavery looked different in Canada, it was no less brutal for the enslaved, who suffered various forms of abuse and were isolated from their cultural, linguistic, and spiritual communities.

One archive which is useful to our understanding of the experiences of the enslaved is the fugitive slave archive. Found throughout the Transatlantic World, fugitive slave advertisements demonstrate the ubiquity of African resistance to slavery. Besides noting things like names, speech, accents, language, and skills, fugitive notices frequently recounted the dress (hairstyles, adornment, clothing etc.), branding, scarification, mannerisms, physical habits, and even the gestures and expressions of runaways. This lecture will examine these notices to explore various dimensions of enslaved experience like dress, family, health, labour, relationships, and resistance.


Charmaine A. Nelson is a Professor of Art History and a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement at NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is also the founding director of the first ever institute focused on the study of Canadian Slavery. She has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation, and Black Canadian Studies.

Nelson has published seven books including The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America (2007), Slavery, Geography, and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Marine Landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica (2016), and Towards an African Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance (2018). She is actively engaged with lay audiences through her media work including ABC, CBC, CTV, City TV, BBC One, and PBS. She blogs for the Huffington Post Canada and writes for The Walrus.  She was recently the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University (2017-2018).

The online conference will be in English, followed by a bilingual question period.

The event will take place online on Zoom and will be broadcast live on the Museum’s social networks.


Free activity.
Register now: Zoom Registration • Facebook Event

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