Friday, November 10, 2017

Black Montreal icons: The all-time Top 20

1-Jackie Robinson Though in Montreal only a few months, this colour barrier-breaking pioneer taught the world something that residents knew since forever, that Montrealers mostly don't much care who's black or white

2 - Dany Laferrière Fearless, ambitious and energetic journalist who moved from Haiti to Montreal at the age of 23 and mopped floors at Complexe Desjardins before his big breakthrough novel nine years later, How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired. Countless awards followed including become the first Canadian named to the Académie française. Said to still live on St. Hubert just above Ontario.

3- Oscar Peterson 1925-2007 Jazz pianist who electrified the world with his playing, starting at the Alberta Lounge at La Gauche (then Osborne) and Peel. Son of a CPR porter who grew up in Little Burgundy.

4-Rufus Rockhead Enterprising showman ran a famous eponymous-named nightclub for decades at Mountain and St. Antoine, refusing to grease politicians hands with bribes, leading his joint to be unjustly shut down for a long spell. 

It's the craziest, funniest, scariest and most insightful book ever written about Montreal. Absolute must-reading! Kristian Gravenor's Montreal: 375 Tales of Eating, Drinking, Living and Loving, order your paper copy here now.


5- Percy Rodrigues Doorman at Cafe St. Michel who dabbled in a bit of underworld thuggery before moving to Hollywood and becoming a prominent actor, most notably as a brain surgeon on Peyton Place.
6 - P.K. Subban Montrealers fell in love with this stylish whirly-dervish D-man even before management broke a city's heart by trading him to another NHL team. Subban, it is noted, was raised in Toronto as a Montreal Canadiens fan from an early age.

7- Phil "The Man of Bronze" Edwards  Phil Edwards, born in Guyana, came to Montreal via New York, was a McGill med student who could run fast enough to win five bronze medals for Canada in the '28 Amsterdam, '32 Los Angeles and; '36 Berlin Olympics. The first black to graduate McGill Med school became a doctor at the Royal Victoria hospital where he specialized in tropical diseases. He was also a Captain in World War II, to boot.

8 - Fred Christie When told that blacks won't be served at the tavern in the Montreal forum in 1936, Christie, a chauffeur from Verdun, sued in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. In a great moment of shame for the entire country, the top court in the land sided with the tavern, in a case of retail discrimination that would end up in massive fines it attempted today

9- Kenneth Melville Jamaican-born McGill Medical school graduate who later headed a department at the university. He is known for his research into adrenaline and stress response among other things. He helped lead historic defence of Fred Christie and was later arrested in New Jersey for refusing to leave a restaurant which declined to serve him on the basis of his skin tone.

10- Shadrach Minkins Surely the only Montreal barber ever to have a complete history book written about his flight from a ridiculous plan to put him back into slavery in the Boston. He came to Montreal and ran a restaurant and then a barber shop on Mountain Street, until he died in 1875. Montreal was home to 80 blacks when he arrived in 1852. He married a white Irish Montrealer and had children with her.

11- Juanita Westmoreland Traoré  Born in Verdun 1942 from parents from Guyana. Became the first black dean of a Canadian law school, heading the University of Windsor Faculty of Law.

12- Marie-Joseph Angélique early-day runaway slave kickass arsonist burned down the city in 1734. She was executed and many have speculated on her motives since.

13 - Vladimir Guerrero A supernatural athlete who walked like a cat and hammered balls like nobody's business. Lived in Montreal at Lincoln and Guy from 1996 to 2003. 

14 Oliver Jones Top flight jazz pianist of Barbados-heritage, has been tickling the ivories since soon after his birth in 1934, with early-day notoriety at the old Cafe St. Michel on Mountain Street. 

15 Yolande James First black female Quebec MNA who spent a decade in the Charest cabinet in Quebec City from 2004. Tops Coolopolis list of good-looking Quebec politicians in a post that we can no longer locate. 

16 Charlie Chase Champion prizefighter who moonlighted in pimping and acting as a freelance tough guy. Midnight Magazine called him "the king of the pimps" and he was a key player in Frank Petrula's famous 1955 attack on a variety of downtown bars. Managed to win boxing titles as an elderly outsider after release from prison. Spent his later years lonely and estranged from his kids, living in a small apartment near the Cote des Neiges Plaza. (Coolopolis is obviously obsessed with this guy, film script anybody?-Chimples)

17 Gregory Woolley Top gangster figure in the Hells Angels, which cannot accept him as a member because of racist club policies. Considered a highly-influential individual in the underworld. Many arrests.

18 Juliete Powell Beauty-pageant winner who went on to become a familiar VJ on Musique Plus and then MuchMusic. Moved to Montreal from New York City, as her Wikipedia page repeats three times.

19- Richard Lord Attended school at St Leo's in Westmount before getting into Michigan State on a hockey scholarship. They were surprised to learn that their recruit was black. The university, once they learned he was black, proceeded to treat him like anybody else, as he often noted. The irrepressible and always-enthusiastic Lord worked in a variety of high profile jobs, including running the phone system for Expo 67 and working as an immigration court judge before dying in 2014.

20 - Mathieu da Costa Early aide of Samuel de Champlain, worked as a translator with the natives. Little is known about him and although he likely rarely or never set foot in Montreal, he remained a notable figure with various institutions and a stamp named after him.


Frederick Johnson Queen's Hotel employee, in the 1890s sued a theatre for refusing to honour his ticket in the orchestra section due to his being black. He sued for $500 and won $50.
Tim Raines- HoF baseball player
Andre Dawson - HoF baseball player
Michaëlle Jean - journalist and former Governor General
Gregory Charles - musician
Charlie Biddle - musician 
Kenny Hamilton - musician
Trevor Payne - musician
Rosey Edeh - Olympic medal winner in hurdling
Steve Fletcher - hockey player
Joseph Ducarme - gangster
Lionel Deare - boxer and gangster, shot dead in a bar on St. Antoine
Marlene Jennings - politician 
Peter Anthony Holder - broadcaster 
Will Mastin -jazz musician 
Georges Laracque - hockey player 
Normand Braithwaite - TV personality 
Tim Biakabutuka - NFL football player
Bad News Brown - musician
Patrice Bernier -soccer player
Trevor Williams - basketball player 
Ken Singleton - Baseball player 
Earl Little / Louise Helen Norton Little parents of Malcolm X.
Tyrone Benskin Actor and politician   
Carfare Bowman - Gangster
Tristan Di Lalla - Actor
Félix Auger-Aliassime - tennis player
Kamala Harris - California Senator lived in Westmount from the age of 12 to 18, leaving around 1981
Francoise Abanda - Tennis player

Tony McKegney Was born in Montreal but moved to Kingston soon after and went on to become the NHL's first black hockey star.

Montreal slavery timeline 
Black slavery was a thing in Montreal as the historian Massicote notes in this timeline.  

1760 slavery existed under the French regime and continued under the British rule. article 47 slaves remain property of their masters 
 1763 - Marie, slave of the Baronesse of Longueuil, marries Jacques Cesar, slave of Ignace Gamelin, in Longueuil 5 Jan.
1763 to 1769 Lachine parish register records slave child baptisms.
1778 Montreal Gazette read: "the widow Dufy Desaulniers promises a reward of six dollars to whoever can return her escaped slave. "She is 35 years old and wears an Indian dress."
1780 Patrick Lanigan sells Nemo, a slave, to John Mittelberger, for 60 Louis.
1784 First census of slaves in Quebec: 304 blacks of both sexes. 212 of them  Montreal and 88 in Quebec City.
1785 20 Jan. Slaves Francis and Jane marry at Christ Church. They belong to Colonel Campbell.
1785 9 March Sarah, a black slave is sold by James Morison to Hugh Charles Lepallieur, greffier de la cours de plaidoyers communs.
1785 1 April Elizah Cady of New York sells four black slaves to William Ward of Vermont. Tobi, 24, Joseph, 20, Sarah, 19 and a 6 month old child for 250 Louis and 26 April he sells all but Joseph to William Campbell for $425 .Two weeks later he sells them to Dr. Charles Blake for $300. 
1785 5 Sept Charlotte, 18, sold by Marie Joseph Deguire to Jacob Scheiffelin, auctioneer, for 21 louis. She had been brought from Upper Canada in 1776. She had already survived smallpox and measles, which increased her value. 
1786 22 Jan. Thomas York marries Margaret McCloud at Christ Church - both slaves.
1787 17 March Rose, 14, sold for 40 louis Sam Mix sells her to Louis Gauthier, a tanner of faubourg St. Laurent.
1789 6 June - Charles Lepallieur sells Sarah to James Morrison. for 36 louis. Lepallieur had purchased her four years earlier. Morrison then sells her to Joseph Andrews for 50 louis. 
1790 - Antoine, 8 years old, sold by Oliver Hasting to Chas Boucher of Boucherville. 
1791 9 sept. Rose, 19, sold by William Mathews at auction. Lambert Saint Omer buys her for 38 louis. She previously belonged to S. Mix.
1792 - P.L. Panet , in the first Canadian parliamentary session, proposes abolition of slavery. nothing comes of it.
1793 upper Canada legislature adopts a law to end the importation of slaves and declares those slaves born in the country be freed at the age of 25.
1794  12 May Jacques 21-year-old slave, freed by Francois Noucher de la Periere and Marie Pecaudy de Contrecoeur, his wife. Conditions are tied to his release from slavery. 
1795 15 Dec. Prince, 18, a mulatto, sold for 50 lous by Francois Dumoilin of Bout de L'ile to Myer Michaels, merchant.
1796 16 Jan. Rose, sold by P. Byrne to Simon Meloche, 360 chelins.
1796 3 Sept. Jack, a black slave, sold by J.A. Grey to John Shuter, merchant. Gray had inherited him from his the widow Fleming one year earlier. Shuter promises Jack ot free him in six yearsif he serves him faithfully. On 2 Nov. 1803 he fulfills his promise and Jack is freed.
1796 13 Sept Jean louis, 27, a mulatto, 5 foot 10 sold for 1,300 chelins. R.B. Routier sells them to Louis Charles Boucher, solicitor general. Routier said he bought the two at the island of St. Dominique.
1796 23 Nov. Cesar, freed slave from Connecticut hired for 10 years as domestic at Dr. John Aussem's place in st Antoine district. He paid 30 louis cash up front. Aussem in return gets right to sell his domestic's services other next two years.
1797 25 may Marie Catherine Tessier, widow of Antoine Janisse frees slave Marie-Antoine de Pade, squaw, 23. She recognizes services rendered and gives her a trousseau.
1796 25 Aug.Manuel, 33, sold by painter-gilder Thomas Blaney to Thomas John Sullivan, Montreal hotellier. Price 36 louis, in payments of 3 louis per month. Sullivan promises to free him in five years if he's faithful worker.
1797 22 nov 1797 - Ledy, 26, mulatto, given as part of payment by George Westfall to Richard Dillon, owner of the Montreal Hotel. She works for Dillon until Westfall's payments are paid off.
1797 Joseph Papineau, MP for Montreal and notary, submits a demand from Montreal citizens to abolish slavery  
1802 3 Jan Niagara Herald publishes an ad advertising the sale of an 18 year old negro
1803 Chief Justice Osgood of Montreal declares slavery is incompatible with Canadian law.
1833 16 may M.Stanley, representing Lord Grey, presents a bill in England to abolish slavery in the colonies. An identical law was adopted in Canada same year.

Stories like this fill the must-read Montreal: 375 Tales of Eating, Drinking, Living and Loving, order your paper copy here now or buy it at Indigo or Paragraph.


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