On March l6th, the City of Toronto celebrated its 180th Anniversary. The Toronto Star published a tribute to many of the people who helped shape the city from 1834 to the present. Listed among the 180 leaders such as William Lyon MacKenzie King (Toronto’s first mayor), Alexander Graham Bell (Inventor of the telephone), Dr. Frederick Banting (Discoverer of insulin) and Jack Layton (NDP leader) were several Black people. After the publication, readers suggested that many were missed. In response the newspaper published the names of 10 more. Black Leaders listed as follows
William Peyton Hubbard (1842-1925) first elected Black politician of a Canadian city. He served as Deputy Mayor.
Donald Willard Moore (1881-1994). Born in Barbados, he was a life-long activist against federal laws that restricted immigration for non-White people from the West Indies and helped found the Toronto Negro Citizenship Association
Stanley G. Grizzle. Born in Toronto in 1918 to Jamaican immigrants, he was a Labor activist and was appointed Canada’s first Black Citizenship Judge by Pierre Trudeau in 1978.
Bromley Armstrong, born in 1926 in Jamaica. He was a labor activist and civil rights leader and founded the Toronto BBPA, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Canadian Ethnocultural Council and the Caribbean Soccer Club. He served as Vice-President of the Toronto Negro Credit Union from 1950-1954. He was awarded the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario.
Charles Roach (1933-2012) Born in Trinidad & Tobago. He was a lawyer and founding member of the Black Action Defense Committee and Caribana (now called Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Festival.
Thornton Blackburn (1812-1890). He and his wife escaped slavery, arriving in Toronto in 1834. He established Toronto’s first Taxicab company.
Oscar Peterson (1925-2007). World-renowned pianist. He was born in Montreal but spent the last years of his career in Toronto. He taught jazz and improvisation at Toronto’s Advanced School of Contemporary Music, frequently performed at Toronto’s Jazz Festival, taught at York University’s Music Department and served as the university’s 8th Chancellor
Jackie Richardson. Born in 1947. Multi-talented singer of gospel, jazz, blues and musical theatre (Ain’t Misbehavin’. Cookin’ at the Cookery)
Drake (1986 – ) Hip Hop performer. He has sold more than 5 million albums worldwide. Energetic Toronto booster, recently named MLSE’s (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) global ambassador
Joe Carter. Major League Baseball. Former Toronto Blue Jays star. Born in Oklahoma in 1960. He hit the 3-run homer to clinch the World Series for Toronto in 1993. He is a Canadian Hall of Fame inductee and continues to raise money for the Children’s Aid Society through his annual golf tournament (more than $250,000 so far).
Angela James (1964 – ) One of the first two women inducted into the Toronto-based Hockey Hall of Fame (2010), she led Canada to four World Championships and has been an accredited referee since 1980.
Michael “Pinball” Clemons (1965 – ) Born in Florida. He played 12 seasons with the Toronto Argos (CFL) winning 3 Grey Cups. Became the first Black coach in the CFL to lead a team to a Grey Cup Win. His foundation “Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation” founded in 2007 helps disadvantaged youth.
Rita Cox – Born in 1939 in Trinidad & Tobago. Appointed head of the Parkdale Branch of the Toronto Public Library in 1974. Conceived the idea of the Black & Caribbean Heritage Collection in 1973, now considered to be the most comprehensive of its kind in Canada.
Rella Braithwaite who along with her husband Bob settled in Scarborough in 1946. She is a descendent of the Queen’s Bush Pioneers, one of the oldest Black settlements in Ontario. She has written several books including “The Black Woman in Canada” and for many years was a columnist for Contrast, a Black newspaper in Toronto until it folded in 1991.