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North of the Color Line

Migration and Black Resistance in Canada, 1870-1955

Sarah-Jane Mathieu

Publication Year: 2010

Examining the spread of segregation laws and practices in Canada, whose citizens often imagined themselves as devoid of racism, Mathieu historicizes Canadian racial attitudes, and explores how black migrants brought their own sensibilities about race to Canada, participating in and changing political discourse there. ###North of the Color Line# examines life in Canada for the estimated 5,000 blacks, both African Americans and West Indians, who immigrated to Canada after the end of Reconstruction in the United States. Through the experiences of black railway workers and their union, the Order of Sleeping Car Porters, Sarah-Jane Mathieu connects social, political, labor, immigration, and black diaspora history during the Jim Crow era.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. xiii-xiv

This story about sleeping car porters, the forgotten black men who slipped in and out of Canada’s famed railway stations during the first half of the twentieth century, first took shape in the kitchen of Mrs. Frances Atwell. Born in Winnipeg in 1923, Mrs. Atwell grew up with many of the key figures in this...


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pp. xv

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Introduction: Birth of a Nation: Race, Empire, and Nationalism during Canada’s Railway Age

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pp. 3-21

Smoke belched from the Pacific Express’s engine as it slowly snaked into Winnipeg the morning of 1 July 1886—just in time for Canada Day celebrations. Three thousand excited spectators and an artillery salvo heralded the arrival of Canada’s first transcontinental train, now halfway through its...

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1. Drawing the Line: Race and Canadian Immigration Policy

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pp. 22-60

On the morning of 22 March 1911, a reporter for the Manitoba Free Press paced nervously in Winnipeg’s CPR station as he awaited the arrival of the Great Northern No. 7, now infamous for the cargo it carried north from the U.S. border. For the past two days, Canadian immigration officials had held...

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2. Jim Crow Rides This Train: Segregation in the Canadian Workforce

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pp. 61-99

In April 1854, the Great Western Railway declared that it urgently needed eight hundred workers to guard its tracks against stray cattle and hog crossings. Its advertisement, strategically placed in Canada’s most important black newspaper of the day, the Provincial Freeman, sought African Canadians for...

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3. Fighting the Empire: Race, War, and Mobilization

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pp. 100-142

The climate had dramatically changed for black railroaders in Canada by World War I and forced a more urgent appeal for the federal government to halt the advancement of Jim Crow in industry and public life. African Canadians feared that, if left to their devices, employers would capitalize on...

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4. Building an Empire, Uplifting a Race: Race, Uplift, and Transnational Alliances

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pp. 143-184

Though still dazed by race riots, disruptive strikes, and a double-cross by white workers, African Canadian railroaders licked their war wounds and focused on rebuilding their communities during the 1920s. Having proven his mettle, John A. Robinson broadened his vision of working-class...

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5. Bonds of Steel: Depression, War, and International Brotherhood

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pp. 185-217

Arthur Robinson Blanchette felt the sting of the Great Depression. Born in St. Vincent in 1910, the son of a prominent dentist, Blanchette lost his father in childhood, the victim of the Spanish influenza epidemic sweeping the globe during the Great War era. In 1927, he boarded a steamship for...


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pp. 219-247


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pp. 249-267


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pp. 269-280

E-ISBN-13: 9781469603858
E-ISBN-10: 1469603853
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834299
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834297

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Blacks -- Canada -- History.
  • African Americans -- Canada -- History.
  • West Indians -- Canada -- History.
  • Canada -- Race relations.
  • Immigrants -- Canada.
  • Blacks -- Canada -- Social conditions
  • African Americans -- Canada -- Social conditions.
  • West Indians -- Canada -- Social conditions.
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