A Podcast Conversation With ... Rosemary Sadlier
The author, activist, and historian has spent decades lobbying to get the African-Canadian experience enshrined in textbooks. Learn more in this FYI podcast.
By Bill King
A couple of screenings of Barry Avrich and Mark Selby's brilliant documentary Oscar Peterson Black+White brought me into the company of author-activist, historian Rosemary Sadlier. The both of us had moments within the documentary to speak of the man and Rosemary of the history of black Canadians, which in specific ways mirror Afro-Americans yet is very different. Rosemary has spent decades lobbying to get that African Canadian experience enshrined in textbooks.
Cameron Bailey, Salome Bey, George Elliot Lake, Lucretia Newman Coleman, Anne Cools, Deborah Cox, Alvin Curling, Dudley Laws, Robert Nathaniel Dett, George Dixon, Rose Fortune, Stanley G. Grizzle, Dan Hill, Artis Lane, Kia Nurse, Lana Ogilvie, Gabriel Osson, Tolu Oloruntoba, Charles Roach, Djanet Sears, Thyrone Tommy -- all celebrated black artists, politicians, writers, community activists, playwrights, fashion designers, filmmakers well known, admired and decorated yet absence from the general school curriculum.
This about Rosemary:
Rosemary Sadlier was the president of the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) from 1993 to 2015. As president, she contributed to recognizing Black history through education, research and outreach programs. Rosemary's pressure was central to the Canadian government's 1995 decision to celebrate Black History Month, a national annual event.
Rosemary was born and raised in Toronto, and she has degrees in teaching and social work. However, her roots in Canada reach back to pre-Confederation: her mother's family can be traced to 1840, while her father's ancestors arrived in New Brunswick in 1793.
Along with the 1995 establishment of National Black History Month, in that same year, Sadlier also initiated the formal celebration of August 1st as Emancipation Day, which is still being sought nationally. For Rosemary, such events have helped and will continue to help Canadian students and teachers recognize Black people's contributions in Canada. In addition, Rosemary has presented nationally and internationally—including to the United Nations—on the subjects of Black Canadian history, curricula, and anti-racism. She has also researched and written prolifically about Black and Canadian history.
Rosemary has received several honours and awards, including the Order of Ontario, the William Peyton Hubbard Race Relations Award, Women for PACE Award, the Black Links Award, the Planet Africa Marcus Garvey Award and the Harry Jerome Award. She was recently awarded the Lifetime Achiever Award from the International Women Achievers' Awards.