To celebrate Black History Month, I wanted to share an important collection that helps to illuminate Black history in mid-20th century Manitoba and Western Canada.
From the 1980s until 2010, the Manitoba Museum was the recipient of donations related to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a Black union of railway workers (for more information see the History blog from November 13, 2020: https://manitobamuseum.ca/main/black-railway-workers-and-the-winnipeg-general-strike/)
A former curator described the museum materials as documenting “how the members of the various Black organizations…were instrumental in creating a strong social network that eventually changed the social climate in Winnipeg for Black citizens.” The solidarity of these organizations provided an important structure to counter the discrimination against the Black community in Winnipeg.
The following photographs from the Museum’s collections are examples of these organizations.
Finally, the Porters’ Social and Charitable Association started in the late 1930s at 817 ½ Main Street, and acted as a social hub and meeting place for organizations.
The collection includes artifacts and 22 boxes of archival materials and photographs dating from the 1910s to the 1960s, as well as 21 oral history recordings with individuals who lived in Winnipeg and worked for the railway. Part of the collection was used to create the exhibition “Back Tracks to Railroad Ties: The First Journey, The Early History of Black People in Canada” in partnership with members of the Black community and the Archives of Manitoba, and shown at the Manitoba Museum in 1994. The Museum collection is available for researchers by appointment (COVID restrictions apply), and the Archives of Manitoba also includes a large associated collection.