by George and Darril Fosty

In Ontario we are well aware of the trail of the Underground Railroad that allowed black slaves to escape into freedom to as far north as Owen Sound. But long before that route was gaining momentum, there was already a large population of Blacks living in Nova Scotia, the population of which was added to when Black Loyalist refugees from the War of 1812 settled there. Just a decade later, these new settlers were playing this new game, a combination of shinny and Mi’kmaq hockey, and a few decades after that the first official Coloured Hockey League was formed. While it centres on the history of this leagues’ teams, players and games, Black Ice is far more than a sports book – it tells the historic tale of the Black experience in the Maritimes, recounting their challenges, their contribution to the efforts in WWI, their victories and the accomplishments of their leaders such as James Kinney. Kinney was the first Black man to graduate from the Maritime Business College and he later became a force in forming the Coloured Hockey League. He was also a student of Booker T. Washington, and after the league folded, Kinney used this education to influence other Black leaders in the establishment of a Black orphanage, the Nova Scotia School for Coloured Children. The author includes many uncomfortable examples of the type of racism that defined this history as well, so as Black History Month draws to a close, read Black Ice and try to determine how far our attitudes have come – and how far we still have to go. Click here to find it in the SPL catalogue.


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