SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick and ATHABASCA, Alberta – The challenges, faced by two waves of Black immigrants from the United States in the early 19th and 20th centuries, come to light in a pair of stamps, issued this month by Canada Post.
These stamps – the 13th issue in the corporation’s Black History Month series – celebrate the hope and perseverance of the Black pioneers, who founded Willow Grove in New Brunswick, and Amber Valley in Alberta.
Designed by Lara Minja, of Lime Design Inc., and illustrated by Rick Jacobson, the stamps feature illustrations, based on archival photos of community members, maps showing the location of each settlement, and images of the different means of transportation that carried the pioneers to their new life in Canada.
About the Communities
Willow Grove was founded in 1817 by Black refugees. Most had been enslaved African Americans, who were offered their freedom and land in exchange for supporting the British in the War of 1812.
They were issued licences to live on land that turned out to be of poor farming quality and received little assistance. When they tried to support themselves temporarily in nearby Saint John, they were met with racist restrictions. But the residents fought for their rights and formed a thriving community.
The Black settlers, who founded Amber Valley, around 1910, had journeyed from the American south to escape escalating violence and segregation laws.
Seeking a better life for their families, they carved a living from the dense bush and muskeg but continued to endure ongoing racial discrimination, including government measures that prevented other people of African descent from settling in Canada. The residents, however, were determined to succeed, and the community they built flourished.
Although separated by nearly a hundred years, the two communities experienced similar hardships and triumphs, and both served as stepping stones for the success of future generations of Black Canadians.
Printed by Lowe-Martin, this issue includes a booklet of 10 Permanent™ stamps, featuring both designs, and two Official First Day Covers – one for each stamp.