In 1910, a black
American named J.D. Edwards, with his wife Martha and family moved to
Alberta to start a new life. Though the Civil War had ended in the U.S.
and segregation was outlawed, discrimination against blacks was still
rampant in the state of Oklahoma where the Edwards lived. Unwilling to
be treated like second-class citizens, the Edwards followed a band of
1000 other blacks from Oklahoma who traveled up to the isolated lands
of Alberta to start a new life. In this documentary, we see how the Edwards,
while working the land to survive, earned the respect of their white neighbours,
and became proud, hard-working, contributing members of their community.
1) With your teacher's help, locate a school in Oklahoma which has black students. Start a correspondence. Write a letter to one of the classes, telling them about the black settlers and their community in Amber Valley, who they probably know nothing about! Explain to them why Edwards (and 1000 other people blacks) said he settled in Alberta around 1910 and 1911, and ask them whether the discrimination Edward faced in those days is still a problem today for them
2) The term "Blacks" is used here in Canada as well as the United States to refer to a wide variety of people (with a wide variety of different skin tones), who come from very different cultural and geographical backgrounds. Pretend you are a farmer from Amber Valley, and another student is a recent immigrant from Jamaica living in Toronto. You have just met each other sitting on a bus on its way to Montreal. You have hours to talk to each other. Make up a dialogue which shows that even though your skin color is the same, you're very different from one another and seem to have nothing in common. Then create another dialogue which shows how your color has created commonalities and similarities in your lives, and how this gives you a "connection" to one another.
3) For a brief, shining moment in 1988, sprinter Ben Johnson was considered the fastest man in the world, and the whole of Canada stood beside their 'home boy' proudly. Then, Johnson tested positive for steroids, and his title was taken away. Some people have said that the fact that Johnson was originally from Jamaica came into much greater play in the media after he was dethroned. They say it was a way to show Johnson wasn't "really a Canadian." Find press clippings from this Olympic event, and follow them for a couple of weeks, see how the press treats Johnson. Do you see any racism or discrimination in the way Ben is treated, first as a hero, then as a sinner? Or do you think he was treated just like anyone would be who fell from grace?
5) Canadian participation in the Underground Railroad is something to be proud of. Research the Railroad, and find some personal stories or accounts that make you proud to be a Canadian. Then, write your own story, in which you (and your family), decide you are willing to risk your lives by helping some escaped slaves make their way to freedom. Make sure to let us know whether you think you made the right decision, and why.