5.10.2008

lost history: african-american hockey in canada

Did you know there was an African-American hockey league in Canada? They played from 1895 until 1925, and were innovators of the game. The original players were mostly the descendants of runaway slaves.



A former co-worker of mine from New York found me online and, knowing that I now lived in Canada, sent me these fascinating video clips. One of her cousins, a man named Herbert Carnegie, played in this league. When I looked up his name, I learned that Carnegie was the first African-Canadian hockey player to be offered an NHL contract.

As part of this year's Black History Month, ESPN aired "Black Ice," a film based on a book of the same name by George and Darril Fosty.



My friend's own family history is fascinating, as her family goes back many generations in Harlem. Her grandfather was part of this very famous photo of a gathering of jazz musicians taken on a Harlem sidewalk.

She sent me these clips months ago, and they've been sitting in my inbox ever since. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

29 comments:

magnolia_2000 said...

there are no african-AMERICANS in canada.

L-girl said...

Isn't Canada part of the Americas? People object to the US being called "America" because Canadians are also North Americans.

The authors of the book refer to the men who started this league as African-Americans. So shall I.

deang said...

And the clips you provide emphasize that it was indeed African-Americans, as in actual or descendants of Blacks from the US who had migrated to Canada to escape slavery, who founded these leagues. I think that was the point of referring to them as African-Americans.

But magnolia_2000's comment reminds me of an unfortunate US American tendency to accidentally refer to Blacks in other countries as African-Americans, Asians in other countries as Asian-American, etc. That always makes me cringe.

magnolia_2000 said...

thats what i was getting at. this american view of the world that just automatically assumes their way, language, terms are used worldwide. and if youll do a little research about blacks in canada you would find that they object very much to the african-american term and even afro-canadian in that the majority of canadian blacks are from the caribbean and do not feel the term african in the context of a label describes them or their community.

magnolia_2000 said...

from wikipedia:

Black Canadians, Caribbean Canadians, and African Canadians are designations used for people of Black-African descent who reside in Canada. The terms are used by and of Canadian citizens who trace their ancestry back to people who were indigenous to Sub-Saharan Africa. The majority have relatively recent origins in the Caribbean, while some trace their lineage to the first slaves brought by British and French colonists to the mainland of North America. A minority have recent African roots.

Blacks and other Canadians often draw a distinction between those of Caribbean ancestry and those of African descent, which sometimes results in controversy around the terms used to label and identify the Black community. Unlike in the United States, where African American is now considered the standard terminology, Blacks of Caribbean origin in Canada largely reject the term African Canadian as an elision of their Caribbean heritage.

magnolia_2000 said...

i'm sorry laura, i'm not angry. as another posting put it i cringe when i hear the term american attached to canadian blacks or any other canadian for that matter. we just have a disagreement over this. no biggie. still love ya. smile.

L-girl said...

if youll do a little research about blacks in canada

I'm not sure what research you're referring to. Talking to black Canadians?

The people who wrote this book and made this film did a lot of research. They interviewed former players, descendants of the players, watched film, read diaries, all kinds of stuff. They felt that the term that best describes the men depicted in the film was African-American.

I understand why you object, but it seems like the proper term in this case.

Also, I reference my earlier comment. Many Canadians vehemently object to the US being called "America" because Canada is also in America. These men crossed a North American border but were still Americans.

Magnolia, since you are very familiar with this blog, your anger seems misplaced to me.

Also I'm not sure how your Wiki quote relates to the men from this hockey team.

magnolia_2000 said...

am i crazy or did one of your postings just disappear?

L-girl said...

Oops, sorry, I was combining my two comments so these are now out of order!

I totally understand the cringing. But these men were African-American.

L-girl said...

You're not crazy, I just didn't expect you to be so quick on the trigger! I was combining two comments, but while I was doing that, you posted! :)

magnolia_2000 said...

thank goodness. gotta run though. mothers day shopping still to do. bye.

L-girl said...

I sure hope people find this interesting in some other way besides the debate over nationality and names. It's so annoying when you post about topic A, then someone picks up on one word in the post, and the whole discussion focuses on that.

deang said...

I sure hope people find this interesting in some other way besides the debate over nationality and names.

Not only interesting but informative. I had no idea about any of this, and the fact that the history of hockey may have to be rewritten because of it is exciting.

L-girl said...

Thanks Dean.

magnolia_2000 said...

at some point this winter i saw a documentary about this book and subject. i'm thinking it was on the national. it really was fascinating. i may try to find a video of the segment tonight and if i do i'll post a link. i remember them saying the black canadian league outdrew its white counterpart in its heyday. of course these were afro-canadians not african-americans but still...still smiling laura, dont go off.

magnolia_2000 said...

i dont mean to keep harping on this but i read almost the entire website of "black ice" and i dont find a single place where the authors referred to canadians as african-americans. i see the term african-canadian used though. where do see that they used the AA term in their book.

L-girl said...

I won't go off, I'm smiling too, but I will say enough already.

I've already explained why I used the term and why I think it's appropriate, in my first reply to your first comment.

I'll look again at the website and book information I have, and if I think Af-Am is wrong, I'll change it. But please drop it for now, ok?

Anonymous said...

And, relatedly, while Carnegie ultimately turned down the offer, Willie O'Ree, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_O'Ree, from Fredericton, became the first African-Canadian to play in the NHL.

See also http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/story/2008/01/16/oree-naming.html

L-girl said...

Thanks MSEH! Great stuff.

Lacey said...

It sounds like a wonderful book. I can't wait to read it. Thanks for sharing.

briz said...

Herb Carnegie was born in Canada to Jamaican parents; he was not African, nor was he American. If one must classify people by the birth place of their ancestors, the least they can do is be accurate. But then again, I don't refer to myself as Scottish-Canadian simply because my ancestors came from Scotland. The term African-Canadian is a spin-off of an American term that doesn't apply to the majority of black Canadians. If we want to get that technical, we could all call ourselves African-(insert country of choice), since it is the starting place of humankind.

L-girl said...

Sorry about that. Wikipedia calls Carnegia African-Canadian, and my friend who is his cousin called him that, so I went with it. Hopefully you will not miss the forest for the trees.

L-girl said...

And of course the presence of black people in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean originated with the slave trade. Jamaicans and Caribbean ("West Indian") people in the US are still considered African-American. So African-Canadian is not all that far off.

L-girl said...

But then again, I don't refer to myself as Scottish-Canadian simply because my ancestors came from Scotland.

That's your choice, and an easy one as Scottish people have been in Canada so long, and are not visible minorities.

Many people choose to identify themselves with their ancestry as well as their country. It hurts no one.

briz said...

Absolutely not, I've read about Carnegie before and have a lot of respect for anyone who faces challenges the way he has. I was just stirring the pot a little. For all I know, he refers to himself as that. I don't know why I find this supposed politically correct classification marginally offensive. Maybe not even offensive, just incorrect...

L-girl said...

Geez, this pot doesn't need any stirring. It's stirred beyond recognition already, in my opinion.

I don't choose words because of so-called political correctness. I choose them because they seem apt, or fitting, or appropriate.

Obviously if you don't care for the expression you won't use it, but I can't see nit-picking people's writing this way. If you used Black Canadian or whatever word to make the same point, I wouldn't post at your blog to correct you, along with gratuitous comments about my own identity.

The anti-political-correct crowd is every bit as tiresome and annoying as the politically correct one.

L-girl said...

(Turning moderation back on, but please don't take it personally, Briz. I'm leaving the house and I've had a lot of trouble with trolls recently. I'll put your comments through as soon as I return.)

briz said...

My intention was not to nit-pick your writing, per se. It was more of a general complaint about a term I find irrelevant and incorrect in Canadian society. It rubs me the wrong way when Canadians import American views and terminology specific to American history and culture, and invalidly adjust them to fit our society.

I actually expected that comment to go unnoticed and get lost in the black hole of the internet. I appreciate your rebuttal.

L-girl said...

It rubs me the wrong way when Canadians import American views and terminology specific to American history and culture, and invalidly adjust them to fit our society.

That I understand. :)

An earlier commenter felt the same way, only she was blaming Americans, not Canadians. So I hear you.

I actually expected that comment to go unnoticed and get lost in the black hole of the internet. I appreciate your rebuttal.

No comment goes unnoticed here. Thanks for the discussion, I appreciate it, too.