Black History Month at McGill Libraries

Black History Month (BHM) at McGill “aims to celebrate and centre Blackness throughout the history, the present, and the future of McGill and beyond.” The 2024 installment is coordinated by the Equity Team within the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice-President (Academic). In collaboration with McGill Libraries and the Department of History and Classical Studies in the Faculty of Arts, BHM at McGill features two primary events – the BHM opening ceremony on February 1 and keynote lecture by Dr. Melanie J. Newton on February 8. As part of Professor Newton’s visit, colleagues at Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) will be giving special guests a tour of RBSC and the Roy States Black History Collection. Other special guests include Kevin Farmer, Deputy Director of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society and Professor Simon Anderson of the University of West Indies who will be visiting McGill at the same time.

On February 12, RBSC hosts a talk by author and lecturer David Austin entitled “Black Politics in Dark Times: Revisiting Fear of a Black Nation After Ten Years.” Drawing on the new edition of the book “Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal”, Austin will explore the book’s genesis and sixties Black radical politics in relation to contemporary freedom struggles. RSVP to attend in-person or online.

Embrace this month, and every moment after it when accessing the numerous historical and contemporary print and electronic resources* related to the struggles, triumphs, and resilience of Black communities throughout the world. Book displays, libguides, reference guides, video & music streaming services, primary source collections, institutional research guides – the learning journey is strong at McGill Libraries.

Do you have favourite resources that are not listed below? Please let us know!

Questions? Ask us!

*Please note that access to some items may be restricted to McGill users and the VPN may be required for off-campus access.

Book displays

This month, we have programmed two new physical and virtual displays that aim to amplify Black voices and engage a deeper understanding of the diverse experiences within the Black community. Colleagues at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, in collaboration with book display curator, Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo, Black Student Affairs Liaison at McGill University are highlighting the brilliant scholarly contributions of McGill University’s Black Faculty with a physical and virtual exhibit featuring some of their best publications. A physical version of this display will be up on the main floor of the Redpath Library Building during the month of February.

The outreach team at Humanities and Social Studies Library (HSSL) continues to update the BHM virtual display, bringing from deep within our collections, titles both old and new, literary masterpieces, and contemporary podcasts. Check out all BHM related book displays:


Video Streaming Services

Primary Source Collections

Institutional Research Guides

McGill University, Old McGill Yearbook, 1903

In order to support a wider range of enquiries into McGill University’s institutional history, archivists based in Rare Books and Special Collections and McGill University Archives have begun to develop a series of institutional research guides aimed at simplifying access to primary source material relevant to the University’s early history and establishment. Additional guides will be added over time. Researchers are encouraged to contact the library for additional support in locating primary source material. 

Podcasts featuring stories of Black students & staff at McGill

In Voices from the Footnotes Podcast colleagues working in special collections explore some of the hidden histories at the McGill Libraries and Archives. The library and archival collections are rich and fascinating, but this series flows from the silences and absences that are also present. A few episodes focus on the stories of Black students and staff at McGill. We highlight a couple for you here:

Episode 11 – Generations Part 1: What has changed since the 1940s for Black students and staff at McGill? In this episode, we talk with Beryl Dickinson-Dash (now Rapier) and two pairs of fathers and daughters who were students, faculty, or staff – or all of the above – at McGill. Hear about a lot of firsts and the unique challenges faced by Black students and staff in the first half of this two-part episode.

In episode 15, we speak with royalty, McGill royalty to be precise. Step back in time to 1949, 1951 and 1958, as Beryl Rapier, Dorothy Baxter and Rae Tucker Rambally bring us back to mid-century McGill Winter Carnival days. Relive their days as campus royalty.

Cross-unit collaborations

Master of Information Studies Fellowship for Black Students

This year, in collaboration with the McGill Libraries, the School of Information Studies implemented the Master of Information Studies Fellowship for Black Students. This fellowship program for Black students to complete the two-year Master of Information Studies (MISt) at McGill aims to provide support and opportunities for two students pursuing advanced studies in information studies, empowering them to contribute to the field and shape the future of information and knowledge management.

Beginning Fall 2023, fellows receive a tuition award for two years (4 semesters, not including fees) for the MISt program in SIS. They also receive a 15 hour per week paid position in the McGill Libraries during each academic term in an area of professional interest to the Fellow and addressing a need in the McGill Libraries. 

Program to Support Graduate Conducting Students in the Study and Performance of Music by Composers from Underrepresented Groups

This 3-year pilot initiative is a collaboration between the Schulich School of Music, the Marvin Duchow Music Library, and its Gertrude Whitley Performance Library. The Program seeks to highlight the study of works by composers from underrepresented groups, in alignment with the University’s EDI Strategic Plan and Anti-Black Racism Action Plan. It aims to enrich the educational experience of conducting students and acknowledge their potential to bring positive influence and change to musical performance at McGill and beyond. The successful candidates of the first round will perform works by underrepresented composers including William Grant Still, William L. Dawson, and Ulysses Kay.

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