The York-Sunbury Historical Society (YSHS), in collaboration with the Fredericton Region Museum, hosted a Speaker Series in recognition of Black History Month. Taking place via Zoom on the 18th and 25th of February, the series included two presentations on the important contributions of Black New Brunswickers to the Legal and Military professions.
“The YSHS and the Fredericton Region Museum are passionately interested in promoting awareness of the rich heritage surrounding the Fredericton area of which UNB is a central player,” explained Charles Ferris, Chair of the YSHS Programme Committee and a current UNB History PhD student.
The presentations focused on the life of Abraham Beverly Walker, the first Canadian-born Black lawyer, as well as stories of Fredericton’s Black soldiers serving in the Great War from 1914-1918. The presentation on Fredericton’s Black soldiers featuring UNB PhD student Katelyn Stevia will explore the real-life stories behind these soldiers: who and where they were, in what capacity they served during the War, and the role race played in shaping their wartime service and experiences.
Ferris considers these events extremely important for the Fredericton community.
“The YSHS 2021 contribution to Black History month was expanded in part as a means of focusing on the historic injustices experienced by our Black Canadian community. The YSHS views its response as an important means of commemorating an important sector of our central NB society,” said Ferris.
To plan this online event and ensure that it went down without any technological hitches, a highly skilled IT specialist, Stephen Thomas, joined the YSHS Programme Committee as a virtual platform expert.
Charles Ferris explained that while there were some aspects of an in-person gathering that were missing from the events, they are compensated by the ease of access to, and participation in, the virtual format.
“Each event is edited and uploaded to YouTube, providing unlimited future viewing. It also provides a valued publishing credit for our publication-minded speakers – and it is ‘weather independent’!” said Ferris.
The YSHS Black History Month speakers enrich a historical narrative that has traditionally excluded women, Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized groups from the historical archive. By focusing on both traditional and the “other”, YSHS aspires to shape a more complete and more inclusive understanding of the rich past that informs modern New Brunswick society.
“The YSHS Speakers Programme also permits a wonderful opportunity for the UNB community to engage fully with the wider Fredericton-area society!” said Ferris.