Black History Month 2023: Virtual Display

February is just around the corner, and with it comes the annual celebration of Black History Month (BHM). The month marks a time of honouring the legacy and stories of Black Canadians and their communities around the nation. 

The McGill community takes this opportunity to engage in not just celebrations, but moments of acknowledgement and introspection on what it means to be part of a diverse community by coming together in love, support, and learning. 
In anticipation of BHM, the Humanities and Social Studies Library (HSSL) has curated a virtual display, bringing from deep within our collections, titles both old and new, literary masterpieces, and contemporary podcasts. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the titles on display:

Book cover for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

BHM would be incomplete without an ode to Angelou’s best-selling debut memoir of growing up black in the 1930s and 1940s.

Sent by their mother to live with their devout grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man — and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, and the ideas of great authors will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.


Book cover for Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam.

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated.

With spellbinding lyricism, they tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both. A young artist and poet’s prospects at a diverse art school are threatened by a racially biased system and a tragic altercation in a gentrifying neighbourhood.


Book cover for Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Few hold a place in the Black feminist canon like Lorde, a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” who “dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.”

In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope. 


Other notable mentions include Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, a 2016 Pulitzer Prize Finalist that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son; Nathan Harris’ The Sweetness of Water an epic whose grandeur locates humanity and love amid the most harrowing circumstances, and; Octavia Butler’s Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, which offers an unflinching look at our complicated social history, transformed by the graphic novel format into a visually stunning work for a generation of new readers.

Keep an eye on our socials (Instagram: @mcgilllib, Facebook: McGill Library and Twitter: @mcgilllib) for more exciting events and news related to BHM. 

Black History Month at McGill

Throughout February, the McGill Community joins many others in celebrating Black History Month.

The 2020 celebrations across the University, city and country encompass many themes. A common thread throughout this year’s themes is exploring the past in order to understand the present and build a better future.

Black History Month aims to celebrate and centre Blackness throughout the history, the present, and the future of McGill and beyond.

McGill’s theme for this year is Rooted, an exploration of the rooted past, present and future of Black history and communities. There are many events happening across campus and in collaboration with organizations across the city of Montreal, where the theme for this year’s 29th edition of Black History Month is “Ici et Maintenant! / Here and Now!” celebrating the voices and activism of young people from the African diaspora.

Poster for Montreal’s “Mois de l’histoire des noirs”, by Lucky Odige

Canada’s Black History Month theme is inspired by the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent. “Canadians of African Descent: Going Forward, Guided by the Past” is represented by the sankofa bird, an important symbol of the African diaspora that represents the need to reflect on the past in order to build a successful future.

Every February, Canadians are invited to participate in Black History Month festivities and events that honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present. The 2020 theme for Black History Month is: “Canadians of African Descent: Going forward, guided by the past.” This was inspired by the theme of the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024).

This year’s programming will also honour Toni Morrison in light of her passing on August 5th, 2019. Toni Morrison was an American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon (1977) brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1988, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved (1987); she gained worldwide recognition when she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Her contributions to literature and politics

Toni Morrison (February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019)

The library has created a LibGuide highlighting parts of the collection that support and expand on these themes. This new LibGuide will be a place to find information on all future Redpath Book Displays, from bibliographies to YouTube videos.

In support of the powerful keynote address at McGill’s Black History Month Opening Ceremony, titled “Rooted: Locking Black Hair to Human Rights Activism,” by Professor Wendy Greene of Drexel University, we present a collection of titles exploring the specific experience of Black hair and its ties to culture and identity.

Professor Wendy Greene of Drexel University, delivering her keynote speech at the opening ceremony of Black History Month at McGill

Find books that form the traditional canon of Black literature, as well as new contributions by contemporary Black authors, both American and Canadian. Keep an eye out this March as we add “Dear Black Girls,” by McGill’s Equity Education Advisor, Shanice Nicole (Yarde), to the collection.

Shanice Nicole Yarde, Equity Education Advisor (Anti-Oppression and Anti-Racism), author of upcoming book “Dear Black Girls”

We hope you will enjoy these resources as we celebrate, reflect on and honour Black History at McGill.