Documentary about Alberta’s African-American settlers coming to Morinville in February

Jan. 17, 2019

by Morinville News Staff

The discrimination experienced by black settlers in Alberta and Saskatchewan in the early 1900s is the subject of the award-winning documentary. We are the Roots: Black Settlers and Their Experiences of Discrimination on the Canadian Prairies.

The film will be shown at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m.

In the early 1900s, between 1,000 and 1,500 African Americans came to Canada. They mostly settled in small rural Alberta communities of Amber Valley, Campsie, Wildwood and Breton and Maidstone in Saskatchewan.

The film on their experiences made its debut in Edmonton last February during Black History Month and has gone on to win several awards for oral history and heritage awareness.

Deborah Dobbins, president of Edmonton’s Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots (SCMR) put forward the idea for the film. She partnered with Drs. Jenna Bailey and David Este. Bailey, an adjunct history professor and senior research fellow at the University of Lethbridge’s Centre for Oral History and Tradition (COHT), grew up in Sturgeon County. Este is a professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary.

Bailey and Este interviewed 19 second- and third-generation descendants of the original settlers who left the United States to come to Western Canada between 1905 and 1912.

“It’s a fascinating history,” Bailey said. “I learned a lot about discrimination in Alberta. What comes through in their stories is resilience. One woman said, ‘It’s just a part of who we are; it’s part of our daily lives.’”

Bailey went on to say that what stood out for her in making the film was that most Albertans have no idea about this history and these communities that helped build Alberta. “In general, I think Canadians like to think that we’re not very racist or a discriminatory nation. And the number of discrimination stories that come through in the interviews through all the age groups is pretty significant.”

We are the Roots will be shown at Morinville Community Cultural Centre on Monday, Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. and will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Dobbins, Bailey and Este.

The event is a free event. You can register at Eventbrite at, or contact the library.

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