By Mabell, Dave on January 29, 2019.
An early Alberta history project has earned national recognition for a University of Lethbridge researcher.
Adjunct history professor Jenna Bailey and an Edmonton organization were selected for this year’s Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming.
Together, they worked to preserve the history of African American settlers who moved to northern Alberta in the early 1900s. As part of the project, they produced an award-winning, hour-long video “We Are the Roots: Black Settlers and their Experiences of Discrimination on the Canadian Prairies.”
Bailey worked with the Edmonton-based Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots as well as University of Calgary professor David Este – an expert on immigrant and refugee experiences in Canada – to capture the history as told by voices of today. She is also a filmmaker and a senior research fellow at the U of L’s Centre for Oral History and Tradition.
The national award, administered by Canada’s History Society, was presented Monday in Ottawa by Governor General Julie Payette. Its goal is recognition for innovative projects that encourage communities to explore and share unique aspects of Canada’s past.
“Working on this project was an incredible learning experience for me,” says Bailey, in a U of L news release. “It was a privilege to have the opportunity to collaborate with wonderful colleagues and interviewees in order to record and preserve this important part of Canadian history.
“Having our efforts recognized by the Governor General’s History awards is both a thrill and an honour and speaks to the significance of the stories shared by the descendants of Western Canada’s black settlers.”
The researchers’ documentary shines a light on the struggles and successes of African American settlers – from the marginal land they fought to farm and the discrimination they faced, to forming the foundations of their communities – the churches, schools and businesses, and the relationships that connected them.
Funded by the Alberta Human Rights Education and Multicultural Fund, the video has been shown at community churches, libraries and universities, and is available online at baileyandsoda.com. The video shares century-old memories of marginalization, reflections on resilience and explores the question, “What can be done to end discrimination?”
First shown in Edmonton last February during Black History Month, the video has earned several high-profile awards including the Elizabeth B. Mason Project Award and the Oral History in Nonprint Format awards from the Oral History Association, as well as the Heritage Awareness Award from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation.
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