Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

North of the Color Line: Migration and Black Resistance in Canada, 1870-1955

Document type Book
Author Mathieu, Sarah-Jane
Publisher University of North Carolina Press; Chapel Hill, NC
Date 2010
ISBN 978-0-8078-3429-9
Pages xv, 280 pages: illustrations, maps, photographs


This book examines life in Canada for the estimated 5,000 blacks, both African Americans and West Indians, who immigrated to Canada after the end of Reconstruction in the United States. Through the experiences of black railway workers and their union, the Order of Sleeping Car Porters, the author connects social, political, labor, immigration, and black diaspora history during the Jim Crow era. By World War I, sleeping car portering had become the exclusive province of black men. White railwaymen protested the presence of the black workers and insisted on a segregated workforce. Using the first-hand accounts of former sleeping car porters, the author shows that porters often found themselves leading racial uplift organizations, galvanizing their communities, and becoming the bedrock of civil rights activism. Examining the spread of segregation laws and practices in Canada, whose citizens often imagined themselves as devoid of racism, she historicizes Canadian racial attitudes and explores how black migrants brought their own sensibilities about race to Canada, participating in and changing political discourse there.