This collecting area brings together the archives of organizations, community groups, and individuals who played a role in and contributed to the development of Montreal’s Black communities. The following fonds and collections contain photographs, textual records, sound recordings, moving images, drawings, community papers, and other materials that help tell the stories of Montreal’s English-speaking Black communities, families and individuals.
Black History in Special Collections
Black History archives and collections at Concordia University Library tell stories of Montreal’s English-speaking Black communities and preserve the histories of community-based organizations and the lives of members of the city’s Black communities more broadly. Through an exploration of community newspapers, reports, journals, photographs, video and audio recordings, posters and flyers, among other types of documents, researchers and students are able to learn about Montreal’s Black communities directly from the records created by communities themselves.
Concordia University Library’s Special Collections is committed to building collections that preserve the histories and memories of Montreal’s English-speaking Black communities. The archive of the Negro Community Centre (NCC)/Charles H. Este Cultural Centre, acquired in 2012, is the pillar of this community of records and was the foundation upon which the Black History and community archives collecting area was built. Since 2012, this area has grown exponentially with the addition of archives and collections documenting the rich histories, contributions, and interests of Montreal’s Black English-speaking communities.
Contact the Library’s Special Collections to make an appointment to view the materials described on this page.
The Negro Community Centre (NCC)/Charles H. Este Cultural Centre fonds documents the history and contributions of this important community Centre, established in 1927 under the leadership of Charles H. Este, pastor of Union United Church in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighborhood. This archive contains records documenting the administration, programs and services offered at the NCC, as well as the contributions of its staff, volunteers, and members. Containing more than 30 linear meters of textual records, 2071 photographs and other items, this fonds is a rich resource sharing the stories of the English-speaking Black community based in Little Burgundy.
The Graeme Clyke fonds documents the life and work of photographer Graeme Clyke. This fonds contains materials created and accumulated by Graeme Clyke related to the Negro Community Centre (NCC), Union United Church, Royal Arthur School, Little Burgundy, and Saint-Henri. Containing 186 photographs and about 2 cm of textual records, this fonds is an important portrait of Montreal’s English-speaking Black community based in Montreal Little Burgundy neighborhood and provides a lens into several community activities and events, including sports, summer camps, and dance and music lessons at the NCC, and services at Union United.
The Maurice Tynes fonds provides insight into the life of Maurice Tynes, a Black soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces who served in the Second World War. The materials also provide a glimpse into his life in Little Burgundy, where he moved after the war.
The Leon Llewellyn fonds documents the life and work of Leon Llewellyn, artist and educator. It also helps tell the stories of the myriad Black community organizations that Leon Llewellyn was involved with throughout the years, including but not limited to the Black Studies Centre, Negro Community Centre, Cote-des Neiges Black Community Development Project, and the Quebec Board of Black Educators. The more than 350 photographic prints, 383 negative strips, 95 original drawings, and more than 30 inches of textual records provide valuable insight into the many organizations and individuals at the centre of Montreal’s English-speaking Black communities from the 1960s to today. This archive also contains copies of important community papers.
The Black Theater Workshop fonds documents the history, programming and administration of the Black Theater Workshop, the oldest Black theater company in Canada. Containing more that 8 meters of textual records, 3759 photographs, 150 drawings, 100 moving images, and 91 sound recordings, among other textual and graphic material, this fonds is a rich resource documenting the contributions of this storied theater company to Montreal’s Black communities and to theater in Canada.
The Black Studies Centre fonds documents the contributions of this important community organization, including its administration, services, and programming activities.This archive provides insight into Centre’s role within Montreal’s Black communities, as well as its relationships to other organizations working within and outside Montreal. It is also an important source of reference documentation pertaining to the history, culture, and contributions of Black communities in Canada and contains a rich collection of newspapers, periodicals, and books.
The Oral History-Montreal Studies program, as reflected in the Oral History-Montreal Studies collection, was established to help document the history of Montreal and its surrounding areas. Some of the associated projects document the histories and contributions of Montreal’s Black communities, including “Little Burgundy/La Petite Bourgogne” and “Black Montrealers: A Piece of the Multicultural Mosaic.”
The Sur Rodney Sur fonds documents the life and work of Sur Rodney (Sur), Canadian visual and multimedia performance artist also known for his work as an archivist, writer and curator, and for his impact on the awareness about AIDS/ HIV and the AIDS crisis in the arts scene. Containing documents reaching back to his childhood in Montreal to today, the fonds provides valuable insight into Sur Rodney’s contributions as an artist and activist. The archive includes more than 1 meter of textual records, 1050 photographs, and 10 original artworks, among other material.
The Desmond Rupert Adams fonds documents the life and work of Desmond Rupert Adams, a Montreal-based photographer and former porter and musician. His archive includes thousands of photographs and also contains numerous textual records, cassettes, and objects. The Desmond Rupert Adams fonds contains about 4 linear meters of photographs, many of which show members of Montreal’s Black communities, both in the studio and in their homes.
The Quinn collection includes court transcripts relating to the occupation of the Sir George Williams University Computer Center in 1969, known as the Sir George Williams Affair.
The Kenya National Archives Microfilm collection consists of microfilmed archival materials documenting the actions and activities of the British colonial and the post-colonial governments in Kenya between the late 1880s through the early 1960s. The 139 microfilm reels that compose this collection contain copies of government records, including annual and quarterly reports, intelligence reports, correspondence, secretariat circulars, and record books, amongst others. These once confidential records serve to document the economic, social, religious, and political upheavals in Kenya in the twentieth century leading to its independence from the United Kingdom in 1963.
The African Newspaper collection consists of copies of Taifa Leo (1979-1988; 1992-1996), the Daily Nation and Sunday Nation (1979-1985), and The Standard (1982-1995).
The Ralph Whims collection contains documents compiled by Ralph Whims, an educator and a Board member and volunteer at the Negro Community Centre (NCC) in Montreal. This collection contains documents pertaining to the NCC, Union United Church, and the Coloured Women’s Club, among other community organizations within Montreal’s Black communities. This collection also contains materials relating to the history of Jazz in Montreal, including the documentary film Show Girls / Les Girls by Meilan Lam, featuring Whims’ mother Bernice Jordan Whims.
The Alfie Roberts and Patricia Cambridge collection contains more than 17 linear meters of archival and published material documenting the life, work, and interests of Alfie Roberts and Patricia Cambridge. The collection is comprised mostly of textual records, but also includes 961 photographs, 25 posters, and 13 drawings, along with other items. Significantly, the collection contains evidence of Roberts and Cambridge’s contributions to Black community organizations and committees, including but not limited to the St. Vincent and Grenadines Association of Montreal, the Black Community Council of Quebec, the Emancipation 150 Committee, and Project Genesis. The collection includes documentation pertaining to Black community organizations in Montreal, Quebec, across Canada, and beyond. It also includes an extensive assortment of community newspaper – both local, national, and international – as well as rare and hard-to-find periodicals, books, booklets, and pamphlets.
The African Government Documents collection is composed of government documents dating from 1888 until 1988. The documents are predominantly from the period between 1950 and 1975 and primarily concern the following areas: Bechuanaland Protectorate, East Africa, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Nyasaland, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
The Franklyn Harvey collection contains books, periodicals, and other documents that composed the library of Franklyn Harvey. This material is indicative of Harvey's interest and involvement in the Caribbean left and serves to document, among other topics, the Caribbean left; activism in the Caribbean; politics, economic growth, change, and renewal in the Caribbean; political economy; communism; socialism; nationalism; power; and poverty. This collection contains 275 textual documents, mostly in English, among other documents.
This collecting area brings together archives documenting the history of jazz and improvised music in Quebec. Many archives in this area contain materials related to the histories and contributions of Black musicians, artists and dancers. Little Burgundy, a mixed-race neighborhood home to members of Montreal’s English-speaking Black community since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was also intimately connected to jazz and nightlife in the city. Many important clubs, including Rockhead’s Paradise and Café St. Michel, were based in the neighborhood. The following fonds and collections contain photographs, textual records, sound recordings and moving images documenting the lives and careers of Black musicians, artists, and dancers.
The John Gilmore fonds contains materials documenting the life, career, and research of John Gilmore, a Montreal-born author, jazz historian, and former journalist and educator. This fonds contains significant information documenting the social and musical history of jazz, improvised music, nightclubs, and nightlife in Montreal from the early 20th century to the present. The fonds contains myriad photographs and textual records concerning the lives and work of Black musicians in Montreal, elsewhere in Quebec, and in Ontario. Among many other documents, it contains audio interviews with numerous Black musicians, including Oliver Jones, Nelson Symonds, Norman Marshall Villeneuve, Myron Sutton, Herb Johnson, Clyde Duncan, Walter Bacon, Buddy Jordan, Al Cowans, Joe Sealy, Allan Wellman, Billy Horne, Vernon Isaac, Stan Patrick, Bill Kersey, and Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr, conducted by John Gilmore in preparation for his books Swinging in Paradise: The Story of Jazz in Montreal (1988, 2011) and Who's Who of Jazz in Montreal: Ragtime to 1970 (1989). This fonds also contains information about Montreal nightclubs, including Rockhead’s Paradise, Café St-Michel, and the Terminal Club, located in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood.
The Johnny Holmes fonds contains an important photographic record of jazz and big band musicians, dance halls, and nightclubs in Montreal. The fonds provides insight into the musical development and early life and work of Oscar Peterson, who was a member of the Johnny Holmes Orchestra from 1942 to 1947. The fonds provides information on jazz music in Montreal, predominantly during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Clyde Duncan fonds provides insight into Clyde Duncan's career as a jazz musician. Duncan played bass with Myron Sutton’s Canadian Ambassadors, recognized as one of the first organized all Black jazz bands in Canada. He saved documentations related to his musical engagements and the Canadian Federation of Musicians, including contracts, concert programs, press clippings, photographs, and sound recordings, which form part of this fonds.
The Myron Sutton fonds provides an overview of Myron Sutton's musical career in the United States and Canada, particularly Montreal. It documents the careers of the various bands with which Myron Sutton was affiliated, and those he led, including the Royal Ambassadors and the Canadian Ambassadors, recognized as one of the first organized all Black jazz bands in Canada. It also provides general information on the jazz music scene and Montreal nightlife during the 1930s. Among other documents, this fonds includes Myron Suttons scrapbooks, which contain correspondence, contracts, clippings and photographs. This fonds also provides insight into Myron Sutton’s travels throughout Canada and the United states and some of the challenges he faced as a Black musician.
The Tina Brereton fonds provides insight into the life of Tina Brereton, née Baines, a dancer in what may have been the first all-Canadian Black chorus line in Montreal. The fonds contains 32 photographs from the 1940s when Tina Brereton, along with Bernice Jordan Whims and Olga Spencer Foderingham, danced in stage shows at Café St-Michel in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood.
The Concordia University Archives Jazz collection contains documents pertaining to the history of jazz, nightclub entertainment, and nightlife in Montreal from the 1930s through the 1960s. The collection includes memorabilia from Montreal nightclubs; photographs of Rockhead's Paradise and owner Rufus Rockhead; sheet music; sound recordings; and copies of television shows about jazz pianists Oliver Jones and Oscar Peterson.
The Herb Johnson fonds contains materials created and collected by Herb Johnson and provide insight into his career as a musical performer, combo and dance band leader, and musicians' union member and executive, as well as his personal interests and personal life. The fonds documents the dance band and jazz music scene from the 1930s through the 1980s, primarily in Montreal. It is a valuable source of documentation on the bebop style of jazz that emerged in the 1940s, and of documentation related to the Senior Musicians' Association and Orchestra. The fonds provides a lens into Jazz clubs located in Little Burgundy and showcases the work of Black musicians in the mid-twentieth century.
The Meilan Lam fonds provides important insight into Montreal's Black jazz scene from the 1920s to the 1960s and chronicles the lives of three women - Tina Baines Brereton, Bernice Jordan Whims, and Olga Spencer Foderingham - who danced in night clubs such as Rockhead's Paradise, The Terminal, and Café St. Michel in the Montreal neighborhood of Little Burgundy. The fonds consists of materials gathered, and in some cases created, during preparations for the National Film Board of Canada's production of Show Girls / Les Girls, directed by Meilan Lam.
The Norman Marshall Villeneuve fonds documents Norman Marshall Villeneuve’s career as a jazz musician. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Norman Marshall Villeneuve worked at several clubs in Montreal, including Rockhead’s Paradise, the Black Bottom and Café la Bohème in Little Burgundy. This fonds provides insight into the jazz music scene in Montreal and Toronto, and includes photographs, posters, programs, newspaper clippings, drawings, and notes, among other documentation.
The Ralph Whims collection contains documents compiled by Ralph Whims, an educator and a Board member and volunteer at the Negro Community Centre (NCC) in Montreal. This collection contains documents pertaining to the NCC, Union United Church, and the Coloured Women’s Club, among other community organizations from within Montreal’s Black communities. This collection also contains materials relating to the history of Jazz in Montreal, including the documentary film Show Girls / Les Girls by Meilan Lam, featuring Whims’ mother Bernice Jordan Whims.