Fredericton's Queen Street showcases Black history

·2 min read

Twenty-eight banners have been affixed to light posts along Fredericton's Queen Street to celebrate New Brunswick's Black history.

Each banner features an important Black New Brunswicker, and while some of their stories are more well known than others, Marie Maltais, director of the UNB Art Centre, said they're all important.

"These are remarkable people by any standards," said Maltais.

"It's time we learned about them."

The project is based off a UNB Art Centre exhibition from last year called Rediscovering the Roots of Black New Brunswickers.

Maltais said she wanted to do something that was more accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"How do we give these things pride of place? How do we give them the respect that they deserve? So I contacted the city and discussed it with them and they said, yes, go ahead," said Maltais.

Mary Louise McCarthy-Brant, a board member of the New Brunswick Black History Society who consulted on the project, said it is important not just for what it does to remember the past, but what it can do for the future.

"It's remembering our ancestors," said McCarthy-Brant.

"It's also given light to the next generation to say we can be recorded in history and our voices matter and our voices have been silenced. So [it's] very important."

While the banners include names that would be recognizable to most New Brunswickers, like Willie O'Ree and Measha Brueggergosman, other lesser known names are also included.

Maltais points to Mary Matilda Winslow, the first Black woman to attend the University of New Brunswick.

Lauren Bird/CBC
Lauren Bird/CBC

"Her desire to educate and her experience of prejudice really touched my heart," said Maltais.

She also cites Saint John entrepreneur Georgina Whetsel.

"Her husband had an ice company and then when he died, she took it over and ran it very, very successfully, increased it," said Maltais.

"I understand that when she sold the business in the early 1900s, she was one of the wealthiest Black women in North America."

The banners will remain throughout the month of February to mark Black History Month.