BLACK MIGRATION AS A RESPONSE TO REPRESSION: THE BACKGROUND FACTORS AND MIGRATION OF OKLAHOMA BLACKS TO WESTERN CANADA 1905-1912, AS A CASE STUDY
Shepard, Robert Bruce
Between 1905 and 1912 several hundred black men, women, and children migrated from the United States to Western Canada. They came principally from Oklahoma, although there were some individuals and families from Kansas and Texas; and they settled in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Their exact numbers are difficult to determine, but the Canadian Census of,l92l showed one thousand four hundred and forty-four blacks living in the two prairie provinces in that year.1 Their small trek was "part of the larger movement of Afro-Americans out of the older Southern states from the Reconstruction period until after the First World War. They were former slaves and the descendents of ex-slaves who had moved west ,in the 1870's, 1880's, and 1890's trying to escape racial oppression, and find land. This thesis argues that black migration was a response to repression, and was but one manifestation of Afro-American resentment at their condition. On the more immediate reasons for the black trek to Canada, the thesis examines 'why white Oklahomans sought to segregate and then disfranchise their black neighbours, and how they went about it. The black reaction to these developments, and how some black Oklahomans came to see Western Canada as a possible haven are scrutinized. The popular Western Canadian reaction to the black influx, and the Canadian Government's ultimately successful attempts to halt the flow are then examined.