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Northern Star produces high quality educational products that respectfully highlight the values exemplified and significant contributions made by individuals within diverse ethnic minorities throughout North American history.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was born a slave in 1820 in Bucktown, Maryland.  With her great strength, endurance and will she escaped to Canada.  Harriet Tubman lived in St.Catharines, Ontario, where she was active and dedicated in supporting the Underground Railroad to free blacks from slavery.  Harriet was such a remarkable women that her name was well-known throughout Canada, and  many called her “Moses” because she freed her people.  She made the trip across the border nineteen times in these attempts to free the slaves.  Harriet had become America’s most wanted person because she was successful at freeing slaves.  She would carry those who were not able to help themselves, by the help of her faith in God. She did anything to maintain her interdependence and supported twenty people at one time.  Harriet Tubman died on March 10, 1913 in Auburn, New York.

In April 2016 Harriet Tubman was announced to be the new face of the US $20 bill.

Viola Desmond

Viola Davis Desmond (1914–1965) was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was an African-Canadian who ran her own beauty parlor and beauty college in Halifax. On November 8, 1946, while waiting for her car to be repaired, she decided to go see a movie in the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow. She refused to sit in the balcony, which was designated exclusively for Blacks. Instead, she sat on the ground floor, which was for Whites only. She was forcibly removed and arrested.

Viola was found guilty of not paying the one-cent difference in tax on the balcony ticket. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail and paid a $26 fine. The trial mainly focused on the issue of tax evasion and not on the discriminatory practices of the theatre. Dissatisfied with the verdict, the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, with Viola’s help, took the case to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. The conviction was upheld.

Eventually, Viola Desmond settled in New York where she died.

On April 15, 2010, the province of Nova Scotia granted an official apology and a free pardon to Viola. Lieutenant-Governor Mayann Francis, the first black person to serve as the Queen’s representative in the province of Nova Scotia, presided over a ceremony in Halifax and exercised the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to grant a free pardon to her. Viola’s 83-year-old sister, Wanda Robson, was there to accept the apology. Premier Darrell Dexter also apologized to Viola’s family and all black Nova Scotians for the racism she was subjected to in an incident he called unjust.

December 2016, Viola Desmond was announced as the new face of the Canadian $10 bill.

All images and portraits are owned in their entirety by Follow the Northern Star. Any copying or reuse of these images without permission is prohibited.

If you would like to use them in your project, contact us for more information about licensing and usage guidelines.

Recognizing North American Black History

Black History Month began in the United States as “Negro History Week” in February 1926, through the work of African American scholar Dr. Carter G. Woodson. His aim was to raise awareness and understanding in the school curriculum of the African experience around the world. The United States began to formally celebrate Black History Month in the 1960s. Through community activities, organizers sought to present a more balanced and accurate picture of Black history.

In the 1950’s, community organizations such as the Canadian Negro Women’s Association began to celebrate the importance of the history of the black community in Toronto. In 1979, Toronto became the first municipality in Canada to proclaim Black History Month through efforts of many individuals and organizations such as the Ontario Black History Society. In 1995, Toronto Area MP Jean Augustine introduced a motion which was passed unanimously by the House of Commons to recognize Black History Month across Canada.

Black History Month is an opportunity for people to recognize the past and present contributions that African Canadians make in such areas as education, medicine, art, culture, public service, economic development, politics and human rights.

About Us

Northern Star founder, Marsha Barrow Smith was born and raised in Toronto. She attended York University where she achieved a double major in Political Science and the Humanities, as well as a Masters in Canadian History with an emphasis on African Canadian History. Marsha’s lifelong passion for Canadian and American Black History motivated her desire to create quality products highlighting the contributions made upon North American society by refugees and immigrants. Accompanied by her husband, an officer in the United States Army, and their two children, Marsha has had the opportunity to experience living and traveling worldwide.

Artist Credit

Our products would not be possible without the following contributors:

  • The Legacy of Leadership portraits were drawn by Christian Elden of Elden Creative Group.
  • The Legacy of Leadership lesson plans were created by Trisha Curling.
  • Kate of PageLauncher.com was instrumental in our poster and lesson plan layout designs. She also designed, produced, and powers our website!