You Can’t Stop the Truth: The Story of the Original Founding Members of the Sugarhill Gang

By Francesca D’Amico

When The Sugarhill Gang wrote and recorded “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979, little did they know that this single-take recording would serve as a template for establishing an audience and market for Hip Hop, and would also mark the beginning of their thirty year-long battle with contractual turmoil. This story is not new to African American artists. Rather, it has its historical antecedents in the 1920s when African American recordings first became commercially viable.

On February 16th, in its Canadian TIFF premiere, I Want My Name Back, directed by Roger Paradiso and produced by Josh Green, tells the story of the founding members of The Sugarhill Gang, Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien. Continue reading

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Visualizing the Past

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An inspiring historical visualization of Napoleon's 1812 campaign (please click to see it).

I have recently been trying to figure out good ways of representing large amounts of historical information in a way that makes sense to everybody who might stumble across my work! I think that a good graphic has the ability to draw readers into what we do, letting us convey the scope, joy, or horror of history without needing to read through often dense prose. In this post, I want to give a sense of what I think works, what doesn’t, and why we should start thinking about cool maps, graphs, and charts! Continue reading

The Shafia Murders, Immigration, and Misrepresenting Canadian Violence Against Women

By Sean Kheraj

George Cruikshank, "The Bottle" Plate VI (1848)

Public debate and media coverage of the Shafia family murder trial has obscured and misrepresented patriarchal violence against women in Canada. Following the guilty verdict last month, lead Crown prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis mistakenly proclaimed that, “[t]his verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and the core principles in a free and democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy.” The verdict and public discourse surrounding this horrific case of family abuse and murder misrepresents both the historical and contemporary status of women in Canada and the prevalence of spousal violence against women. The suggestion that the verdict was a “wake-up call” and an “École Polytechnique” moment for Canadian Muslims, as Sheema Khan wrote in the Globe and Mail last month, mistakenly implies that violence against women and misogyny are not endemic throughout all of Canadian society. Continue reading

Public History at the Department of National Defence

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Unidentified sappers of the Royal Canadian Engineers (R.C.E.) examining an unexploded German 15.5 cm. shell, Caen, France, 10 July 1944 Credit: Lieut. H. Gordon Aikman / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-162666 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired

By Dr. John Maker

I was recently involved in a major project for the Department of National Defence (DND), that epitomized some of the challenges and excitement of doing public history. It included important questions of public policy, public safety, and environmental contamination. The findings were put to use in practical and immediate ways to address areas of emergent need. The project also had its share of frustrations and barriers, which epitomized the practice of public history, especially the kind carried out for government departments. Continue reading

The Sound of Deafening Silence: A Case for Electro-Motive Workers in London, Ontario

By Ryan Kelly

What we have witnessed over the past month in London, Ontario is largely unprecedented and very troubling. After announcing record profits, Caterpillar locked out employees on New Year’s Day. The reason an agreement with this corporation could not be reached is simple; workers were unwilling to accept a decrease in wages of over 50 per cent in some cases, along with unpalatable cuts to pensions and benefits. After receiving five million dollars in tax breaks from the federal government, and locking out employees for a month, Caterpillar has relocated their operations from London to Indiana, a state which has recently passed “right to work” legislation.

My purpose is not to point fingers, or explore in minute detail the reasons why each side has reacted to this situation as they have. Instead, I want to delve into what we can do now. What are the next steps for everyone involved? Sadly, the 450 or more London workers have been left in a precarious position; they will need to face limited choices in a declining manufacturing sector, while the question of severance pay has yet to be settled. This will undoubtedly have a devastating impact on the lives of many involved. Can we pay our mortgages, contribute to our children’s educations, or continue to put food on the table? These are questions most of us never want to have to ask. Continue reading

The People’s Citizenship Guide

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Tonight, at McNally Robinson [please click for event information] in Winnipeg, The People’s Citizenship Guide: A Response to Conservative Canada will be launched.  This short 80-page book is a direct response to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, which has been widely critiqued for its restrictive and overly-politicized definition of Canadian identity (for examples or critiques see the Globe and Mail, Andrew Smith’s blog, my summary of initial reactions on, Ian McKay’s podcast on the right-wing reconception of Canada). As in the official immigration guide, The People’s Citizenship Guide’s editors, historians Esyllt Jones and Adele Perry, have brought together a diverse group of scholars in order to succinctly reflect on the nature of Canadian citizenship and modern-day Canada. Continue reading

Ottawa Historical Association Announcement

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The Ottawa Historical Association is pleased to announce that its next regular lecture will be delivered by Janice Cavell and Jeff Noakes on “Taking Hold of the North: The International Quest for an Arctic Continent, 1900-1930.” The lecture will take place on Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm in Room 2017, Dunton Tower, Carleton University, 101 Colonel By Drive. Please join us for a discussion and refreshments after the talk. Continue reading

The Changing Place of Foxes on Prince Edward Island

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by Ryan O’Connor

I grew up on Prince Edward Island. As a youth I heard stories of the once-booming silver fox industry, which brought considerable wealth to the province in the early 1900s. While fox ranching has long since ceased, one need look no further than the provincial armorial bearings, adopted in 2002, for a reminder of its former significance. Continue reading


“Hunger calls out, my reason bids me to eat” – John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

It’s beginning to look a lot like Valentine’s Day. Campus cafes have featured cinnamon dolce lattes and seasonal cards clutter bookstore windows. Despite limited scientific support, Canadians on-and-off campuses prepare to rush candy shops to purchase (perhaps unintentionally) a popular aphrodisiac: chocolate. It seems that our desire to lead active sex lives trumps active research into the medicinal quality of aphrodisiacs. What follows is a cursory glance at how when we eat with the expectation of love, we can sometimes confuse our desires with results. Continue reading

The Race Is On in Canada and the United States: A Tale of Two Political Cultures

While watching the NDP and Republican leadership races unfold in Canada and the United States, I’ve been struck by the very different political cultures of these two countries. This can be partly attributed to the divergent political philosophies of the right-wing Republican Party and the centre-left NDP. But the roots of these political cultures also extend much deeper into the histories of these nations.

Some media observers in Canada have suggested that in terms of excitement value, Canadian politics come out on the losing side, referring to the NDP leadership race as boring, or comparing the NDP ‘snoozefest’ to the ‘slugfest’ of the Republican race. As boring as Canadian politics may be to many, I for one am grateful to be able to participate in the more diverse political culture that has been built in Canada. Continue reading