Trailblazing Black Women in Alberta

Not only is February Black History Month, but we are in the middle of what the United Nations has proclaimed The International Decade for People of African Descent (2014-2025). To celebrate, we’re shining a spotlight on some trailblazing Black women in Alberta.

1)    Violet King Henry


Violet King Henry (1929–1982) was the first Black person to obtain a law degree in Alberta, as well as the first Black female lawyer in Canada. She attended the University of Alberta and was the only woman in her graduating class. She spoke publicly about racism and sexism and fought to break down barriers for Black people in Canada.

2)    Deborah Dobbins


Deborah Dobbins founded the Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots and helped produce the award-winning documentary, We Are the Roots: Black Settlers and Their Experiences of Discrimination on the Canadian Prairies. The film will premiere at the Shiloh Baptist Church (10727-114 St.) on February 24 at 6 pm, after which it will be available online.

3)    Rahma Mohamed


When Rahma Mohamed (pen name Rahma Rodaah) realized that there was little to no representation of Black Muslim characters to share with her children, Rahma took it upon herself to create some. She is now the self-published author of two children’s books: Muhiima’s Quest and Little Brother for Sale.

4)    Grace Mahary


The Eritrean-Canadian model was born in Edmonton and won the ELLE Canada/Quebec model search in 2005. In 2014, she was the only Canadian model to walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. She has walked more than 200 runways throughout her career and has been featured in various magazines

5)    Virnetta Nelson Anderson


Virnetta Nelson Anderson (1920–2006) was the first Black person elected to Calgary City Council, serving as a councillor from 1974-1977. She had previously been the president of Meals on Wheels and was a board member for the United Way and the Calgary Centre for Performing Arts.

This is, of course, not a comprehensive history. Many scholars, activists, and citizens are highlighting Black History and current events on a daily basis. We suggest checking some of them out: @OBHistory, @BWUnitedYEG, @MalindaSmith, @BashirMohamed, @NHenryFundi.

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