New free online course highlights the significant impact of Black Canadians

The U of A’s latest micro-course opens learning opportunity to all as a way to meaningfully heed Black-led calls in imagining an anti-racist future.

EDMONTON — The University of Alberta is highlighting the history and contributions of Black Canadians through a new publicly-available free online micro-course. Through four short modules, Black Canadians: History, Presence, and Anti-Racist Futures explores the legacy of systemic racism and unconscious racial bias in Canadian institutions.

"Anti-Black racism is something that's systemic and structural," says Andy Knight, U of A political scientist and provost fellow in Black excellence and leadership, who developed the course with multidisciplinary artist Brandon Wint. "I call it polite racism because in Canada we have a tendency to sweep things under the rug. We don't like to talk about the nasty elements of the way Black people are treated."

The course aims to expose the wider community to the gaps of knowledge about Black history and the Black lived experience. Knight points to a common impression that the history of Black people began with transatlantic slavery, but it's important to acknowledge the long history before that time. The course serves as a tribute to stories of Black migration, struggle, community building, and activism and features lessons on the role of Black people in the country's founding and the Underground Railroad, along with the civil rights movement. It will also highlight Black Canadian artists, musicians, and writers.

The knowledge and array of reflections presented in Black Canadians is a response to the social and political moment in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in 2020.

"It was at that point that I decided we had to speak up about Black history and the Black lived experience", explains Knight. "Perhaps not in a confrontational way, but rather to remind people that Blackness and whiteness are ideological constructs they're not real things." As Knight puts it: "If something is constructed, it can be deconstructed."

Black Canadians is one of more than 35 U of A courses hosted on Coursera. Developed and hosted by the faculties of Arts, Native Studies, and Science, the courses have registered some two million students from nearly 180 countries.

More information can be found here. To speak with Andy Knight, please contact:

Sarah Vernon | University of Alberta communications associate |