The Clio Prizes
Harvey Amani Whitfield, Biographical Dictionary of Enslaved Black People in the Maritimes. University of Toronto Press, 2022.
Harvey Amani Whitfield’s Biographical Dictionary of Enslaved Black People in the Maritimes is a breathtaking work of historical reconnaissance that stays with the reader long after they’ve set it down. In this important book, Whitfield draws on a wide array of primary sources to recover the lives of over 1400 Black men, women, and children who were enslaved in the Maritimes. Some of the biographical entries are detailed portraits of lives lived under a legal apparatus that valued them as property, not as people. Other entries are heartbreakingly brief, including many of those for the almost 300 unnamed persons contained in the book. Yet all are profound, and all are important. By bringing to light the lives – and in some cases the mere existence – of so many enslaved people in the Maritimes, Whitfield has given us an intimate view of the people most impacted by Canada’s legacy of slavery, and he has made a significant contribution to both Atlantic Canadian history and to Canadian history more broadly.