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A Panel on the History of Black Railway Porters in Canada

This panel discussion is a part of Museum of Toronto's award-winning digital exhibition Derailed: the History of Black Railway Porters in Canada.

From the late 1800s to mid 1900s, Canada’s Black Railway Porters were a group of workers who disrupted the system, becoming instrumental in leading the fight for fair employment practices and anti-discriminatory laws. Step back in time and learn about the lives of these pioneers whose tireless work, on and off the track, were instrumental in paving a new path for greater equality in Canada.

Join us for this panel discussion featuring a dramatic reading which looks at the lives of pioneers who paved a new path for a more inclusive Canada.

The panel discussion and dramatic reading is inspired by the book, “They Call Me George: The Untold Story of the Black Train Porters” by Cecil Foster. Cecil Foster will also be reading an excerpt from his book.

The dramatic reading is from a play written by Playwright Meghan Swaby at the Museum of Toronto’s Intersections project scheduled for this April. The dramatic reading will be performed by Peter Bailey.

Visit our recent online exhibit about the Black Railway Porters in Canadato learn more about them and their fight for equality.

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Derailed: The History of Black Railway Porters in Canada

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Railway Porters and the Black Canadian Experience after World War II​

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Toronto, the Centre of an Emerging Post-War Canada

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Cecil Foster is a leading author, academic, journalist and public intellectual. His work speaks about the challenges that Black people have encountered historically in Canada in their efforts to achieve respect and recognition for their contribution to what is now a multicultural Canada. He highlights their fight for social justice and human dignity. In particular, Foster addresses the issues of immigration in his critical discussions on who is a Canadian in the ever-evolving social narrative toward a genuine multicultural Canada.

Meghan Swaby is an actor and playwright born and raised in Toronto. Her play Venus’ Daughter was produced by Obsidian Theatre in 2016 and was recently included on The SureFire List (Playwrights Guild of Canada) as one of the top 23 recommended plays in Canada. She has participated in various playwrighting programs over the years, such as; Nightwood Theatre’s Write from the Hip, Diaspora Dialogues Playwright Residency and The Stratford Festivals’ Playwrights Retreat. In 2017, Meghan was one of 50 playwrights selected to have their work included in, 50in50: Writing Black Women Into Existence which was curated by Dominique Morisseau at the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, New York. She is a past participant of Playwrights Workshop Montreal and The CEAD Writers’ residency in Gros Morne, Newfoundland. There she gazed lovely at mountains and worked away on her new play, Breadfruit.

Natasha Henry is currently completing a PhD in History at York University, researching the enslavement of Africans in early Ontario and is a 2018 Vanier Scholarship recipient. Natasha is the president of theOntario Black History Society She is a historian and has been an educator for 20 years. She is an award-winning author and an award-winning curriculum developer, focusing on Black Canadian experiences. Through her various professional, academic, and community roles, Natasha’s work is grounded in her commitment to research, collect, preserve, and disseminate the histories Black Canadians.

Peter Bailey Drayton Entertainment: Debut, Cahoots Theatre Co. & Obsidian Theatre: Other Side of the Game. Stratford Shakespeare Festival: To Kill a Mockingbird, An Ideal Husband. Black Theatre Workshop: A Raisin in the Sun, Come Good Rain, Canadian Stage: Romeo & Juliet, Sweat. Fairview. The Theatre Centre: We Are the Fragments. The Blyth Festival: The Wilberforce Hotel, A World Without Shadows, Jumbo: New Harlem Productions: Gas Girls, Persephone Theatre: A Man A Fish. The Grand Theatre: Fences. Film & TV: Saving Hope (ICF Films). Killjoys, (Temple Street Prod). The Detail, The Lead One Prod. Designated Survivor (ABC Studios).


Cheryl Blackman is the Director of Museums and Heritage Services with the City of Toronto where she is responsible for the ten city-owned and operated historical museums, the city collection of historical objects, archaeological specimens, moveable fine art and an extensive portfolio of heritage buildings. Prior to joining the City of Toronto, Cheryl served as the Assistant Vice-President of Audience Development at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Her responsibilities included managing the front of house, audience research, and acting as the Museum’s liaison to more than 1300 Volunteers. She established the ROM’s Community Access Network (ROMCAN) which she grew to more than 80 partnerships with community organizations. Cheryl holds a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), and a Master of Business Administration (MBA), and is a Fellow of Inclusion and Philanthropy from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). She is the Chair of the Board at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

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