New Dawn: The Journal of Black Canadian Studies





New Dawn: The Journal of Black Canadian Studies is a scholarly journal with an attitude and point of view. New Dawn arises out of a collective desire to once and for all cement the field of Black Canadian Studies to the wider and larger developed fields of scholarship across the Humanities and the Social Sciences and to have an impact there. This journal’s existence points to the emergence and tenacity of a field that from the outset acknowledges that knowledge and its claims are politically inflected truth claims. By taking such a stance New Dawn seeks to offer readers traditional scholarship, debates and conversations, reflective and journalistic writing and reviews across a range of genres. In this fashion New Dawn draws on a history, a tradition even, of black diasporan cultural intervention and politics that refuses to rest solely within the confines of any one disciplinary field. New Dawn is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary — working within disciplines, crossings borders of disciplines and creatively mixing disciplines rendering them unrecognizable to their original form.


     The name of the journal pays tribute to the Dawn Settlement just outside Dresden in Southern Ontario. Dawn was a settlement established by ex-slaves from the U.S. seeking refuge from the draconian measures of the 1852 Fugitive Slave Law. Dawn’s most famous resident might be Josiah Henson, who is reputedly believed to be the model for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Uncle Tom. The ex-slaves and others (previously freed men and women) who settled Dawn advocated from across the border for the abolition of slavery in the U.S., and when the Civil War effort finally called for their participation a number of them joined the Union Army, re-crossing the Canada/US border. At the end of the Civil War most of Dawn’s residents reportedly returned to the US leading to the failure of the settlement. In the story of the return is an interesting commentary on Canada as refuge. New Dawn arises from such ashes.


      The contemporary situation of blacks in Canada is as intricate and complicated as it is diverse and difficult to assess. No one answer will or can suffice. Canadian history simultaneously denies a black history and then frames a history within a benevolent and multicultural paradigm of harmony. Caught between triumphant stories of the Underground Railroad and a more recent official multicultural narrative of ethnic difference and possibility much goes missing. New Dawn is as interested in uncovering what goes missing as it is interested in the before and after of the Underground Railroad and the multicultural narrative. In this way then, New Dawn seeks to capture it all — the triumphant and the shameful, the celebratory and the disappointing.


     As the story of New Dawn unfolds black Canadian peoples and their cultures will become more and more embedded in the thing we call Canadian-ness. As scholars, artists, and other interested parties our tasks is to make sense of, to document and to engage the terms, conditions and manifestations of black Canadian life in its broadest possible sense. Since the slave narratives, black diasporan peoples have been consciously aware of the political importance of documentation — New Dawn carries on that tradition anew and differently. This journal seeks to document the complicated relations of blackness, black Canadian-ness and all of its related and referential articulations, gestures, appearances and conditions.


     Thus New Dawn comes to us in a time of global turbulence. The war in the Middle East; the devastation of HIV/AIDS in Africa and other parts of the global south; ongoing struggles for civil and human rights for black peoples, Aboriginal and many racialized others in North America and elsewhere; and the continual and unabated waging of economic warfare on poor people globally regardless of race, religion or nation. What can scholarship bring to these times? What can a journal primarily, but not exclusively, devoted to black Canada offer us? New Dawn’s contributors demonstrate that a deep and resonant inter-connected humanism remains evident in a world that appears insane and inhumane. As such, as Editor of New Dawn my own interests and commitment to this project is driven by the radical humanism of W.E.B Dubois, Frantz Fanon, CLR James, Claudia Jones, Sylvia Wynter and a plethora of black diasporan scholars, thinkers, activists, artists and “everyday people” who have not only modeled but fashioned templates for thinking and living life differently than how it is often offered to us.


     Over the next few years New Dawn will publish work that draws on those pioneers, that re-works them and that works them over for our times whenever necessary. New Dawn will enter into conversations with other interested and invested parties; we will join with and contribute to challenges of Canadian and global institutions to do differently and to do better. Ideas matter, that is what the slave narrators bequeathed to their descendents, and that is what New Dawn hopes to continue to furnish, beginning with this inaugural issue.





Rinaldo Walcott, Editor