About the Canada Conference

Over the past twenty years, more and more Canadianists and post-colonialists, in Canada and abroad, and across varied academic disciplines, have come to view African-or Black-Canada and its culture(s) as providing a distinct perspective on both Canada itself as well as on the African Diaspora. The purpose of this workshop is to assemble interested scholars from Canada and beyond to share research and thought about African/Black Canadian literature and culture, history and polity, with an emphasis on "(re)locating" African/Black Canada in the world. In other words, the workshop gestures toward placing African/Black Canadian letters and authors vehemently on a global stage . . .

The Canada Program, made possible by the William Lyon Mackenzie King endowment, presents rich intellectual opportunities for Canadian studies at Harvard: graduate and undergraduate courses offered by distinguished visiting Canadian scholars across the social sciences and professional schools, dissertation research grants for Harvard graduate students, thesis research and travel funding for Harvard undergraduates, a vibrant seminar series of esteemed Canadian guest speakers, and an annual faculty-led conference.

The endowment was established in 1967 following a campaign spearheaded by David Rockefeller, who wished to honor William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874–1950), a great friend of his father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. A Harvard graduate, Mackenzie King was deputy minister of labour in Canada when, in 1914, he was recruited as an industrial consultant tasked with brokering an agreement between management and labor workers at the Rockefeller-controlled Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. According to Harvard's Directory of Named Chairs, a dispute between management and labor had resulted in “a long, bitter and bloody strike against the company.” And, “[w]hile Rockefeller hoped King would help extricate his company from a labor dilemma which he believed had been badly handled, he had a larger purpose in urging the Rockefeller Foundation to use the Colorado situation as a means of recommending a plan of broad application to industrial relations generally.” King managed the situation, helped amend public perception of Rockefeller, and produced a book for the Foundation, Industry and Humanity (1918). After a time as industrial adviser to a number of American utility and extraction firms, King returned to Canadian politics, took leadership of the Liberal Party, and went on to serve Canada as prime minister for a collective 22 years.

In 1967, the president of the University of Toronto, Professor Claude T. Bissell, was named the first William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies. Bissell’s research assistant at the time was Michael Bliss, a distinguished Canadian historian, author, and former University of Toronto professor. Their time at Harvard was, Bliss recently noted, “one of the happiest years of our lives.”

In 2013–2014, George Elliott Clarke, poet laureate of the City of Toronto and a professor of English at the University of Toronto, joins the Canada Program as the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies. Professor Clarke is appointed through Harvard’s Department of English and is teaching a fall undergraduate course, Black Like Who? and a spring graduate course, Black Epics of the Americas, while organizing the year’s seminar series and a faculty conference.

Jacob Remes, assistant professor and mentor of public affairs and history at the Metropolitan Center at State university of New York’s Empire State College is the named WLMK Research Fellow for 2013–2014. Professor Remes is appointed through the Department of History at Harvard and is teaching two courses: a fall 2013 proseminar, Readings on 19th and 20th Century Canada, and the spring 2014 conference course, Migration and Relations between Canada and the United States.