Fully Known: Cotton Production, Black History, and the Canadian Experience

History Is Rarely Black or White Speaker Series

Charmaine Nelson and Shannon Prince join Jason Cyrus to investigate the ways in which cotton production in the United States forever changed the landscape of Canadian diversity. Together they tell the stories of Black people on both sides of the border by connecting the Victorian cotton industry with the Underground Railroad and settlement in Canada while addressing the related colonial legacies that still affect Black Canadian life today.


Speaker Biographies

Jason Cyrus analyzes fashion and textile history to explore questions of identity, cultural exchange and agency. He is the 2021 Isabel Bader Fellow in Textile Conservation and Research at the Agnes Etherington Centre, Queens University. This October he will present his research in History Is Rarely Black or White, an exhibition exploring Victorian cotton, slavery, and its ongoing legacies.

Cyrus has a Master’s Degree in Art History and Curatorial Studies from York University and starts his PhD in the History of Art at Warwick University in October 2021. He has held research posts at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum. In January 2020, he curated York University’s first fashion exhibition, ReFraming Gender.

Cyrus currently lives on land that has been the home of numerous Indigenous Nations, including the Wendat, Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabek, and most recently the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

Charmaine A. Nelson is a Canadian Professor of Art History and Tier I CRC in Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement. Nelson taught at McGill University from 2003 to 2020 before joining NSCAD University to develop the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery. She is the first tenured Black professor of art history in Canada. Nelson’s research interests include the visual culture of slavery, race and representation, Black Canadian studies and African Canadian Art History as well as critical theory, post-colonial studies, Black feminist scholarship, Transatlantic Slavery Studies and Black Diaspora Studies. The author of 7 books, Nelson has given over 260 lectures and talks across Canada and the USA, Mexico, Europe, and the Caribbean.

Shannon Prince is the Curator of the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum. She is also a Storyteller and participant in historical re-enactments which brings the history of Buxton and the Underground Railroad to life for many groups both here and further afield. Prince is a descendant of the early fugitive families that came to Canada for freedom and opportunity. As such, she brings insight and respect and a love for this chapter in our heritage.

Find more

Installation view of History Is Rarely Black or White.
Online Exhibition
History Is Rarely Black or White

Examine cotton garments in the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress at Agnes and their connection to the global cotton industry through archival research, artistic intervention, and scientific enquiry.

Image Credits

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