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Dr. Dorothy Williams, a prominent historian, author, and researcher specializing in the history of Black Canadians, has been selected as one of the recipients of the prestigious Library and Archives Canada Scholar Awards for 2023. The awards, co-presented by the LAC Foundation and Library and Archives Canada, aim to honour remarkable Canadians who have made exceptional contributions to the promotion and creation of the country's culture, literary heritage, and historical knowledge. The recognition is supported by the Founding Sponsor Air Canada and underscores the importance of acknowledging individuals who champion Library and Archives Canada's fundamental mission of promoting all aspects of Canadian culture domestically and internationally.

Library and Archives Canada, serving as the custodian of Canada's distant past and recent history, plays a vital role as a resource for Canadians seeking a deeper understanding of their individual and collective identities. The recognition of outstanding individuals like Dr. Dorothy Williams emphasizes the increasingly democratic nature of preserving and disseminating heritage, transcending the confines of traditional knowledge development environments.

Dr. Williams, who serves as a member of the board of directors for QAHN (Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network), has dedicated her career to expanding Canada's cultural and historical heritage through her extensive research, public presentations, and collaborations with the National Film Board of Canada. Her efforts have focused on making resources related to the historical presence of Black Canadians more accessible to the public.

Growing up in Montreal's historic Black community of Little Burgundy, Dr. Williams published her first book, Blacks in Montreal, 1628-1986: An Urban Demography , in 1989 as part of a study on racism in Montreal's rental housing, commissioned by the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

Her second book, The Road to Now: A History of Blacks in Montreal , published in 1997, remains the only chronological study of Blacks on the island of Montreal. Driven by the objective of making Black history widely accessible, Dr. Williams established the non-profit organization Ethnocultural Diffusions in 1995 to collect the oral history of Blacks in Montreal. In 2006, she founded Inc., a platform dedicated to documenting Canada's Black history sources. As part of their initiatives, Blacbiblio launched the ABC's of Canadian Black History kit in 2016 to promote the teaching of Black history in Canadian schools. Additionally, Dr. Williams teaches the popular course "Black Montreal" at Concordia University, aiming to dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding Montreal's Black history.

Dr. Dorothy Williams has garnered numerous accolades throughout her career, including the Mathieu da Costa Award and the ALA's prestigious E.J. Josey Scholarship, being the first Canadian to receive the latter. Her contributions have been recognized with the Quebec Laureate distinction in 2002 and the Anne Greenup Award for her fight against racism and promotion of civic participation. In 2022, she received the John G. Dennison Award, honouring her research, scholarly publications, teaching, and public speaking engagements showcasing ​Canada's Black History.

In recognition of her efforts to bring Quebec's Black history to the forefront, Dr. Williams was honoured as the subject of the inaugural exhibition at Afromuseum, Quebec's first Black museum, in 2022. CBC Quebec also named her one of the 2022 Black Changemakers, further highlighting her significant contributions to the province.

Dr. Dorothy Williams' selection as a recipient of the Library and Archives Canada Scholar Awards reaffirms her influential role in expanding the understanding and appreciation of Black Canadian history. Her tireless work in researching, writing, and teaching has not only enriched the cultural fabric of Canada but has also paved the way for a more inclusive and comprehensive exploration of the nation's heritage.

Photo: Dorothy Williams

Photo credit: Mark Leslie

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