Campus Life

History professor Bailey to be honoured with national award

University of Lethbridge adjunct history professor Dr. Jenna Bailey will receive the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming for her work with Edmonton’s Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots (SCMR).

Dr. Jenna Bailey

Bailey, who is also a filmmaker and senior research fellow at the U of L’s Centre for Oral History and Tradition (COHT), collaborated with SCMR president Deborah Dobbins and Dr. David Este, a University of Calgary professor and expert on immigrant and refugee experiences in Canada, to produce the award-winning, hour-long video “We Are the Roots: Black Settlers and their Experiences of Discrimination on the Canadian Prairies”.

The group used voices of today to preserve the history of African American settlers who immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s. The award, which recognizes innovative projects that encourage communities to explore and share unique aspects of the past, will be presented by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada on January 28, 2019, at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa.

"Working on this project was an incredible learning experience for me,” says Bailey. “It was a privilege to have the opportunity to collaborate with wonderful colleagues and interviewees in order to record and preserve this important part of Canadian history. Having our efforts recognized by the Governor General's History awards is both a thrill and an honour and speaks to the significance of the stories shared by the descendants of Western Canada's black settlers."

The documentary shines a light on the struggles and successes of African American settlers – from the demanding land they fought to farm and the discrimination they faced, to forming the foundations of their communities: the churches, schools, and businesses, and the relationships that connected them. The video shares century-old memories of marginalization, reflections on resilience, and explores the question, “What can be done to end discrimination?”

Funded by the Alberta Human Rights Education and Multicultural Fund, the video has been shown at community churches, libraries, and universities, and is available online at The film was first shown in Edmonton in February during Black History Month and has gone on to win several high-profile awards, including the Elizabeth B. Mason Project Award and the Oral History in Nonprint Format awards from the Oral History Association, as well as the Heritage Awareness Award from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation.

“It is with deep appreciation and gratitude that we receive this award,” says Dobbins. “The Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots is humbled by this honour that acknowledges our human-rights struggle is an important part of history that needs to be brought to light.”

“With this documentary video, the Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots has connected past and present, giving a voice to stories that enrich our understanding of Canada,” says Janet Walker, President and CEO of Canada’s History Society.

The Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming is administered by Canada’s History Society and comes with a $2,500 prize.