North of the Color Line

Migration and Black Resistance in Canada, 1870-1955

By Sarah-Jane Mathieu

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 25 illus., 2 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7166-9
    Published: November 2010
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9939-7
    Published: November 2010
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8241-7
    Published: November 2010

John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

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North of the Color Line examines life in Canada for the estimated 5,000 blacks, both African Americans and West Indians, who immigrated to Canada after the end of Reconstruction in the United States. Through the experiences of black railway workers and their union, the Order of Sleeping Car Porters, Sarah-Jane Mathieu connects social, political, labor, immigration, and black diaspora history during the Jim Crow era.

By World War I, sleeping car portering had become the exclusive province of black men. White railwaymen protested the presence of the black workers and insisted on a segregated workforce. Using the firsthand accounts of former sleeping car porters, Mathieu shows that porters often found themselves leading racial uplift organizations, galvanizing their communities, and becoming the bedrock of civil rights activism.

Examining the spread of segregation laws and practices in Canada, whose citizens often imagined themselves as devoid of racism, Mathieu historicizes Canadian racial attitudes, and explores how black migrants brought their own sensibilities about race to Canada, participating in and changing political discourse there.

About the Author

Sarah-Jane Mathieu is assistant professor of history at the University of Minnesota.
For more information about Sarah-Jane Mathieu, visit the Author Page.


“Truly innovative study. Recommended. Most levels/libraries.” --Choice

"Sarah-Jane Mathieu's scholarship opens up and deepens our understanding of race, migration, immigration, urbanization, and the discourse of white supremacy through its exploration of the United States' northern neighbor. She exposes multiple assumptions and contradictions presently embedded in the consciousness of citizens of Canada and the United States as well as the historical literature. Her treatment is creative, well-researched, and beautifully written."--Beth Tompkins Bates, author of Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black America, 1925-1945

"North of the Color Line is written with verve, and brings fresh light and new information to an important but relatively under-reported era in African-Canadian history. It goes beyond anything we have on the Porters in this period, and offers much useful detail on the black community in Winnipeg."--James W. St.G. Walker, University of Waterloo

"Tracing the struggles and successes of the Order of Sleeping Car Porters, North of the Color Line provides a compelling account of the making and remaking of race relations in Canada. Painting on a big canvas, drawing on a wide range of sources, and tackling ambitious themes, Mathieu offers vivid characterizations of the African Canadian, African American, and West Indian men who rode the rails and the network of women from Halifax to Vancouver who together sought to forge lives of dignity and security."--Nora Faires, Western Michigan University