Rella Aylestock Braithwaite has been researching and recording the history of Blacks in Canada since the 1960s and has, through her publications, made signiﬁcant contributions to the existing body of work.
She began writing to ensure that her children knew their heritage. She wrote for Contrast newspaper for 10 years, producing columns on Black history; in 1973, she co-authored a booklet, Women of our Times, for the ﬁrst Black Women’s Congress. In 1975, she published a book on outstanding Black women, The Black Woman in Canada; and, in 1978, she worked with teachers at the Ontario Ministry of Education, on a Black Studies Guide for students. Over the years, she has addressed groups of students and adults on Black history and shared her extensive collection of Black memorabilia.
Other: Rella is one of the eldest descendants of the Queen’s Bush Pioneers. The Queen’s Bush land located north of Waterloo Township and south of Lake Huron, was the largest black settlement in the region, and the place where hundreds of fugitives escaping slavery made their new home.
Community: Extensive involvement in the community including local churches, schools and charities; International Soroptimist Professional Women’s Club; in 1973, was appointed to the Ontario Advisory Council on Multiculturalism for 3 years; covered Scarborough Board of Education meetings for the West Hill newspaper; joined the OBHS, 1978 and served as Co-Chair for 3 terms.
Honours: Including inclusion in Who’s Who in Black Canada (1st & 2nd editions; 2002 & 2006); Hall of Fame Award, ACAA (1998); Scarborough Bicentennial Civic Award (1996); Kay Livingstone Award, Congress of Black Women (1989); accomplishment award, Association of Black Women (1983); Black Woman of the Year, Negro Colour Guard (1973).
Works: Books: Some Black Men: Proﬁles of over 100 Black Men in Canada (1999); Some Black Women (1993); The Black Woman in Canada (1975); Women of our Times (1973). Articles in: Contrast; Africa Speaks; West Hill newspaper.
Favourite book? I mainly read historical books and was fascinated with Lawrence Hill’s Book of Negros, featuring a female hero, as he had done a phenomenal amount of research.
Favourite quote? “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – Stephen Grellet
Given the chance, what would you do that you haven’t done yet? I do regret that I have not done more travelling.
Who or what inspires you? I’m inspired when I hear accomplishments of our people, especially our youth.
Why do you do what you do? I have researched and written Black history for over 30 years as I feel it is very important for our next generation to know their heritage.