Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy: The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander: A Memoir
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Among the important stories that need to be told about noteworthy Canadians, Lincoln Alexander’s sits at the top of the list. Born in Toronto in 1922, the son of a maid and a railway porter, Alexander embarked on an exemplary life path that has involved military service for his country, a successful political career, a thriving law career, and vocal advocacy on subjects ranging from antiracism to the importance of education.
In this biography, Shoveller traces a remarkable series of events from Alexander’s early life to the present that helped shape the charismatic and influential leader whose impact continues to be felt today. From facing down racism to challenging the postwar Ontario establishment, becoming Canada’s first black member of Parliament, entertaining royalty as Ontario’s lieutenant-governor, and serving as chancellor of one of Canada’s leading universities, Alexander’s is the ultimate, uplifting Canadian success story, the embodiment of what defines Canada.
What might that difference be? Well, three or four years ago, a feature story on me in the Hamilton Spectator analyzed the short form of my name that people often use — Linc. The article compared it to the word link and said its definition was “a connecting structure” and “a torch used to light a darkened street. ” I liked that. I intend to continue to be that torch, right up to the moment I take my last breath, for there is such fulfillment in doing the right thing. And then it will be okay, because when I get to heaven — and I don’t think that’s hoping too much — there will be two special people to meet me.
Yes, that pretty much nails it. It all flows from there. And for that, Alastair has described me as his role model. You hear that, Dad? I was listening. Alastair laughs when he calls me the most anti-conservative Conservative he’s ever met, though he admits to perhaps having a certain bias when it comes to assessing the sensibilities of people with my political leaning. Yet in the course of my work and political career, I have been exposed to some of the most caring people imaginable, from John Diefenbaker (apartheid) to Joe Clark (women’s and gay rights) to Brian Mulroney (environmental issues).
With a ‘no,’ there was nothing but uncertainty. I know there will be problems during the coming years. I feel it in my bones. You have the expectations of the French, the Native peoples. … You’ll never get that kind of agreement again in a heck of a long time. If you don’t like [Prime Minister] Brian Mulroney or [Ontario Premier] Bob Rae, you don’t take it out on the country. ” I felt so strongly about that. I believed it was important for Ontarians to support the constitutional amendments proposed in the accord because I saw it clearly as a blueprint for Canada’s survival.
While my family was living at 29 Draper Street in Toronto when I was born on January 21, 1922, my first recollections of that iconic dream go back to when we lived on Simcoe Street. My folks later moved to McCall Street in downtown Toronto and again later to Chatham Avenue in the east end of Toronto. While I don’t recall being overly traumatized by racial issues at the time, they existed in abundance. Indeed, there was no doubt in me from Here I am as a rather handsome young fellow in 1922 at age six months.
I didn’t know what it was, but the reporter wanted me to comment, and fortunately for me I said that we might have to give up a few rights to save our overall rights. Trudeau got on the side of the rest of Canada against certain Quebec interests. Introducing the War Measures Act is a draconian choice, because you become persona non grata. But I believed at the time that in order to keep all our freedoms, we might have to give up some rights from time to time. We in the Conservative party voted for the measure, and the NDP didn’t.