On March 13, 2014, it was our great pleasure to welcome Nina Reid-Maroney. This 3rd seminar session, a joint session with the CIRESC seminar at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, took place at the EHESS (Boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris).
Nina Reid-Maroney is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Huron University College at Western in London, Ontario. She is also a coeditor of The Promised Land: History and Historiography of Black Experience in Chatham-Kent’s Settlements. Nina spoke about her last book, The Reverend Jennie Johnson and African Canadian History, 1868-1967, which was published by Routledge in April 2013.
Her book is a most fascinating biography of the first woman ever to be ordained as a full-time minister in Canada, a woman whose very long life, covering almost a century of history, pushes us to rethink North American history and historiography on 19th century black migration and settlement in Canada. Evidently, the story of Jennie Johnson is a story at the crossroads of race, religion and women studies, but as her life unfolds before our eyes, it becomes obvious that Jennie Johnson’s particular life is also a history of connections, where religion, migration, abolition, resistance, and women’s condition are closely intertwined. What is striking in Nina’s book is that the story of Jennie Johnson is a very “moving” story in the practical sense of the term. Jennie, but also her family, crossed the US-Canada border to and fro at many different times in their life and for many different reasons, proof that this border was a porous border, a blurred space that Blacks would cross easily as they were trying to improve their condition. Thus, more than just a “classic” biography, The Reverend Jennie Johnson and African Canadian History is a critical biography of a figure who outstripped the racial and religious barriers of her time. It offers a unique and powerful view of the struggle for gender and racial equality, and against prejudice in North America, and more particularly on the US-Canadian border.
In other words, Nina’s book offers us a very powerful and inspiring account of what life was truly like for African Canadians and African Americans in an era marked by abolition, segregation, discrimination and the fight for civil rights, in a “dangerous place” which was a “land between slavery and freedom”.