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Rito Joseph brings Quebec's Black history to Montreal students


A walking tour of Quebec's Black history is making a stop at LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School, bringing the tour to the students.

Rito Joseph commands the room, on this day speaking to Secondary 3 students at the high school.

"What kind of Black history do you guys know about Montreal?" he asked the students, saying his goal is to keep them engaged.

Joseph is a student supervisor there, but he also runs Black Montreal Experiences, his business where he gives walking tours through the Old Montreal and Little Burgundy neighbourhoods.

"We revisit different pieces of history, whether from the 17th, 18th, or 20th century, and we talk about some of the -- what I feel is -- purposely omitted events, historical figures, historical sights, that are still affecting in a lot of ways our current social context," he said.

He details the history of slavery in Quebec, from Olivier Le Jeune to Marie-Joseph Angelique, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of setting her mistress's home on fire, though she maintained her innocence, and the evidence at her trial was said to be circumstantial.

"She was denied justice. She was denied representation in court," he said.

Student Samuel Poupart said he took away new knowledge from the presentation.

"Like Marie-Joseph Angelique, I think that’s a really sad story because she got basically falsely accused because the system was super against her," he said.

There's great value in the presentation, said principal Wusua Mitchell.

"Just fill in those missing pages for our students so that they have a broader perspective of the history," said Mitchell.

Being a history buff runs in Joseph's family: his father always spoke of his roots.

"My father used to teach me about Haitian history at the back of his taxi," he said.

That was the spark, and over the years, Joseph became known as a raconteur.

Five years ago, he was asked to give a presentation – and he’s been sharing his stories ever since. Top Stories

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