Canadian Art: Fugitive Portraits

Featured Image: Fugitive-slave ad published in the Halifax Weekly Chronicle on September 1, 1772.

Charmaine A. Nelson, a professor of art history at McGill University in Montreal, has made groundbreaking contributions to many fields of study, including the visual culture of slavery, race and representation, Black Canadian studies and African Canadian history.

She has published six books focused on postcolonial and Black feminist scholarship, transatlantic slavery studies and Black diaspora studies, and her current research examines fugitive-slave advertisements found in 18th- and 19th-century newspapers in Nova Scotia and Quebec, arguing that they constitute an archive of textual “portraits” of Canada’s enslaved peoples.

Nelson’s work has put her at a unique advantage for considering kinship relations between enslaved Black and Indigenous peoples in Canada’s history—relationships that have been lost within the nationalistic and Eurocentric Canadian archive.

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