Through a series of 19th century photographs depicting Black Ontarians, new AGO assistant curator Julie Crooks is investigating how Black Canadian communities use photography as a tool to visualize and lay claim to their complex histories.

In Free Black North, taking place April 29th to August 20th at the AGO, you’ll see portraits—many exhibited here for the first time—highlighting how these mostly unknown individuals presented themselves with style, dignity and self-assurance. There is still little known about many of the subjects or the photographers of these works, but the AGO hopes that by putting them on display, more information will come to light.

“I have witnessed first-hand family members enjoying a bonfire fuelled by Grandma and Grandpa’s heirlooms and artifacts,” said Rick Bell, retired Niagara Region firefighter, historian and member of the Central Ontario Network for Black History. “It was important for me to save the photographs because they are an important part of Canadian history.”

Find out more here.