Melissa N. Shaw

Melissa N. Shaw is currently completing her Ph.D. in History at Queen’s University (to be defended in the fall of 2020). Her dissertation entitled, “Blackness and British ‘Fair Play’: Burgeoning Black Social Activism in Ontario and its Responses to the Canadian Colour Line, 1919-1939,” explores the symbiotic relationship between anti-Black racisms in Canada and the rise of Black Canadian socio-political activism in Ontario. Centring the ‘everyday’ acts of resistance Black Canadians employed during this period, her study considers community-building as strategic and carefully crafted responses to the Canadian colour-line at the local level. It also considers the collaborations and networks local activists formed with other people of African descent in places like Detroit, New York, and Washington. In this way, the project engages modern Canadian history and expands studies on Black internationalism during the twentieth century. Melissa is intrigued by the interconnections between intellectual and social history. As a Black Canadian woman, she is committed to honouring the complicated legacies of her resilient forebears. As a scholar of Black Canadian history, she is deeply concerned with the role of historical contingency when dealing with weaponized racial identities.

In January 2021, Melissa joins McGill’s Provostial Research Scholars in Institutional Histories, Slavery, and Colonialism as a postdoctoral fellow. Collaborating with a dynamic group of dedicated scholars, she will assess how blackness, indigeneity, and whiteness informed McGill’s development from the 1800s into the nineteenth-century. Her fellowship work will chart how, over time, McGill— now a world-renowned institution, participated in and perpetuated systems of enslavement and colonialization that normalized the exploitation and oppression of Black and Indigenous people. Working on this project is a timely expansion of Melissa’s MA graduate studies at Queen’s that focused on the histories of colonial North American societies. This graduate work augmented her undergraduate background in History and Political Science (Specialist) with minors in Francophone Studies and Philosophy of Science, which she pursued at the University of Toronto. Melissa’s work has appeared in Histoire sociale/Social History and Paul E. Lovejoy and Vanessa S. Oliveira’s edited volume: Slavery, Memory, Citizenship. She is also the former book review editor for the African American Intellectual History Society’s (AAIHS) award-winning blog Black Perspectives: the leading online platform for public scholarship on global Black thought, history, and culture.

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