A walk through the archives…

Black history at Mount Allison as told through archives and The Argosy

Mount Allison’s first international student of African heritage was Samuel S. Toddings (1857–1935), who came from Bermuda and graduated in 1866 with a BA. He began his career as a junior reporter at the Halifax Herald before becoming a newspaper publisher and editor of the Colonist and the Mid-Ocean News. There, he specialized in writings on local politics. His wife, Jane Allison—whom he married in New Brunswick in 1876—was the niece of Mt. A founder Sir Charles Allison. In addition to his work in publication, he was an MP, church organist, chairman of St. John Ambulance, and Overseer of the Poor. 

Samuel S. Toddings

Portia May White (1911–1968) was a Nova Scotian contralto and teacher who was the first internationally recognized Black Canadian concert singer. As a child, she walked 16 km weekly to get to her music lessons out of her determination to pursue music. She took lessons at the Halifax Conservatory of Music and gave recitals at Acadia University and Mount Allison University in 1940 and 1941. The February 22, 1941 edition of The Argosy Weekly announces: “Miss Portia White Maritime Artist Will Give Recital to Present Negro spirituals and varied programme in Charles Fawcett Memorial Hall—Fame predicted for Artist.” This subtitle was correct, as, in 1995, the Government of Canada officially deemed White a “person of national historic significance,” and later a stamp of her was made by the Canada Post in 1999. 

Fleming Daniel “Danny” Gray (1929–2014) was one of Mt. A’s first Black students and later became a civil rights leader in the United States. He spent two years at the Mount Allison Academy (1945–1947) and two more of a BA at Mount Allison University before leaving in 1949 and eventually completing his degree in California. Gray faced racism while at Mt. A, where he dealt with Sackville’s only barber’s refusal to cut his hair, refusal of service from a restaurant in Amherst, and racial slurs from rugby team spectators. In 1949, he was cast as the lead in Mount Allison University’s Players’ production of Emperor Jones, for which he received the Best Actor award from the Maritime Regional Drama Festival. Gray was a key activist and teacher, becoming vice-chairman of Los Angeles’s Congress of Racial Equity (CORE). 

Fleming Daniel “Danny” Gray

Felix Orville Goodman (1927–2000) was the first Black student to earn a BFA in Canada in 1951. Goodman was originally from Brooklyn before studying business administration and fine arts at Mt. A. He became an art and music therapist and recreation director. A portrait of Goodman painted by fellow Fine Arts student Marjory (Rogers) Donaldson when they were both students is currently in the Owens Collection.


Felix Orville Goodman

Originally from Jamaica, Clifford Courtenay Taylor (1926–2021) earned a BSc in Biology in 1953. While at Mt. A, Taylor joined the Canadian Navy, playing on its soccer team and escorting Queen Elizabeth II on the royal yacht Britannia. After graduation, he gained a medical degree at McGill. He then became a General Practitioner in Toronto, delivering more than 500 babies and organizing the first Toronto Caribana parade with his wife, Janet. 

Clifford Courtenay Taylor

Cyril Harper was in 1955 the first Black Bachelor of Commerce at Mt. A. He was originally from Saint Kitts, played Varsity soccer and hockey, and earned his Bachelor’s just two years after the degree had been implemented. 

Cyril Harper


Leonard St. Hill (1929–2016), originally from St. Lucia, earned a BSc in Engineering from Mt. A in 1955. He was President of the Students Council (now the MASU) and the Debating Society, winning the Canadian Universities Debating Championship in 1955. St. Hill went on to gain a Master of Civil Design, become a naval officer and Lieutenant, and co-author the physical development plan for Barbados (1964–1967). 

Leonard St. Hill


Hobartson Augustus James “Gus” Wedderburn (1929–2007), a founder of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, graduated from Mt. A in 1956 with a degree in education. He was given the Canadian Centennial Medal of Honour and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for his human rights and social justice work. Wedderburn served as President and Founder of the Black Education Association and Founding Director of the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia. He earned an Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) from Mt. A in 2006.

Major Walter “Wally” Peters (1937–2013) would become the first Black Canadian jet fighter pilot. Peters showed major athletic ability at Mt. A, earning an athletic scholarship as part of the football and track teams. However, his time at Mt. A was not easy, as some classmates would not room with him in residence due to his ethnicity. He graduated from Mt. A in 1959. He earned his wings in 1963, graduating with the highest flying marks and the highest level of flying proficiency, but was met with racist comments at the graduation ceremony. Peters later became the first Human Rights Officer for the Canadian Armed Forces, flew with the famed Snowbirds team, and worked at the United Nations.

Major Walter “Wally” Peters

Fathy Ibrahim was an Ethiopian refugee student who came to Mt. A in 1982. As listed in the September 16, 1982 edition of The Argosy, Ibrahim was a foster student through the World University Service of Canada (WUSC). He gained a certificate in engineering in 1984. 

Fathy Ibrahim


Mount Allison’s history is filled with Black students who accomplished incredible feats and contributed immensely to their community. Their impacts and legacies should be carried with us and remembered as we reflect on Mt. A’s past.

Thanks to David Mawhinney and the Mount Allison Archives for their help with this article.

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