Black History, Alvin McCurdy Collection: The Enduring Value of the McCurdy Collection - Page Banner

The Enduring Value of the McCurdy Collection

McCurdy’s years of gleaning, sifting, sorting and filing provide an enduring legacy for all those interested in the black experience in Ontario. He worked to preserve the heritage of Ontario’s black community; and as he became well known for his efforts, people began to send him their family photos, so that their relatives would be included in McCurdy’s historical archives. Unfortunately, many of those individuals were unidentified; and they remain so, despite McCurdy’s best efforts. Their luminous images are silent and mysterious. Who were these ladies in the studio portraits, and who were these men going off to war in their uniforms? We may never know, but their expressions, their clothes, and their surroundings continue to record their role in our collective history.

Photo: Unidentified woman (1), [ca. 1890]
Click here to see a larger image (192K)
Unidentified woman, [ca. 1890]
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-4-7
Archives of Ontario, I0024787
Photo: Unidentified woman (2), [ca. 1890]
Click here to see a larger image (164K)
Unidentified woman, [ca. 1890]
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-4-7
Archives of Ontario, I0024789
Photo: Soldiers, 1918
Click to see a larger image (252K)
Soldiers, 1918
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-5-6
Archives of Ontario, I0024831

The people in McCurdy’s collection represent the full spectrum of his world: teachers and students, ministers and congregations, doctors, nurses and lawyers, homemakers, shopkeepers, soldiers and farmers. McCurdy’s own father, George, worked on the lake ships, one of the most important industries of early 20th century Ontario.io.

Photo: Theodore Simons, [ca. 1945]
Click to see a larger image (103K)
Theodore Simons, [ca. 1945]
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-1-15
Archives of Ontario, I0024862

Photo: Woman holding a child, [between 1900 and 1920]
Click to see a larger image (150K)
Woman holding a child, [between 1900 and 1920]
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-3-5
Archives of Ontario, I0024828
Photo: Ella Mae Adams, [between 1900 and 1920]
Click to see a larger image (113K)
Ella Mae Adams, [between 1900 and 1920]
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-1-15
Archives of Ontario, I0024856
Photo: Three women at the opening of the Amherstburg Museum of Coloured Women, July 1957
Click to see a larger image (107K)
Three women at the opening of the Amherstburg
Museum of Coloured Women, July 1957
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-5-3
Archives of Ontario, I0024834
Photo: Group of men, Amherstburg, [ca. 1908]
Click to see a larger image (74K)
Group of men, Amherstburg, [ca. 1908]
Front row: Will Adams, Homer Brantford, Will Wilson
Back row: George D. McCurdy Jr., Samuel McDowel
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-1-2
Archives of Ontario, I0024818
Photo: Homer Brantford, boxer, [ca. 1915]
Click to see a larger image (152K)
Homer Brantford, boxer, [ca. 1915]
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-3-7-4-2
Archives of Ontario, I0024820
Photo: Reverend Mary Scott Lyons, [between 1920 and 1940]
Click to see a larger image (118K)
Reverend Mary Scott Lyons, [between 1920 and 1940]
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-3-3
Archives of Ontario, I0024773
Photo: Early photographs of George D. McCurdy, Jr. (father of Alvin McCurdy) taken on the lake ship where he was member of the crew, [ca. 1908]
Click to see a larger image (174K)
Early photographs of George D. McCurdy, Jr. (father of Alvin McCurdy)
taken on the lake ship where he was member of the crew, [ca. 1908]
Alvin D. McCurdy fonds
Reference Code: F 2076-16-1-2
Archives of Ontario, I0026082

There is enduring value in Alvin McCurdy’s assemblage of documents, newspaper clippings, ephemera and photographs, along with his own contribution of notes, index cards and commentary. While so much of history is based on conjecture, archival collections, such as Mr. McCurdy’s, provide undeniable and concrete evidence of the rich and varied heritage of the black people who settled in Ontario’s south-western tip. The collection also shows us, yet again, how important it is to keep and document one’s own precious family history, which ultimately adds to the collective memory of our Province. Alvin McCurdy’s tireless efforts will never cease to enrich us all.