Jack Mosee and William Willis (1790s) The city's first black contractors, famous for road building.
Josiah Henson (1789-1877) "The maimed fugitive slave preacher" who inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin founded a large settlement for fugitive slaves and taught them how to farm. He took up arms with William Lyon Mackenzie in the Rebellion of 1837.
Lucie and Thorton Blackburn (1830s) Well-known Kentucky slaves who settled in Toronto after escaping from jail in Detroit in 1833. They were active in the Underground Railroad and went on to become prominent business people.
Mary Ann Shadd (1823-1893) Sharp-tongued teacher, abolitionist, feminist and first black woman editor in North America. She founded the Provincial Freeman newspaper.
The Cary Brothers (1840s) George, Isaac, John and Thomas owned several barbershops and ice houses in the city. George Cary lectured widely as president of the Coloured People's Moral and Mental Improvement Society.
Dr. Alexander Augusta (1825-1890) Trained in the U.S., he operated a successful pharmacy on Yonge Street in the 1850s and also worked as a general practitioner in the Toronto General Hospital on Gerrard Street.
Anderson Ruffin Abbott (1837-1913) The first Canadian-born Black surgeon who would go on to serve as one of eight Black surgeons in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Elijah McCoy (1843-1929) Mechanical engineer, inventor and owner of 57 patents whose genius inspired the phrase "the real McCoy."
Samuel Ringgold Ward (1817-1866) Congregational minister and leading anti-slavery orator who published two newspapers in the U.S. and fled to Toronto after helping a slave to freedom.
William P. Hubbard (1842-1935) Inventor of an oven that he sold through his company, Hubbard Ovens. Also the first black to be elected to city council, eventually rising to vice-chair of the board of control. Later became a champion of cheap, publicly owned electric power alongside Adam Beck, founder of the Ontario hydroelectric system.
Portia White (1911-1968) An accomplished concert performer and music and voice teacher who sang in Italian, Spanish, French and German.
Richard Lloyd Lawrence (1926-1975) Inducted into Howard University Engineering and Architecture Honour Society in 1953, Lawrence was the first native black architect to practise in Toronto.
Wilson O. Brooks (1925-) First black commissioned officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force to serve in the second world war. Also the first black school principal in Toronto.
Violet Blackman Came to Canada as a young girl in 1921 and later became involved with Marcus Garvey in the founding member of the Universal Negro (African) Improvement Association and of the Negro Credit Union.
Harry Ralph Gairey (1894-1993) Co-founded the West Indian Federation Club (WIF), one of the first community centres for Caribbean immigrants in Toronto.
Kay Livingstone (1918-1974) President of the Canadian Negro Women's Association and federal consultant to the Privy Council on Visible Minority Women, she coined the phrase "visible minority groups."
Eva Smith (1923-1993) Tireless campaigner on behalf of Toronto's Caribbean youth. Eva's Place, a 30-bed wheelchair-accessible residence for homeless young people in North York, is named after her.
Wilson Head (1914-1993) American-born civil rights activist and race relations expert. Served as associate professor of social work at Atkinson College, chair of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, which established an institute in his name, and head of the committee to re-establish the National Black Coalition of Canada.