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New book on Dr. Howard McCurdy launched in Amherstburg


Dr. Howard McCurdy

Black History Month started last week with a book launch at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.


“Black Activist, Black Scientist, Black Icon" was unveiled at the museum last Thursday evening with the new book being autobiography of the late Dr. Howard D. McCurdy. McCurdy was a scientist who later broke into politics as an alderman – now known as a councillor – in Windsor before becoming a Member of Parliament.


His activism includes founding a chapter of the NAACP at Michigan State University, founding the civil rights organization the Guardian Club to fight racial discrimination and founding and becoming the first president of the National Black Coalition of Canada.


McCurdy is also credited with choosing the name New Democratic Party, serving as an MP for the party between 1984-1993. He was only the second Black MP in Canadian history, with Lincoln Alexander being the first.


Sheila Barker, the moderator of last Thursday’s discussion, said McCurdy’s great-great-grandfather was an agent on the Underground Railroad. As for McCurdy himself, he wrote over 50 scientific papers and became a part of the biology department at Assumption University.


After McCurdy died in 2018 at the age of 85, the book was finished with the aid of Dr. George Elliott Clarke and McCurdy’s widow Dr. Brenda McCurdy. Brenda is a current board member with the museum while Clarke worked with Howard.


Clarke believed McCurdy was a “great example of a scientist and an activist” with Brenda noting her late husband met with Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King Jr. among others.


“He was with the best and he was humble in all of that,” said Brenda.


“It was thrilling to see the movers and shakers and Howard was one of them,” added Clarke.


Clarke relayed a story about a dugout that got destroyed in London in 1939 to make room for a Royal Visit. Howard met Queen Elizabeth II in 1985 and told her of the story, with Clarke saying Howard described the Queen as being “bemused” with it.


It was a last minute decision to run for alderman in Windsor and it would later spur his federal run. Brenda recalled when Howard was an MP that she would have to pick him up at the airport on time every Friday and they would often go right to an event or function.


“He loved being home and he loved being with the constituents he was elected to serve,” she said.


Brenda said her husband always had time for family affairs, with daughter Leslie recalling her involvement in a track and field meet and her father stopped in between trips in British Columbia and Nova Scotia to watch her.


“The list of achievements is really long,” said Clarke. “Howard loved being a Member of Parliament. “It was his oxygen. He loved the whole idea of representing his constituents and doing work for them.”


McCurdy was “way ahead of his time,” Clarke added, stating he advocated for hydrogen-powered vehicles 40 years ago.


Monty Logan, president of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, recalled voting for McCurdy during the first time he was eligible to vote.


“Howard was an icon for us,” said Logan.


Barker added: “He was dynamic and energetic.”


The event was held in conjunction with the River Bookshop, with copies of the book being sold onsite and in the shop itself.


Events continued Saturday with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra’s “Singing with Flo” family concert in the Nazrey AME Church. The concert featured vocalist Florine Ndimubandi and the Windsor-Essex Youth Choir. The WSO returns to the Nazrey AME Church Feb. 23 for the concert “Korin Thomas-Smith sings Mozart.”

Tickets for that are $35 and available through www.windsorsymphony.com.

Other Black History Month events feature artist Dennis K. Smith welcoming young artists into his studio Feb. 10 at 1 p.m. and a panel discussion “A Conversation About Women’s Empowerment and Community Engagement” Feb. 17 at 2 p.m.


For more information on future events, visit www.riverbookshop.com/events or www.amherstburgfreedom.org/all-events


By Ron Giofu


New book on Dr. Howard McCurdy launched in Amherstburg

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