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Talking Pieces: Political Buttons and Narratives of Equal Rights Activism in Canada

Journal of Black Studies

Published online on


Archives are not neutral spaces; the memories and stories of minority communities are often overlooked and underrepresented. Narratives are symbolic representations of the past, and it is vital that a diversity of stories and memories is represented. Likewise, ephemeral artifacts, such as political buttons, are largely marginalized as objects of study because researchers tend to favor evidence found through written, textual documents. However, political buttons are significant because of their role as political memorabilia, marking a nation’s socio-political past, and their role as a narrative tool. Behind every political button, there is a potential narrative or story that is not often told. This article will attempt to address the lack of literature on political buttons in a Canadian context as well as give voice to counter-memory of the women’s movement in Canada and the experience of Blacks organizing for racial equality. Using a case study of selected political buttons from the archival collection of Jean Augustine, the first Black female Member of Parliament in Canada, stories of gender and racial equality rights activism in Canada, told by Jean Augustine, will be examined and contextualized. In particular, buttons representing stories about the National Black Coalition of Canada, the Congress of Black Women of Canada, and the anti-apartheid movement will be explored.