BIPOC Culture

These Beautiful Instagram Accounts Will Teach You Something About Black History

In this op-ed, Josh Dyer (Director of Marketing, Myseum of Toronto) shares some of his favourite places to learn about and engage with Black and diverse histories on social media. 

Another Black History Month is upon us, and if you haven’t paid it much mind in the past, a few events over the course of 2020 may have spurred an interest in furthering your education and understanding of the history and achievements of Black folks. 

Knowing where to look can be a challenge, especially with the pandemic persisting and continuing to suspend in-person cultural events and exhibits. Not-to-mention, many of the museums, archives, and other institutions we’ve traditionally relied upon to document and share our collective histories often fail to account for the lives and accomplishments of marginalized groups. To this day, much of the Black history in Canada and abroad remains hidden, left out of textbooks and permanent museum collections. Luckily, we are living in the Information Age, affording us instant access to knowledge that was previously difficult or even impossible to find. The creative ways in which people are choosing to share these histories in the digital space are as entertaining as they are enlightening. 

There are some fantastic organizations and individuals that have dedicated themselves to filling this void, all while ushering in a new form of storytelling that brings history out of museum and gallery walls and directly to audiences online. Even as someone who works in the arts, culture, and heritage sector, I find myself discovering more new stories on social media than anywhere else. On Instagram, accounts such as @blackarchives.co and @brownhistory have leveraged the platform to curate crowdsourced histories from their respective diasporas, while on Tiktok young creators such as @taylorcassidyj are teaching history to hundreds of thousands of followers while still in high school.

So if you’ve only got a few minutes for some melanin-injected history lessons, here are a few accounts to check out this Black History Month, and beyond.

@blackarchives.co

@blackarchives.co

To say “a picture is worth a thousand words” might sound cliché, but it is simply the truth when it comes to @blackarchives.co. This collection of archival images documents everything from pivotal moments in Black history to candid images of everyday life. All of which adds up to a beautiful and profound representation of the Black experience.

@blackhistory

@blackhistory

From pre-colonial Africa to the present-day United States, @blackhistory spotlights the accomplishments of Black leaders and innovators and will leave you scratching your head amazed you’d never heard of them before. The page notes there is more to Black history than Egypt and slavery, and touches on stories pertaining to civil rights, athletes, inventors, artists, and everything in between. 

@blackhistoryintwominutes

@blackhistoryintwominutes

Narrated by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., @blackhistoryintwominutes‘ collection of well-researched stories packs about as many facts as you can into two-minute videos and podcasts. Their short and lively stories feature archival footage, additional commentary from notable historians and figures, and hard facts packaged in an easily accessible and entertaining format. 

@knowyourcaribbean

@knowyourcaribbean

An unapologetic exploration of Caribbean history and culture from cuisine to the accomplishments of individuals across the diaspora. Frustrated by the global misrepresentation of her region, Saint Lucian born visual artist, and filmmaker Fiona Compton founded @knowyourcaribbean to tell the untold stories and promote the diversity, dynamism, and beauty of the Caribbean. 

@vintageblackcanada

@vintageblackcanada

For something a little closer to home, @vintageblackcanada by Waterloo Ph.D. student Aaron Francis began with a collection of photos inherited from his grandfather and has grown to document the “transnational modern history of the African diaspora in Canada”. The project pays homage to Francis’ community and family, who helped create the region’s first Caribbean and West Indian culture society back in the 1970s. 

@taylorcassidyj

@taylorcassidyj

In a refreshing break from the viral dance and prank videos typically found on the platform, 19-year-old TikTok influencer @Taylorcassidyj has built a substantial following through her often funny and always entertaining videos on Black culture and history. Cassidy sprinkles educational videos with her contagious positivity and intoxicating humour and charm. 

Honourable Mentions

Honourable Mentions

While these next accounts don’t focus on Black history, they’re definitely worth checking out and I can guarantee you’ll learn something new by doing so.

@Brownhistory

As the name suggests, this account retells the history of the South Asian diaspora on Instagram and through an accompanying podcast. The stories it explores range from major historical events to personal and family histories shared by its followers. Founder Ahsun Zafar aims to create a community of stories, art, and knowledge; a source of strength and unity.

@myseumoftoronto

@myseumoftoronto

I would call this a shameless plug, but I’m extremely proud of the work we do at Myseum of Toronto. We’re constantly uncovering hidden histories about the city and experimenting with new ways to tell them. This includes past events like Over-Policing Black and Indigenous Lives and Derailed: The History of Black Railway Porters in Canada and online articles and exhibits like Micro-Histories: Black Military History of Niagara and Women in Hip Hop: Digital Exhibition. 

@historycoolkids

@historycoolkids

@historycoolkids‘ impeccably curated collection does what your history teacher never could: make history cool. Inspired by one person’s love for history, and all the cool stories they came across outside of history class, the vision to share and teach has materialized in an incredible array of imagery from archives across the globe. 

@notoriouscree

@notoriouscree

As settlers, we all have a responsibility to learn more about the original inhabitants of this land. James Jones aka @notoriouscree is one of many talented Indigenous creators using TikTok to share Indigenous history and celebrate Indigenous culture. Viewers can be entertained by his intricate hoop dances, educated by his thoughtful answers to follower questions, and inspired by his vulnerability in sharing personal stories.  

RELATED: How James Jones (Notorious Cree) Harnessed Social Media to Reclaim His Culture

About Josh Dyer

About Josh Dyer

Josh is a digital marketing professional who started his marketing and communications career as a student working on Barack Obama’s 2008 Democratic primary campaign. He has since served in a variety of communications roles with the Canadian federal government, developing national advertising campaigns and digital strategies for the likes of Elections Canada, Transport Canada, and Citizenship & Immigration Canada. Since leaving the public service, his efforts as Director of Marketing at Myseum of Toronto have been focused on brand development and providing a platform for communities to create and share their own social and historical narratives.

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