Episode 2: The Trustee Enigma

Bashir looks through a stack of papers on a table in a reading room.
Bashir Mohamed digs through files at the Edmonton Public School Board archives.

This episode: The Trustee Enigma. Bashir Mohamed asks whether Edmonton has ever had a black public school trustee.

Looking for an answer takes us to the Edmonton Public School Board’s archives, a conversation with a current trustee, and to the centre of the conversation about modern-day racism in Edmonton.

This episode contains some explicit language.

In this episode, we start our search at the Edmonton Public School Board archives at the old McKay Avenue School. Archivist Holly Platt compiled pictures of trustees dating back to 1885, when the school board was founded.

She also pulled up some fascinating class photos from the 1930s that feature black students, including the one above.

Listen first, then learn more about what happened next below the spoiler bar.

spoilers below

Eight portraits of early trustees
A collection of trustees from the earliest days of Edmonton’s public school board, back in the 1880s and 1890s. Donald Ross (top left) operated the first hotel outside Fort Edmonton, and John A McDougall (second from the left on the bottom) became a mayor of Edmonton, and later an MLA. [EPSB Archives – P85.17.1]
Unfortunately, searching through pictures was inconclusive. As you can see by R V Johnson’s photos over the years, what looks like dark skin could just be dark photocopying. We decided to try other methods of research.

The video of the incident that happened while Bashir was biking downtown a couple days after we visited the archives:

Some photos from Bashir’s subsequent meeting with Mayor Don Iveson (my favourite is the one where Bashir is framed by columns with pictures of previous mayors):

Thanks to current trustee Nathan Ip for providing us with what seems to be the definitive answer. Below, pictures of milestone trustees Nathan Ip, Mel Binder, and Lila Falman.

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