John Armstrong Howard, Canada’s first Black Olympian
John Armstrong Howard was a trailblazer in Canadian athletics, becoming the first Black Canadian to represent his country at the Olympic Games. Howard was born on October 6, 1888, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was a multi-sport athlete who excelled in a number of events, including the 100-yard dash, 220-yard dash, long jump and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
At the age of just 24, Howard was selected to represent Canada at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. Despite the challenges of being a Black athlete in a predominantly white sport, Howard remained focused and determined to perform at his best. He competed in the 100-yard and 200-yard, finishing fifth in his semi-final heat and failing to advance to the finals. Despite not medaling, Howard had made history as the first Black Canadian to compete in the Olympics.
Throughout his life, Howard remained dedicated to athletics and the promotion of physical fitness. He became a physical education instructor and continued to compete in various track and field events, inspiring other Black Canadians to follow in his footsteps.
In 1937, at the age of 48, the First World War veteran died of pneumonia due to complications from pneumonia. He worked as a railway porter and taught boxing.
In recognition of his achievements and contributions to Canadian sports, Howard was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in In 2004, 67 years after his death leaving behind a legacy of perseverance and determination in the face of adversity.
As we celebrate Black History Month, we must acknowledge and honour the contributions of athletes like John Armstrong Howard, who paved the way for future generations of Black Canadians in sports. His determination and perseverance remind him that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.