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Braithwaite’s War: A Soldier’s Fight for Equality in WWII

“Embark on a journey through time with Daniel Braithwaite, a beacon of resilience and justice from the small Caribbean town of Barbados to the vibrant streets of Toronto. His life, marked by unwavering activism and a commitment to combat inequality, leaves an indelible mark on the pages of history. Join us in celebrating a true hero's narrative of courage and the pursuit of a just society.”

Black Wall Street MediaBlack History Month 2024 - FEBRUARY

In the small Caribbean town of Barbados, the year 1919 marked the arrival of a newborn, Braithwaite, Daniel—a soul destined to navigate the tumultuous currents of societal challenges and racial disparities.

Raised by parents deeply entrenched in social activism, young Braithwaite’s formative years resonated with the echoes of justice and equality.

The Braithwaite family embarked on a transformative journey in 1921, immigrating to Nova Scotia, laying the foundation for Daniel’s connection with the African Canadian community.

As the bustling streets of Toronto welcomed them in 1926, Daniel immersed himself in the vibrant rhythm of the Negro Youth Club and church groups, emerging as a pivotal figure in the community.

The winds of change blew strong during World War II, revealing the harsh realities of discrimination when Daniel’s attempt to join the Air Force was met with a stark “we don’t take coloured.”

Undeterred, his resilient spirit led him to enlist in the army, with a condition—a transfer to the Air Force, symbolizing a commitment to combat inequality even in the face of war.

Serving with the 48th Highlanders regiment in Quebec and Nova Scotia, Daniel’s wartime experiences went beyond the battleground.

In the midst of duty, he confronted a racially offensive Victory Bond poster in Quebec in 1944. Refusing to tolerate such injustice, Daniel courageously removed the poster, leaving an indelible mark on his journey.

Post-war life beckoned, marked by a seamless transition into community activism. Marriage to June and the arrival of their children, Paul and Jane, did not sway Daniel’s focus.

He played a pivotal role in advocating for African Canadian nurses in Ontario hospitals, a testament to his unwavering commitment to justice.

The year 1954 brought a turning point when Daniel, distraught by his son Paul’s encounter with racial prejudice in the Toronto Board of Education, embarked on a two-year campaign.

The battle culminated in the removal of the racially insensitive book “Little Black Sambo” from Toronto schools in 1956.

Daniel’s impact extended into the realm of labor rights. His tenure as a Class A mechanic at Dunlop Tires saw him rise to union steward and chair of the local’s inaugural Fair Employment Practices and Human Rights Committee.

The echoes of his dedication resonated, earning him the prestigious African Canadian Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.

Even as the curtain descended on his life in 2002, Daniel, too ill to drive, embarked on one last journey.

In a cab, he arrived at the school where his granddaughter taught, fueled by the desire to share his experiences during African History month—an epitome of his commitment to education and awareness.

“Braithwaite, Daniel's life story echoes through time, a narrative of resilience, activism, and the relentless pursuit of a just and equitable society, leaving an everlasting impact on the pages of history.”

Black Wall St. MediaContributor

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