Geographically, Amber Valley is located north of Edmonton and specifically lies between Athabasca and Lac La Biche. Amber Valley is famously known as a region that acted as a settlement base for Blacks fleeing the hostile inhospitable conditions in Oklahoma. To understand the history of the Black settlers one needs to familiarise with the conditions that led them to this place. Following the institution of Jim Crow Laws (characterised by economic, social and political oppression in the southern US), the African-Americans fled the hostile environment and chose northeast Alberta in their quest for refuge and freedom. This group of Black settlers established themselves as a farming community. Originally called Pine Creek, the name Amber Valley was adopted when a young resident named PK Bowen submitted it to a contest held to name the community. Amber Valley was not a town with storefronts, shops and saloons. Community life revolved around the church, school, post office and baseball diamond. Social gatherings and dances were usually held in homes and barns. The settlement process wasn’t an easy task, since contemporary machinery which would have translated to an easier time in clearing (preparation) and cultivating (ploughing) the land did not exist at that time. Additionally, the climactic conditions in Alberta typified by long, cold winters and short, cool summers was unfamiliar to the former southerners. This dynamic compelled them to find ways of adapting. Research indicates in earlier settlement days, the settlers practiced subsistence farming and occasionally hunting, with support from the First Nations people of the region. After the Second World War, the same conditions that brought great change to other rural settlements shaped this community differently. There was increased mobility (out-migration), the expectation of higher standards of living and the mechanisation of the farming community. Most descendants of the first Black settlers of Amber Valley have dispersed into urban areas. What had begun as an exodus pursuing a dream of liberation and safety resulted in a community that faced down the obstacles of racism and harsh conditions to establish deep roots in the province. Amber Valley was at its peak of around 400 people during the 1920s, 30s and early 40s.
- ARTICLE: “Black Settlers at Amber Valley, Alberta” by Charles C. Irby
- Black History
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- Amber Valley: A Black Community