Sylvia Hamilton

An award-winning filmmaker, writer and educator known for her documentaries exploring the history, contributions and experiences of African Canadians.

Sylvia D. Hamilton is a multi award-winning filmmaker, writer, and educator who is known for her documentaries which explore the little known history, contributions and experiences of African Canadians. Her first two films, Black Mother Black Daughter and Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia, each garnered extensive critical and public praise, and opened a window upon the African Canadian experience for audiences in Canada and in venues as diverse as New York, Paris, Melbourne and Tokyo. Her one-hour documentary film, Portia White: Think On Me, is the first major cinematic view of the extraordinary life of the legendary Canadian contralto Portia White, known as ‘Canada’s Marian Anderson’. Her latest film, The Little Black School House, unearths the story of the women, men and children who studied and taught at Canada’s racially segregated schools.

She has been an invited filmmaker and keynote speaker for conferences in variety of venues including Norway, Sierra Leone, Guadeloupe, the Republic of Mauritius (Indian Ocean), New York City, Kingston, Jamaica, Mexico City and Paris. In Canada, she has lectured and presented her work in a variety of settings – schools, libraries, conferences and festivals – from Happy Valley, Labrador to Nanaimo, BC. Major awards include a Gemini, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation’s Maeda Prize, the Progress Women of Excellence Award for Arts and Culture, the CBC Television Pioneer Award, Nova Scotia’s coveted Portia White Prize for Excellence in the Arts, and the Expression Awards/ Les Prix Expression - Trailblazer Award.

Sylvia Hamilton believes that individuals can make a difference by helping create the conditions that enable others to learn and achieve. And she lives her beliefs. She has taught filmmaking workshops and created training positions on her projects for young people. She was co-founder of the innovative New Initiatives in Film Program (a program designed to provide women of colour and First Nations women with opportunities to make films) at the National Film Board’s Studio D. She held the distinguished Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax for an unprecedented three-year term. She has been a Visiting Professor at the University of King’s College and currently teaches part time in the College’s School of Journalism and the Contemporary Studies Program.

She graduated from Acadia University with a Bachelor of Arts and subsequently completed a Master of Arts in Education at Dalhousie University. In recognition of her outstanding service to Nova Scotia and Canada, Sylvia Hamilton has received an Honourary Doctor of Laws from Dalhousie University, an Honourary Doctor of Letters from Saint Mary’s University, and an Honourary Diploma from the Nova Scotia Community College. In 2010 Acadia University awarded her an Honourary Doctor of Letters. Most recently she was a member of the National Content Advisory Committee for the new Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg. She lives in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia and is president of Maroon Films Inc.