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Fri, 11.23.1923

Daniel Grafton Hill, Historian born

Daniel Grafton Hill

*Daniel Grafton Hill III was born on this date in 1923.  He was a Black Canadian sociologist, civil servant, human rights specialist, and Black Canadian historian.  

Born in Independence, Missouri, Hill grew up in the western United States as the son of Daniel Grafton Hill II and his wife. His father, born in Washington, DC, and paternal grandfather were both university-educated men who became ordained ministers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.   One of Hill's paternal aunts was Violet Hill Whyte, the first of his father's nine siblings. She was a public school teacher before 1937 when she was the first Black to be appointed as an officer in the Baltimore Police Department in Maryland.  

In 1948, Hill graduated with a BA from Howard University in Washington, DC. While in the capital, he met his future wife, a woman from Oak Park, Illinois. In 1950, he moved to Canada to study sociology at the University of Toronto.  In 1953, he married Donna Mae Bender (1928-2018), a former Senate staffer and civil rights activist whom he had met in Washington, DC. They settled in Toronto that year.  He received an M.A. in 1951 and a Ph.D. in 1960.  They had three children, all born in Canada: singer-songwriter Dan Hill, author Lawrence Hill, and poet and novelist Karen Hill.  

In the early 1950s in Toronto, Donna Hill worked as a human rights activist for the city's Labor Committee for Human Rights. She lobbied the Ontario government to enact anti-discrimination legislation. She also wrote about Black Canadian history; her A Black Man's Toronto, 1914-1980: The Reminiscences of Harry Gaiery (1980) was published by the Multicultural History Society of Ontario.

From 1955 to 1958, Hill was a researcher for the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto. From 1958 to 1960, he was Executive Secretary of the North York Social Planning Council. In 1960, he was the assistant director of the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation. From 1961 to 1962, he taught in the sociology department at the University of Toronto.  In 1962, he was the first full-time director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

In 1972, he became Ontario Human Rights Commissioner. In 1973, he resigned to create his human rights consulting firm. From 1984 to 1989, he was the Ontario Ombudsman.  He founded the Ontario Black History Society. In 1981, he published The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada.  In 1993, he was awarded the Order of Ontario. In 1999, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.  Daniel Grafton Hill III died on June 26, 2003. 

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