The inside track on an under-told story about the intersection of race and sports in Canada.
In the 1960s, Harry Jerome set 7 world records, including the 100-yard dash, earning him the title of the world’s fastest man. His grandfather, John “Army” Howard, was Canada’s first Black Olympian, running in Stockholm in 1912 against nearly impossible odds. Harry’s sister, Valerie, competed for Canada at the 1960 Rome Olympics. With Races, Valerie Jerome sets the record straight on her heroic family’s history, and the racism they fought along the way — from their community, the press, their country, and even inside their family home.
Races tracks Harry’s life through his inimitable athletic career and into his work as an advocate for youth sport and education. Bringing readers inside the Jerome household, Races reveals the hurdles they faced during the heavily segregated ’60s and the long reach of racism that plagued their family history.
A tale of courage and conviction, Races is the difficult, yet inspiring story of the Jerome family: what propelled them in life and on the track.
About the author
The granddaughter of Canada’s first Black Olympian, John “Army” Howard, Valerie Jerome became Canadian senior women’s champion in the sprints and long jump at the age of 15 in 1959 and went on to represent Canada at the 1960 Rome Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, and the Pan American Games (where she won a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 metre relay).
Jerome’s brother Harry was one of the most recognizable Black Canadian athletes in the 1960s. He set a total of seven world records and competed for Canada at the 1960, 1964, and 1968 Summer Olympics, as well as the Pan-American and Commonwealth Games. He won Gold medals in the Pan-American and Commonwealth Games and a Bronze medal at the 1964 Olympic Games.
Away from the track, Jerome has represented the Green Party of British Columbia and is a recipient of the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal and a City of Vancouver Heritage Award for her work in conservation. She has also served as a board member for numerous organizations, including Achilles Track & Field, the Black Educators of BC, the Junior Black Achievement Awards, and Vancouver Youth Theatre, and has spoken at numerous schools and community events.
“As a Black woman who has vivid memories of growing up with racism in the USA, I was mesmerized by Valerie Jerome’s storytelling style of her family’s first-hand accounts of racism in Canada. I could hardly put the book down!”
Dee Daniels, award-winning jazz vocalist
“As a Canadian of Japanese ethnicity and a grandfather of two Haida boys, I know that racism is not an expression of just a few individuals or groups, but that it is built into the nation since colonization. Valerie Jerome’s searing personal account of the devastating consequences of being Black in Canada on her family calls for all of us to examine our prejudices — often so deeply held that we are not even aware of them.”
“Races is a story of striving for achievement on the track at the highest levels of competition, but it is also a story of striving to maintain a sense of self and possibility in a climate of relentless racism and social injustice. The Jeromes met these challenges head on, with the willingness to respond with support and kindness. By sharing her story with such honesty and clarity, Valerie Jerome shines a light on how we can welcome the beauty and necessity of diversity and commonality.”
Lorna Williams, Lil’wat, Chair, First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation
“Races is a must read for every Canadian: searing, and emotional in parts, it gives us a deeper look at the Black experience in Canada. It is a striking tribute to the courage, spirit, and tenacity of the Jerome family. Despite their immense talents and efforts, Valerie and Harry could not perform their way out of the bleak realities of living in Black skin in the 1950s and 60s. Yet, today, Valerie shines as brightly as she did on the track. The Jeromes shaped Canada’s sporting landscape and paved the way for me and many others to shine freely.”
Perdita Felicien, Olympian, world champion, and author of <i>My Mother's Daughter</i>