John Ware Reclaimed (2020)

Some find it hard to believe that Black men worked the range in the US and Canada during the early pioneer days. Many may not know about the successful Black rancher John Ware. His life in Southern Alberta is documented, but not from a perspective within the community. That’s where writer and director Cheryl Foggo comes in. In John Ware Reclaimed, we learn just how deeply her ties to Ware run as a fellow Black Albertan.

Calgary’s celebrated Dr. Grant MacEwan wrote the only biography about Ware in 1976, but Foggo felt there was more to learn and wanted to see his life through a fellow Black Canadian’s eyes. Through extensive research using his daughter Nettie’s records and letters, people from the community, scholars, and descendants of those who knew John Ware, Foggo takes us on his journey from Tennessee to Alberta. She visits the Ware exhibit at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum, surveys the land he lived and worked on in Millarville, and visits Duchess, where he moved his family later on. We learn about his determination, his family life and the hardships the Wares endured out in the Alberta countryside, but his origins are something of a mystery as she finds more questions.

Foggo created a fascinating documentary on this important Canadian through re-enactments and songs. Merging her own experience as a Black person loving the country and cowboy life as a child and finding someone who looked like her to relate to in her own province, John Ware Reclaimed is a touching tribute to a historical Black figure well worth the attention.

Review by Carolyn Mauricette

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Black Stories

Canadian connection

Directed by Cheryl Foggo
Cheryl Foggo is an accomplished writer, director and playwright. She wrote The Sender, part of the Obsidian Theatre’s 21 Black Futures on CBC Gem.