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The Norval Johnson Heritage Centre Collection, formerly housed at the Norval Johnson Heritage Centre in Niagara Falls, was officially unveiled at its new home in the Reference area (just outside the Special Collections room) of the St. Catharines Public Library in the Fall of 2009. It is a unique collection of local, Canadian and American Black history resources. Included in the collection are materials on the history of Blacks who settled in and became an integral part of the communities of Niagara as well as information on slavery and the Underground Railroad, art, music, sports, histories of local churches, and much more. To find out more about the history of the Nathaniel Dett Memorial Chapel and the Norval Johnson Heritage Centre Library click here.

Who was Norval Johnson?

Norval Johnson (November 28, 1898 – May 20, 1981) - Born Norval Davis, she married Cyrus Johnson and moved to Niagara Falls, where she became involved with the British Methodist Episcopal Church. She worked tirelessly in the community and was a pillar of support for the BME Church. She also gave her time to the Cancer Society of Niagara and to the Greater Niagara General Hospital. Although “Aunt Norval” had no children of her own, she enjoyed working with young people.

Visiting the Special Collections Room

We encourage students of Black history of all ages to come and browse the Norval Johnson Heritage Centre Collection. Staff is always available and eager to help answer your questions. Items may not be signed out from this collection, but photocopying is usually permitted.


In addition to the Norval Johnson Heritage Centre Collection, the Special Collections room also has other materials relating to Black history in the Niagara area. We gladly accept donations of print materials or photographs that help further our understanding of the black population that called and calls Niagara home.

The Norval Johnson Heritage Centre Collection includes but is not limited to:

  • Both fiction and nonfiction, adult and children’s books
  • Vertical files – Vertical files contain mainly newspaper clippings, magazine articles, small publications, programs and brochures, and some photographs etc.
  • Binders containing genealogical information on Blacks associated with the Niagara area
  • DVD’s

The contents of each vertical file cabinet can be found below: