Born into an upper-class family in British Guiana, Edwards moved to the US in 1926 to attend New York University, where he broke college records. As a non-American, Edwards could not race for the US at the 1928 Olympics. He was invited to compete for Canada and moved to Montreal to attend McGill University, where he graduated from the medical school just before competing in the 1936 Games.
Although there was controversy in the black community about participating in the "Nazi Olympics," some saw the Games as an opportunity to challenge Nazi racism with their achievements. Few commented on the racists in their own midst; anti-black sentiment was prevalent in Canada and the United States, and would persist.
However, Edwards seemed to find acceptance among the athletes and sports community not experienced by most African-Americans. Edwards was named captain of the Canadian Summer Olympic team. When returning to Canada via London, the team refused to stay at a hotel that would not accept Edwards as a guest.
Phil Edwards, likely at the British Empire Games, 1934.
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
Teach & Learn
Canadian AthletesLesson Plan
Students reflect on aspects of individual identity and other factors that contribute to decision-making in times of moral crisis.
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