Portia White had one heck of a voice. As the first Black Canadian singer to reach world-renowned status, she became one of the most inspirational women in Canada’s history.
At the age of six, White was already working towards that goal: she could often be found singing in her mother’s choir at the Halifax Baptist Church where her father was a minister. At eight, she was able to sing the soprano parts of Italian operas. And she was not only talented but determined, walking more than 15 km each week to attend music lessons.
Portia’s national debut occurred in 1941 at the Eaton Auditorium in Toronto. Her international debut came at the Town Hall in New York in 1944.
In 1964, she gave a Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of Confederation Centre in Charlottetown.
A monument commemorating Portia White stands on the grounds of the Zion United Baptist Church.