In 1949, Beryl Rapier (then Beryl Dickinson-Dash), a third-year Arts student, became the first Black woman to be crowned Carnival Queen. Winter carnival was considered a staple of student life, and thousands of McGillians voted on the Carnival Queen title.
Given that the University’s student population was predominantly white, Rapier never thought she was even eligible to enter the contest, let alone win. At the time, McGill only had 150 Black students. Leighton Hutson, another Black student at McGill, put Rapier’s name forward without her knowledge and collected enough signatures for her to move on to the next round. She eventually made it to the finalist round alongside four other students and later won the competition by a landslide. The events attracted significant media coverage across the country.
After moving to Scotland with her husband while he earned his medical degree, Rapier and her family moved back to Canada and later to Las Vegas, where she has lived since. She hopes to see greater representation of Black women in all areas of life, particularly in politics and the workplace.