Nova Scotia-Canada’s ocean
playground. A seaside oasis dotted with beautiful countryside, historic
villages, and picturesque lighthouses.
Nova Scotia’s cultural mosaic is
considerably dominated by the cultural undertones of the early Scottish,
Irish and Acadian settlers. But the province is also home to new immigrants,
an abundant First Nations community, and the largest settlement of indigenous
Blacks in Canada.
the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, thousands
of Blacks – mostly from parts of the United
States and the Caribbean – migrated to Nova Scotia. This
influx resulted in the establishment of more than 45 Black communities across
these communities were settled in Halifax,
the province’s capital city.
Group of children at Upper Hammonds Plains, dressed for play
migration in Nova Scotia: A Timeline
c. 1604 – Mathieu Da Costa arrives in Port Royal in the
service of Samuel de Champlain’s French colonizing expedition, the
first recorded presence of Blacks in Nova
Scotia. Da Costa, whose name can be traced to his
former status as a slave of the Portuguese, was one of the many Blacks
pressed into the service of European colonizers and adventurers from the
late15th century onwards. Da Costa died of scurvy in the winter of 1606-1607.
1686 – Black slaves were
imported into Nova Scotia
from various places – including British colonies – as early as
1686. After Da Costa, mention is made of La Liberté, “le neigre”,
at Cape Sable Island in 1686. In 1739, the French
governor of Louisbourg was reported to be in possession of a Black from the island of Martinique. Slavery was not a formal
institution in Nova Scotia.
However, records of slaveholding and correspondence prove that slavery was
1782-85 – About 3,000
Blacks fled to Nova Scotia
at the close of the American Revolution. The majority had fought for Britain
in return for freedom. Some came as hired, indentured or apprenticed persons,
attached to white Loyalist civilians or disbanded officers. And some arrived
without any such connection. Once in the Maritimes, these Black pioneers were
cheated of land, forced to work on public projects such as road building, and
denied equal status.
1792 – On January 15, 1792, some
1196 Blacks from the Maritimes (mostly from Nova Scotia)
left for Sierra Leone.
Many prominent leaders of the time were among them, such as Thomas Peters,
David George, Moses Wilkinson, Boston King, and Adam and Catherine Abernathy.
They and their people left because of a combination of three expectations
that had remained largely unfulfilled: free grants of sufficient land, full
independence, and security of life and property.
1796 – About 550
exiled Maroons from Trelawny, Jamaica, arrive in Nova Scotia. They are put to work on
building the fortification at Citadel Hill in Halifax. They faced miserable conditions
and, unhappy with Nova Scotia’s cold
climate, opted for Sierra
1800: The majority of the Maroon population leaves for Sierra Leone.
A few remain behind; this grew into at least one large family whose roots go
back to the Maroon period – the Colley family of East Preston descended
from Sarah Colley, the Maroon mistress of Governor Sir John Wentworth.
1813-15 - Escaped slaves who had sided
with the British during the War of 1812 when the United
States tried to invade Canada were freed as a result of
their loyalty. Roughly 2,000 settled in the Maritimes. Nevertheless, they
encountered racist treatment in many areas of their lives, not least the location
of their land grants: small lots of 10 acres were situated in swampy areas or
on barren, unproductive land.
1821: Ninety-five Blacks leave Nova Scotia for the island of Trinidad,
mostly from Hammonds Plains.
British Parliament passes the Imperial Act. This Act abolishes slavery in the
British Empire, including Nova
Scotia. The Imperial Act becomes British law in
c. 1900 – At the turn of the
century hundreds of free, skilled Black workers from Alabama
migrated to Cape Breton Island to work. By
early 1902 many Black American steel workers had taken up residence in Sydney and were working
at the steel plant. Most of them lived in Whitney Pier, many almost adjacent
to the plant or its coke ovens, with poor living quarters that were filthy,
had poor ventilation, and lacked sewer or water hookup. Faced with the
obvious stereotypes of the day, despicable living conditions, and a stream of
broken promises, almost every one of these families returned home in what is
now dubbed “The Great Walk Home”, many dying along the way. By
the end of 1904 Sydney’s
African-American community was practically non-existent.
1911 – By 1911 the Sydney steel plant was
expanding at an incredible rate. New Black workers were recruited from the
British West Indies and especially the island of Barbados.
Between 1911 and 1914, hundreds of these immigrants settled in Sydney and worked as
mainly unskilled labourers at the steel plant. Some also worked in the coal
mines and settled in Glace Bay and New
Waterford. These people are the ancestors of the small African-Canadian
community that resides in Cape
BLACKS IN HALIFAX
has a visible minority population of 7 per cent and a Black population of 3.7
· There are an estimated 20,000 Blacks living in NS, with
about 13,000 of them in Halifax
Þ Africville/North End Halifax
Þ Cobequid Road/Maroon Hill/Sackville
Þ Hammonds Plains
Þ Preston (North Preston, East Preston, Cherry Brook/Lake Loon)
marginalization, land misappropriation and overall hardship have tested the
strength of these communities and its people. Yet somehow the descendents of Nova Scotia’s
early Black pioneers have thrived in an oppressive society, and many have
gone on to become well-known historians, academics, artists, athletes, and
determined advocates for their communities. Click on the following links to
learn more about Blacks in Halifax:
Þ Arts & Entertainment
Þ Culture & Heritage
Þ Social Activism
Þ In our
Þ On the Web…
BLACKS IN NOVA SCOTIA
· 19,670 African Nova Scotians
· 90 per cent
are 64 years of age or younger
· More than
25 per cent are 14 years of age or younger, compared to 18.2 per cent for the
general population of Nova Scotia
· Visible minorities make up 3.8
per cent (34,525) of Nova Scotia's nearly one million residents.
· Blacks represent more than half
(57 per cent) of Nova Scotia's visible
minorities, followed by Arabs (10.5 per cent), Chinese (9.5 per cent) and
South Asians (people from India,
Pakistan and Bangladesh
number 8.4 per cent)
SCOTIA: A NEW WAVE OF IMMIGRANTS
The population of Nova Scotia will start
shrinking by 2011 if current birth and immigration rates stay the same as
they are now. Most newcomers to Canada
settle in Toronto, Vancouver,
But Nova Scotia
wants to attract more immigrants and encourage more newcomers to stay. A new
immigration strategy aims to increase Nova
Scotia’s immigrant retention rate by 30 per
cent. But there are a number of barriers deterring newcomers from settling in
The province’s low immigrant population is certainly a deterrent. Add
to that challenges faced around finding suitable employment. And as far as
African and Caribbean immigrants are concerned, these groups are far more
likely to settle in cities that already have a larger, well-established
African and Caribbean community (such as Toronto,
Montreal or Calgary).
· 73 per cent of immigrants live in Canada’s three largest cities (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal)
· New arrivals make up only 2.1 per cent of the
population of Halifax, compared to 17.3 per
cent in Toronto.
· Nova Scotia
has 41,960 foreign-born residents (represents 4.6 per cent of the total
· 81 per cent of immigrants to Nova
Scotia live in Halifax.
Top groups come from: Kuwait,
China, United States, United
Kong, Saudi Arabia,
South Korea, United Arab Emirates
· Only about 40 per cent of people who first come to Nova Scotia stay permanently (compared to 78 per cent
As part of its new immigration strategy, the government of Nova Scotia wants 70 per cent of newcomers
to stay by 2010.
of Immigrants Destined in 1995
of Immigrants Destined in 2001
of Immigrants Destined in 2003
Settlement Association (MISA)
Multicultural Association of Nova
North End Halifax
· Cornwallis Street United
(predominantly Black congregation consisting of many former Africville
residents and their descendents. The church is the “mother
church” of the African United Baptist
Association, and was founded by Rev. Richard Preston in 1832).
The town of Africville, 1965
Photo: Saunders et al.
is perhaps the most famous Canadian community no longer in existence. After
the American revolutionary war of 1812, thousands of Blacks who had sided
with the British during the conflict made their way to Nova Scotia holding fast to the promise of
freedom and a new home in a British colony. But the British did not follow
through on their promise, and left the refugees to fend for themselves
without food, clothing or shelter.
refugees had originally settled in the outlying communities of Preston and Hammond’s Plains.
Plagued by inadequate land, crop failures, and destitution, some of these
individuals opted to relocate to the “friendlier” shores of Halifax’s Bedford Basin.
The first documented purchase of land in Africville was in January 1848 by
William Brown and William Arnold. Other land purchases would follow, and
Africville would remain a separate and distinct community from Halifax (never
constituting more than 400 persons) for more than one hundred years.
tight-knit community of law-abiding, tax paying, predominantly Baptist
citizens did their best to survive under unfair circumstances. Some
Africville residents were relocated in the 1850s due to railway construction
(the tracks ran straight through the community). The city of Halifax
began building industrial sites – rejected by Halifax residents – all around and
through Africville. The community became the home to Rockhead Prison (1853),
the city's night soil disposal pits (1858), a hospital for infectious
diseases (during the 1870s), a trachoma hospital (1905), an open city dump
and incinerator (in the early 1950s) and a slaughterhouse. In addition, the
city of Halifax
failed to install water service, sewage or lights, and Africville also lacked
recreational facilities like those provided in other areas of the city.
Moreover, Africville had no fire or police protection – this led to
illegal liquor and entertainment activities within the community.
In 1947, Halifax City Council designated
Africville as industrial land. However, the residents of Africville expressed a desire to
stay and develop the area residentially. City Council authorized the
borrowing of funds to provide water and sewerage services, but the services
were never installed.
Halifax city council discussions concerning
the industrial potential of Africville increased during the 1950s. The city
owned a fair amount of property to the south, east and west of Africville.
Moreover, railway tracks surrounded and intersected the community, and the
shoreline was valuable for harbour development.
residents were not consulted throughout the formation of initial relocation
terms. As a result, the final terms favoured the city.
Africville residents ended up in slum housing, their personal belongings
transported in city garbage trucks. Bulldozers were sent in during the night
to level the community – not only the houses, but the stores,
businesses and even the church.
claims were in a state of disarray. Only a handful of families could
establish legal title, while others claimed squatter rights or rented.
Standard compensation amounted to less than $500. Most of the residents were relocated to public housing.
site where Africville was located is now a deserted park. All that remains of
the community is a monument in the shape of a sundial inscribed with the
names of early black settlers.
The tragedy of Africville has become known as one
of the most severe incidences of racial discrimination in Canadian history.
Former Africville residents and their descendents still face serious
socio-economic hardships and live in public housing. Each year towards the
end of July former residents gather at Seaview Park
– the former Africville site – to commemorate their community.
The struggle for compensation for former residents is ongoing
(Information gathered from Saunders et al., 1992.)
Africville: A Timeline
documented purchase of land in January 1848 by William Brown and William
1849: Establishment of church
are laid straight through the community of Africville, and subsequently
expanded twice before the First World War.
The City of Halifax relocates sewage disposal pits in the south-end
of Halifax to
the edge of Africville.
1867: The first reference to the
settlement as Africville in the minutes of the Halifax City Council.
1870s: Infectious Diseases Hospital
built on the hill overlooking the community, followed by the Trachoma Hospital in 1903. Such developments
continued into the twentieth century with, for example, a stone-crushing
plant and an abattoir on the edges of the community.
1874: Reverend J. Thomas conducts one
of the largest baptisms on record in the Halifax area, with 46 candidates.
1883: An elementary school is
established after much unsuccessful petitioning of government and years of
informal teaching provided by a community resident.
1919: Africville residents petition
the city of Halifax
for better living conditions.
The large open
City dump, labeled a health menace by Halifax City Council and resisted by
residents in other areas, is moved to a site just 100 metres from the
westernmost group of Africville homes.
1953: Closure of elementary school.
Children are transferred to integrated schools elsewhere in Halifax.
1962: The City of Halifax approves a plan for the destruction
of the community of Africville.
1964-1967: The community of Africville is
destroyed by the city of Halifax.
1968: The provincially and
municipally funded Seaview Credit Union is set up to provide financial help
for former Africville residents. A $70,000 fund (the province contributed
$50,000 and the city of Halifax
contributed $20,000) provided short-term help to those in pressing need,
although the need for more long-term solutions of employment, housing and
education were of concern. However within a year and a half this
post-relocation program had ceased, and former residents largely considered
the loan money to be relocation compensation and had no intention of
1969: Former Africville residents
form the Africville Action Committee in hopes of getting more direct
compensation. The organization lobbied for more just property settlements and
an emergency fund for relocated residents. The committee spent two years
mobilizing support among local organizations, writing letters to newspapers,
and meeting with government. But a lack of resources and experienced leaders,
coupled with the bureaucratic and legal objectiosn to proposals, and the cool
response of local politricians, ultimately caused the action committee to
12,000 persons, young and old, gathered on the Africville site for a
spiritual revival and memorial service
1981: Africville Genealogical Society forms to preserve the memory of
Africville, lobby the government for equitable compensation for former
residents, and organize annual reunions in Seaview Park
(former site of Africville).
the community of Beechville was portrayed in a CBC documentary as “a
dying community.” This historically Black community was established in
1816 and at one time boasted a population of more than 2500. (Pachai,1990).
It extended over 20 kilometres from what is now know as the Armdale Rotary to
Sir John A. MacDonald High School
in Hubley. The original settlers were escaped refugee slaves who received a
land grant of 1,000 acres on the North West Arm. Over the years, the community faced issues
of unemployment, low literacy rates, and poor housing and land. The situation worsened through generations
as Beechville’s population rapidly decreased.
the community’s Black residents number only about 200. Oliver Street, Hamilton
Street, Balsam Street,
and the first part of Bay road as you enter into Beechville are primarily
community is located 10 minutes from downtown Halifax, and five minutes from Highway
#103. Beechville has a school, church, daycare centre, and two service
Lakeside Industrial Park was developed in the late 1960s to
meet the growing demand for light industrial and manufacturing space on the
west side of Halifax
Harbour. Most residents of Beechville
either work at Lakeside Industrial Park or travel to Halifax
Black families live in Timberlea, located by Beechville along St.
Margaret’s Bay road. None of the
45-50 residents are indigenous to the community and most have moved into the
area over the last 25 years.
Cliff Middle School serves the community of Beechville and Timberlea. The multiracial school goes from grades
6-9. High school aged students attend Sir John
Baptist Church was established in 1844 and
serves both communities. Rev. Tracey Grosse is the church’s current
Leonard Parkinson, a
captain of the Maroons
Photo: Edwards, 1796
Blacks living in Sackville are originally from Halifax
They are living in the area of what was once known as “Maroon
Hill,” named after the settlement of about 500 Jamaicans exported to
Halifax in 1796 (Pachai, 1990). Sackville’s total population is about
70,000 with the Black population scattered throughout its various
sub-divisions. The main fixture for the Black community in Sackville is the
Rev. Tracey Grosse is the church’s current pastor.
UPPER HAMMONDS PLAINS
Emmanuel Baptist Church
rural community of Upper Hammonds Plains is located 15 minutes from
Lucasville. Upper Hammonds Plains was
originally a settlement of Black Refugees (Pachai,1990). Three-hundred
and thirty African Nova Scotians now live in the area, many along Pockwock Road.
Madeline Symonds School
is named after the
first Black teacher to graduate from the Provincial
Normal School in Truro. Upper Hammonds
Plains also boasts the first all Black volunteer fire department in Nova Scotia.
Church has served the community since
1845. The church is presently undergoing the biggest renovation project in
its 160-year history. A new 650-seat sanctuary became operational in August
2005 (a huge step up from the former 200-seater). New additions include a
reception hall, air conditioning, new sound and lighting systems, additional
office space, and a church library. Rev. Lennett
Anderson is the church’s current pastor.
and water expropriation has been a major issue in the community since
municipal and provincial government’s began looking to the Upper
Hammonds Plains area for land around 1974. This resulted in the expropriation
of Pockwock Lake to
supply water for the city of Halifax, the town
of Bedford, and Halifax County.
The expropriated land would house the Halifax
regional water commission’s water treatment plant. The community was
offered $100,000 for the land – much less than what it was actually
worth. Moreover, although the water main lines passed through the
community’s backyards, there was no offer of water service made to the
community. In 1987 Rev. Willard Clayton raised the issue of the need for
water service and compensation, citing that the community lost use of its
sustainable resource of fishing, as well as recreational
swimming and Sunday morning baptisms, among
other things. Hammonds Plains is now connected the city’s water system (Cain
et al., 2000).
1815, some 500 Blacks (refugees from the war of 1812) settled in the
34-year-old logging community of Hammonds Plains. As with most Blacks forced
to live on the outskirts of more thriving areas, they were faced with great
hardships. In 1821, 95 of these Black settlers left for Trinidad.
Most, however stayed under horrible living conditions and numerous obstacles,
rising above their circumstances to carve out an honest living for
Emmanuel Baptist Church, Upper Hammonds
Photographer: C.R. Brookbank
Burton (or “Father Burton”) was the first to provide pastoral
services to the community. He established the Hammonds Plains
Church in 1822. In
1832, the legendary Rev. Richard Preston (founder of the African United
Baptist Association) established the Hammonds Plains
In 1839, the two churches joined - the unified church was (and still is)
referred to as Emmanuel
from Pachai, 1990).
is located 10 kilometres from Halifax
between Middle Sackville and the Hammonds Plains Road. The community has a Black population of about
Wallace Lucas Community Centre provides the only employment in the
travel to Sackville
Rev. Stewart Williams is the current pastor of the Lucasville United Baptist
Industrial arts teacher, Noel H.
Johnson, teaching his students woodworking,
Lucasville School, Halifax,
Photographer: Chris Lund
land deeds were issued to James Lucas and Moses Oliver. Whereas most other
African Nova Scotian communities were settled by Black Loyalists, Maroons,
and Refugees, Lucas and Oliver are said to have been descendants of escaped
slaves sent directly to England
during the American Revolution. A plaque outside the Community Centre reads:
The name of James Lucas is identified in the census taken of
Blacks in London, England, as well as a number of
Oliver’s. These surnames could
not be found in any census for the above migration of Loyalist and Refugee
groups to Nova Scotia. It is believed that these same Lucas and
Oliver’s made their way back to Nova
Scotia, and established the community now known as
(NORTH PRESTON, EAST PRESTON, CHERRY
Scene at North Preston showing the Baptist Church 1934
is the largest settlement of indigenous Blacks in Canada. The first presence of Blacks
in the Preston Townships dates back to the early 1780s, with the arrival of
the United Empire Loyalists during the American Civil War. These original
settlers faced great economic and social hardships resulting from racism and
marginalization. As a result, about one half of them left the area in 1792 (Pachai,
second group of Preston settlers were Maroons from Trelawny, Jamaica.
They came in 1796 although most left for Sierra Leone in 1800. However, at
least one family that can trace their origins to the Maroon migration –
the Colley family in East Preston (Pachai, 1987).
the departure of the Maroons, a third group of Black immigrants settled along
the banks of Long
Lake – refugees
from the war of 1812 who had fought on the side of the British. These new
settlers were given 1,800 acres of land in North Preston, making it the
largest Black settlement in Canada.
It was during this time that the Preston Townships divided into three
communities: North Preston, East Preston,
and Cherry Brook/Lake Loon (Pachai, Bridglal. 1987).
wasn’t until 1958 that Blacks in the Preston
area were given title to the land their families had occupied for
generations. In 1980 the North Preston Housing Demonstration Project focused
on building houses for North Preston
residents living in sub-standard buildings. This later evolved into the
Preston Area Housing Fund which saw 181 housing units built in North Preston and Cherry Brook. The first African Nova
Scotian senior citizens’ complex was built during the same time. The
majority of residents own their own houses with the exception of 30 public
housing units and two low-rise apartment buildings that house 16 families (Abucar,
the people of North Preston, East Preston, Cherrybrook, Lake
Loon and Lake
Major united to ultimately defeat an
attempt by the Halifax County seize community land around Lake Loon
in the name of protecting the water supply of Dartmouth. The
Watershed Association Development Enterprise (WADE) evolved from theses
activities (Cain et al., 2000).
Today Preston is made up
largely of the descendents of Blacks from the refugee migration of the early
1800s. The people of the Preston area have
faced many hardships. Marginalization and racial segregation dictated the
lengths of their exclusion from Nova Scotian society. Subject to harsh
winters, bad soil, and want of basic necessities like food, clothing, and
adequate shelter, the people of Preston were
perpetually made to carve something out of nothing. Yet, despite isolation
and desolation, the people pooled what little resources they had, built
houses and churches, and secured both a home and a proud legacy for future
North Preston, 2006
Preston is the largest of the three Preston
communities, with a population of 4,100. Almost 98% of the community’s
members are of African descent with roots in the community that trace back
for generations, making extended families the norm.
North Preston is located
20 minutes from downtown Dartmouth in Halifax Regional Municipality,
and is within five minutes of Highway #7. The communities of East Preston and Cherry Brook are 10 minutes away.
Preston has a
daycare, recreation centre, volunteer fire department, church, and elementary
Wallace Smith is the current pastor of Saint Thomas United
The church has been the spiritual centre of the community of North Preston for 149 years.
Elementary School is the only
Africentric school in Nova Scotia. The school has an almost all-Black student
body. The principal, 12 full-time and 4 part-time teachers are both Black and
Houses belonging to
the Colley family, on the site of Governor's Farm, Preston
2 October 1934
Photographer: Gauvin & Gentzel
East Preston has a population of about 3,500, almost all
African Nova Scotian except for two roads which are mixed, Minesville and Bell Road. This
rural community is situated about eight kilometers from the city of Dartmouth immediately
off Highway #7. There are numerous scenic views throughout the community and
lots of trees. East Preston has a church,
business centre, recreation centre and recycling business.
East Preston Day Care Centre is a key fixture in the community. Since 1974,
the centre has provided services to residents of East
Preston and surrounding communities. The daycare centre employs
26 staff and cares for just over 100 children.
Children in East Preston go to Bell Park Elementary School on the border between East
Preston and Lake
Echo. After grade six,
they attend Graham Creighton Junior High
School in Cherry Brook and Auburn
High School in Dartmouth.
are two churches that serve the East Preston
community. Rev. Ogueri Ohanaka is the
current pastor of the 160-year-old East
Rev. Glen Gray is the pastor of the newly formed New Beginnings ministry
which holds its services at Ross
Black Cultural Centre
Brook and Lake Loon
are located 10 kilometres from Dartmouth.
They are situated just off Highway #7 before the roads leading to North and East Preston. Almost all 1,000 residents are of African
descent and the majority are from families indigenous to the community. Riley Road, Johnson Road, Lake Loon Road,
and Sparks Road
are primarily Black. MacLaughlin
Road is mixed. Cherry Brook and Lake Loon
have a school and a church.
from Cherry Brook and Lake Loon attend Humber Park
Elementary School. After grade 6
they attend Graham
High School in Cherry Brook.
Cherry Brook United Baptist
Church has been serving the
communities of Cherry Brook and Lake
Loon for over 100
years. Rev. Wayne Desmond is the
church’s current pastor.
The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia is another important fixture
in the community. The museum opened in 1982 and displays artifacts depicting
the history and culture of black people of the world. The center also houses
a reference library, RCMP community office, and gift shop. The main floor of
the building houses a space for intimate cultural performances, lectures, and
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Black Nova Scotians
continue to make a lasting impression in the arts & entertainment scene.
Among the numerous artists and groups who have helped pave the way for
today’s recognized talent are internationally renowned contralto Portia
White, and celebrated performing ensembles Four The Moment and The Gospel
The origins of Black gospel music are deeply
rooted in the southern United
States. Its oldtime spirituals, hymns, and
thanksgivings have played a strong role in Black Nova Scotian society since
the early wave of Black Loyalists (and later, the Black Refugees) migrated to
this province. Nova Scotia’s
gospel roots has inspired many great voices, among them The Gospel Heirs (see
below), 2004 Canadian Idol runner-up Gary Beals, and a host of choirs (among
them, the North Preston-based Hallelujah Praise Choir and the Halifax-based
Nova Scotia Mass Choir).
Much of the work produced by Black Nova Scotian
artists speaks directly to their experiences in this province: basket-weaving
traditions passed down through centuries; root sticks carved from East
Preston black spruce; songs that tell about the destruction of Africville;
theatrical plays and poetry that tell the stories of Preston
and Hammonds Plains.
While there are many success stories, Black Nova
Scotian artists have historically been faced with challenges. Renowned singer
Portia White was once refused a hotel room in Halifax because they “didn’t
allow Negroes” to stay there, and throughout her career White was
refused by some Nova Scotian concert halls.
Today’s Black Nova Scotian artists have
their own challenges. The local arts & entertainment industry slants heavily
towards the artistic practices of the province’s Caucasian settlers.
Artists whose work comes from the Scottish, Celtic, and Acadian traditions
are far more regularly called upon to represent Nova Scotia than artists from the Black
community. This is evidenced in the province’s tourism brochures and
advertisements, the East Coast Music Awards, and various other associations.
In many ways, there continues to be a huge lack of understanding and respect
for Black art forms. (Incidentally, when the East Coast Music Awards
introduced an Urban Music category, the prize was awarded to a fiddler from Cape Breton!)
In addition, various clubs and performance spaces are hesitant when it comes
to featuring Black artists in their establishments. The hip hop community
especially has struggled for a presence in the Halifax bar scene.
In spite of these barriers, Black Nova Scotian
artists are making considerable strides in the arts
& entertainment scene. Writer, poet, and essayist George Elliot Clarke
and filmmaker Sylvia Hamilton are among the many Black Nova Scotian artists
recognized internationally for their talents. Arts organizations like the
African Nova Scotian Music Association and the Black Artists’ Network
of Nova Scotia have been instrumental in creating opportunities for local
artists to showcase their work.
African Nova Scotian Music Association (ANSMA) is a not-for-profit
organization dedicated to the development, promotion and enhancement of
African Nova Scotia Music locally, nationally and internationally. In 1997
the organization held its first annual awards presentation celebrating
excellence in African Nova Scotian music. ANSMA supports the community with
two major annual events, namely the Awards Show (staged at Alderney Landing
Theatre in Dartmouth)
and Black Vibes Showcase (staged at the East Coast Music Awards).
Black Artists Network of Nova Scotia (BANNS) was founded in 1991. It is a
non-profit, multi-disciplinary arts association that seeks to develop the
African Nova Scotian arts community. Increasing representation of African
Nova Scotian artistry around the province and in Canada's mainstream public arts
and cultural institutions is one of the organization’s major goals.
BANNS also works with African Nova Scotian communities to document and
present their art and culture stories, and to initiate important community
Maritime Centre for African Dance promotes and educates the community at large about
African culture through various forms of African dance. The center is
dedicated to teaching dance that covers all regions of Africa
– North, South, East, Central and West. Instructors from countries like
share their talents with youth and adults alike at the centre’s many
cultural workshops, dance classes and summer camps.
Iz Bond Spoken Word Artists' Collective is an organization committed to the promotion of
spoken word poetry. The nine-member collective of poets formed in March 2001,
hosting poetry workshops at schools and community groups, and performing at
venues around the province. The group stages a monthly performance series
dubbed SPEAK! a sub-series, "Let The Children SPEAK!", provides new
opportunities for youth to express themselves through poetry.
Elliott Clarke was
born in the Black Loyalist community of Windsor
Plains, Nova Scotia,
and raised in Halifax.
He practices poetry, politics and journalism.
poetry is written in a lyrical style, frequently alluding to religious Black
Loyalist heritage. While he has studied the Black literature of many
countries, he gives special attention to Nova Scotia. The editor of a two-volume
anthology of local Africadian writing, Fire
on the Water (1991), Clarke has written lyrics for the folk-gospel
quartet Four the Moment. His poetic Whylah Falls
was part of the 1996 CBC Radio Drama series and an acclaimed stage play in
1997. In 1998 Clarke became the first recipient of the prestigious Portia
White Prize, an annual award named after one of Nova Scotia's pre-eminent musical
pioneers. And in 2001, Clarke won the Governor General's Award for Poetry for
his collection Execution Poems
(Gaspereau Press). Clarke currently holds the EJ Pratt Chair in Poetry at the
University of Toronto.
Four The Moment is an a cappella quartet formed in 1981 in Halifax by Delvina and
Kim Bernard, Jackie Barkley, and Deanna Sparks. The four women made their
debut at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in Halifax,
where they sang 'Joanne Little' from the repertoire of the US a cappella
quintet Sweet Honey in the Rock, on which Four the Moment was initially
modeled. Personnel subsequently varied: the Bernard sisters have been
constant; Barkley, who became the quartet's manager, was replaced by Andrea
Currie, and Sparks
was replaced in turn by Debby Jones and Anne Marie Woods. The group’s
repertoire, much of it written by Delvina Bernard (some with lyrics by Halifax poet George
Elliot Clarke), are political in nature – e.g., about Black history in Nova Scotia
etc), women's struggles, and South
Africa. Bringing the influence of R&B
to what is at base a gospel format, Four the Moment has appeared at folk
festivals, women's events and Black culture celebrations across Canada including
Expo ’86 (Calgary), the Ottawa International Jazz Festival (1989), and
the Toronto Skydome where the group opened for world-renowned poet and author
Maya Angelou in 2003. The group has recorded three albums and been featured
nationally on CBC Radio and in Sylvia Hamilton’s award-winning film Black
Mother, Black Daughter (1989).
Gospel Heirs is
one of Canada's
premier gospel groups. The North Preston-based ensemble formed in 1976 as a
four-piece band, later expanding to eight members. The group mixes roots
gospel, R&B, and contemporary music to create an inspiring modern gospel
sound. Their presentation of contemporary gospel music reflects the group's
unique identity and their strong commitment to a great Nova Scotian musical
heritage. Group members come from families whose roots in this province go
back 200 years. The Gospel Heirs carry on the Nova Scotia tradition of family bands
– the group is comprised of two father and son pairs, a husband and
wife team, a cousin, and a family friend. The Gospel Heirs believe that their
coming together represents a wonderful opportunity to fully share the
excitement of gospel music with audiences everywhere. All members reside in North Preston and all attend St. Thomas United
in North Preston.
D. Hamilton is
a Nova Scotian filmmaker and writer. Through her work as a filmmaker and
artist, she has brought the lived experiences of African Nova Scotians to the
mainstream of Canadian arts. Her first film, Black Mother Black Daughter
(1989), has been seen in over 40 film festivals throughout North
America and Europe, and her films have gone on to win awards and be screened
in festivals in Canada, the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia (1992)
received both the 1994 Maeda Prize awarded by the NHK-Japan Broadcasting
Corporation, and a 1994-Gemini Award. Her most recent film is Portia White: Think On Me, a
documentary about the extraordinary Canadian contralto who was known as Canada’s
Marian Anderson. It has been widely broadcast both regionally and nationally
on CBC TV, VISION TV, and BRAVO!
Portia White, a teacher
and musician of African-Nova Scotian descent, achieved international fame as
a classical concert singer in the 1940s and 1950s. Her musical talent was
nurtured by her family, her church, her community, her friends and by the
Nova Scotia Talent Trust which was especially supportive of her career. White
debuted at Toronto’s
Eaton Auditorium in 1941 and made several appearances on the Toronto concert stage over the next two
years. From there she went on to sing around the world, performing throughout
the United States,
and Latin America. White was praised for her
voice, musicianship, diction, poise, and gracious stage presence. White's
repertoire was a mixture of European classics, which she sang very well, and
Negro spirituals with which most critics and audiences felt she really
excelled. Portia White's last public appearance was at the World Baptist
Federation conference in July 1967. She died in Toronto in February 1968. In 1997 the Nova Scotia government
created a special award for artists in her memory.
Woods is an
artist, curator, poet, playwright, storyteller, actor, and director. He is
the founder of numerous arts organizations, including Voices Black Theatre
Ensemble and the Black Artists’ Network of Nova Scotia. Woods has been
instrumental in the dissemination of African Nova Scotian Artwork. His
efforts to develop and preserve Black art have resulted in a number of
exhibits, most notably 1998’s hugely popular ‘In This Place:
Black Art In Nova Scotia’ exhibition which featured the work of 50
artists dating back to 1885. In February of 2006 Woods was named Associate
Curator for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
On The Web…
Black Artists’ Network of
Business Initiative - Business Directory
Search for artists and arts
organizations in Nova Scotia.
Black Nova Scotians
come from a long line of entrepreneurs and trades people. The Black migrants
of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s were trained in various
occupations – blacksmithing, woodcarving, farming, basketry, were among
the many skills these early settlers brought with them. However, even though
these men and women were skilled workers, they were unable to secure jobs
successfully against the white former soldiers who were also looking for
employment. Despite the lack of jobs, Black pioneers worked hard to make
opportunities for themselves (Pachai,
The descendents of
these early Black settlers carry the same skill and determination taught to
them by their ancestors. This is evidenced by the many successful businesses
that have developed over the years. In 1825 Black setters started the
Allison's & Whiley's Cooperage in Hammond's
Plains where fir and spruce were hauled to the mill by oxen to be crafted
into barrels. In addition, the cooperage also produced drums made from birch,
boxes from poplar and spruce, hoops from maple and alder, brooms, wheels and
bobsleds (for further information,
the 1900’s, perhaps the most common business was the community grocery
store. Florence Diggs operated a small
grocery store in East Preston for
forty-three years, and similar business could be found in other Black
communities. Basket-weaving was also a popular business – women like
the renowned East Preston basket-weaver
Edith Clayton sold their crafts at the Halifax
public market (Pachai, 1990.).
Today Halifax is home to many
successful Black businesses. The Black Business Initiative (a province-wide
business development initiative) has been instrumental in helping local
business owners succeed in the local sector.
Black Business Initiative (BBI) is a Province-wide business development initiative
committed to fostering the growth of businesses owned by members of the Nova
Scotia Black Community. Founded in 1996, BBI places priority on educating
Black business owners in the operation of their business - from marketing to
budgeting to securing funding. BBI is committed to growing the Black presence
in a diverse range of business sectors including high-tech, manufacturing,
tourism, and the cultural sector.
Governments of Nova Scotia and Canada set up the BBI to address
the unique needs confronting the Black Community. For the first five years of
its existence BBI was funded under the COOPERATION Agreement for Economic
Diversification, a joint Agreement between the Federal and Provincial
Governments. It is now funded by the Office of Economic Development for the Province of Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Canada
Opportunities Agency for the Federal Government. BBI publishes an annual
Black Business Directory and Black To Business, a quarterly magazine that
highlights businesses, organizations, and entrepreneurs from the local
community. The organization also hosts an annual Black Business Summit and
operates a youth-entrepreneurship program called Business Is Jammin.
Clayton is a
celebrated basket-weaver from East Preston.
From the mid-1900’s Edith Clayton’s baskets were sold in the
Halifax public market and later exhibited by numerous organizations, among
them the Art Gallery of Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, and the
Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia in Cherry Brook. Edith Clayton
displayed her work and shared her craft at workshops, fairs and events across
North America. Edith Clayton also raised a
family and taught her gift of basket weaving to her daughters (her work is
now carried on by her daughter Clara Gough, who teaches the art of
basket-weaving at schools and community groups across Nova Scotia and
Canada). A collection of Edith Clayton’s baskets are on display at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.
Desmond was a
beautician and businesswoman. She and her husband Jack were the most notable
Black barbers during their time. Their business operations, Viola’s
Hairdressing & Jack’s Barber Shop, opened on Gottingen Street in Halifax in 1932 and 1937 respectively.
Desmond was also the focus of one of the most publicized incidents of racial
discrimination in Canadian history – click here for details.
Marsman brothers owned and operated the largest cooperage in Hammonds Plains throughout
the mid-1900’s. Their mill was fully equipped to turn out barrels and
dry fish packages, selling between three to six truck loads of barrels weekly
On The Web…
Occupations of Black
site contains information about entrepreneurship in the Black Nova Scotian
community from the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s.
CULTURE & HERITAGE
The Black History Month Association is a society dedicated to the
development and popularization of African Heritage Month, concentrated in-
but not limited to- the Halifax/Dartmouth Metropolitan Area. The Association
is open to all people and coordinates activities that promote the history,
culture and accomplishments of Africans worldwide. Originating as a small
committee that mounted Black History Week back in 1984, the group’s
scope has grown considerably, becoming fully incorporated in 1994.
The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia opened in 1982 and
displays artifacts depicting the history and culture of black people of the world.
The museum also houses a reference library, RCMP community office, and gift
shop. The main floor of the building houses a space for intimate cultural
performances, lectures, and community events.
Black Heritage Tours is Halifax’s first formal tour operator
specifically targeting the Black community. East Preston
residents Matthew and Carolyn Thomas started the company in 1995 to provide
opportunities for visitors to the province to explore the rich cultural of Nova Scotia’s
Black community. Black Heritage Tours offers a number of services, including
tours of cultural museums, heritage parks, and historic sites.
Cultural Awareness Youth Group (CAYG), an organization aimed at
fostering creativity, self-esteem, cultural pride, and academic excellence among
high school learners from the African Nova Scotian community. With chapters
at various schools through Halifax Regional Municipality, the organization
held workshops, conferences, and youth rallies aimed at empowering Black
youth and educating the general public about Black history and culture. The
group also endeavored to bring awareness to the needs and concerns of Black
Nova Scotian learners. The St. Patrick’s High School branch of CAYG was
the focus of Sylvia Hamilton’s groundbreaking documentary Speak It!
From The Heart of Black Nova Scotia
(1992). CAYG participants have gone on to pursue higher education,
becoming teachers, lawyers, doctors, actors, and professional musicians
(among other professions). The group ceased operation in the late 90’s.
And while its impact and overall reach has yet to be matched, other newly
formed youth organizations share similar objectives - one such organization
is Auburn Drive High School’s Youth of Today .
On The Web…
Black Heritage Tours
Website of the Black History Month Association.
Contains calendar of events and historical facts.
Black Loyalist Heritage Society
Halifax Public Libraries - African Heritage Month
site contains information about the history of African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia, cultural
activities for youth, and valuable information about the history of Blacks in
University Historical roots: Blacks in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Archives
& Records Management
devoted to the topic of African Nova Scotians in the Age of Slavery and
Abolition. Features information about Preston
and other Black settlements, and historical photos.
Nova Scotia Museum - Black
Settlement in Nova Scotia
to information on Black Loyalists, Black communities, and Birchtown (Nova Scotia’s
first organized settlement of free Blacks).
legal segregation of schools in Nova
Scotia ended in 1954. Before this date, Black children
were taught mostly by Black teachers in all-Black schools. And while white
students received instruction in geography, algebra, history and English
grammar, education at all-Black schools was restricted mostly to reading,
writing, and arithmetic. Moreover, because of the economic challenges that
most Black families were faced with, Black children were frequently made to
cease their studies at an early age to help out around the home or work
various odd jobs to help support their families (Black Learners Advisory
about 150 years of legal segregation in Nova Scotia (and due to the unified
efforts of Blacks in Halifax
and around the province petitioning the government for equal access to
education), schools around the province were integrated. However, integration
did not mean equal opportunity. Racism, the practice of
“streaming” lack of Black teachers and guidance counselors within
the school system, a euro-centric course curriculum - these are just some of
the issues that have and continue to hinder advancement of Black learners in Nova Scotia. 2001
census data shows that 48.9 per cent of African Nova Scotian men have less
than high school education, compared to 36.2 per cent of non-racially visible
men. In addition, 39.7 per cent of women of African descent have less than
high school, compared to 34.7 per cent of non-racially visible women. Local
organizations and individuals want to see these numbers change. Groups like
the Black Educators Association of Nova Scotia, the Council on African
Canadian Education, and the African Nova Scotian Services branch of the Nova
Scotia Department of Education were born out of this need for change.
African Canadian Services Division (ACSD) of the Nova Scotia Department of Education was
established in 1996. Its primary objectives are to (1) acquire adequate
resources to respond significantly in redressing the educational needs of
African Canadian students, parents, and adult learners; (2) respond
effectively to the current educational needs of African Canadians on issues
such as accessibility, achievement, school-to-work transitions, citizenship,
and satisfaction; (3) respond consistently to the many overwhelming
technological and operational changes that will occur in the planning and
operation of education for the future. ACSD annually awards post-secondary
and graduate scholarships (in the fields of Education and Science) to African
Nova Scotian learners.
The Black Student Advising
Centre at Dalhousie
support services for students, staff and faculty of African descent within
the Dalhousie community. In addition, the centre plays an important role
within the greater Halifax
community, hosting education workshops and career seminars aimed at helping
school-aged learners achieve their fullest potential. The centre regularly
hosts educational activities for its students and the greater community,
including culture shows, film screenings, and mentorship programs for high
The Council on
African Canadian Education (CACE) is the outgrowth of
the Black Learners Advisory Committee (BLAC). Formed in 1990, the BLAC
was the response to ongoing struggles of African Nova Scotians to eliminate
racism and receive equity in education. In order to fulfill its mandate, the
BLAC released a comprehensive study in December 1994. Encompassing 46
recommendations, the report was entitled the BLAC Report on Education -
Redressing Inequity, Empowering Black Learners. One of the primary
recommendations stated that the BLAC have its status modified to a provincial
advisory council. In January 1996, the Nova Scotia Legislature formalized
this recommendation and CACE came into being. Recommendation #1 of the BLAC
Report states that “the Minister of Education elevate the Black
Learners' Advisory Committee to a Council on African Canadian Education to
monitor and continually analyze the policies of the Department of Education
with respect to the needs of Black learners and educators; to develop a
partnership with senior education administrators and as a mechanism for
enhancing the status and functions of the BLAC vis-a-vis local school boards
and post-secondary educational institutions.” In 2004 CACE brought
attention to the 10-year anniversary of the BLAC report; at the time, about
two thirds of the 46 recommendations of the BLAC report had been addressed.
Transition Year Program (TYP) at Dalhousie
University is a
one-year program designed to academically prepare First Nations and African
Canadian adults who do not yet meet standard Dalhousie entrance requirements.
Dalhousie University, in partnership with the
two communities, established TYP to redress educational inequities faced by
members of the First Nations and African Canadian communities. The TYP
introduces students to the university in a variety of ways. Its curriculum,
which includes a variable number of credit courses, can be adapted to
individual needs and objectives. The TYP core curriculum includes courses in
Black and Native Studies, Study Skills, English, Mathematics, and a credit
course at Dalhousie. A Computer course is also offered at the introductory
level – the course offers basic skill development in e-mail, internet
use and word processing. All TYP courses are full-year, university
preparatory courses and are not for credit. Classroom instruction is
complemented by an orientation week, special lectures, campus tours,
workshops and field trips. The program's staff includes members of the Dalhousie University community as well as the
First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Tuition waivers are made
available to students who remain in good academic standing and progress
towards a first degree.
Indigenous Blacks &
Mi’kmaq (IB&M) Initiative
IB&M Initiative was established in 1989 to reduce structural and systemic
discrimination by increasing the representation of Indigenous Black and
Mi’kmaq people in the legal profession. The creation of the IB&M
Initiative was the result of a number of factors, including (1) the efforts
of African Nova Scotians and Mi’kmaq people to gain access to legal
education and the legal profession and to address racism in the legal system;
(2) the 1989 Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall Jr. Prosecution, which
examined racism in the justice system and found that there were very few
Indigenous Black lawyers in Nova Scotia and no Mi’kmaq lawyers; and (3)
a Dalhousie university-wide study on access to education. Faculty members at Dalhousie Law
School were involved in
these initiatives and joined with African Nova Scotians and the Mi’kmaq
to launch the IB&M Initiative. The IB&M Initiative works to ensure
that Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian students (and other Aboriginal
and Black students) are represented at Dalhousie Law
School. The Initiative
involves community outreach and recruiting; providing student financial and
other support; developing scholarship in the areas of Aboriginal law and
African Canadian legal perspectives, and promoting the hiring and retention
of graduates. Students who enter Dalhousie Law School through the IB&M
Initiative join the regular first class, write the same exams, complete the
same work and earn the same LL.B. degree as do all other students at
Dalhousie Law School. Since inception of the IB&M Initiative, more than
ninety Black and Aboriginal graduates have secured employment with private
law firms, Aboriginal organizations, and government legal departments; and
have taken up a range of leadership roles across Nova Scotia and beyond.
The James Robinson
Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies is a national senior academic post covering all
based at Dalhousie
recognition of the unique historical presence of Black people in the area.
First named the Endowed Chair in Black Canadian Studies, the chair is later
named in honor of Nova Scotia’s
first Black lawyer. The idea of establishing such a post emerged in the late
70's and after extensive local and national activity led to a proposal being
approved by the Dalhousie Senate in February 1991 and by the Dalhousie Board
of Governors in March 1991. It took a further five years to accumulate the
2.5 million Canadian dollars to launch the Chair. In 1996 the first Chair,
Dr. Esmeralda Thornhill, was appointed. The present chair holder, Professor
David Divine, was appointed in 2004.
The Dalhousie School
of Social Work has
an Affirmative Action Admission Policy for residents of the three Maritime Provinces who
belong to regional Aboriginal, Acadian and indigenous Black populations, and
for persons with disabilities. Members of these groups who have five general
(non-social work) university credits that average B- are encouraged to apply
under this policy. This policy reflects the School’s strong commitment
since the 1970’s to increase the number of Social Work graduates from
the Aboriginal, indigenous Black, Acadian and disability communities.
Youth Of Today is a student organization at Auburn Drive High School
that aims to promote the history, heritage and cultural contribution of people
of African descent. The group prides itself in fostering a sense of identity
among African Nova Scotian youth by providing a place where they can meet
regularly to discuss issues relating to the history and development of Black
peoples throughout the African diaspora. Youth participants take part in
discussions and organized activities, as well as take on leadership roles
within their school and community. The group organizes several events that
highlight the history of people of African Descent, including an annual
Kwanzaa Dinner, African Heritage Month celebrations, local historical
displays, daily information on important theories and historical tidbits,
workshops, lectures, study groups, and educational outings.
1898: James Robinson
Johnston graduates from the Dalhousie University School of Law, becoming
the first Black Nova Scotian to graduate with a degree in law. One of Johnston’s career
objectives was to break down the prejudice that existed in rural black
communities against post-secondary education. He proposed in 1905 to found a
normal and industrial school on the model of the Hampton institute in Virginia. Supported by the Rev. Moses B.
Puryear, who had come to Nova Scotian in 1909 as pastor of the Cornwallist Street Baptist
Church, the scheme was
approved in 1914 and endorsed by civic and church leaders. In September 1915,
the African United Baptist Association adopted a resolution that the proposed
institution be known as the Industrial School of Nova Scotia for Colored
Children. A little cottage in north end Halifax
served as the first school for three weeks, before it was blown up in the Halifax explosion of
1917 (Pachai, 1987)
1928: Madeline Symonds
became the first Black woman to graduate from the Provincial Normal
College, now the Nova
Scotia Teacher's College.
On The Web…
African Canadian Services (Nova Scotia
Department of Education)
Black Educators Association of Nova
Biography of the first Black woman to graduate
from teacher’s college in Nova
early Black pioneers settled in Nova
Scotia they continued to exercise their religious
(primarily Christian) beliefs. The province has a historically strong Baptist
presence. Rev. Richard Preston (founder of the African United Baptist
Association) was instrumental in championing Baptist beliefs and establishing
Black Baptist churches throughout Nova
Scotia (Pachai, 1987). Not all African Nova
Scotians are Baptists, however some are Anglican, Roman Catholic,
Pentecostal, African Methodists, Episcopal, Muslim, members of the United
Church and other denominations, as well as non-denominational. Faith
Tabernacle and The Rock Church are two very prominent non-Baptist churches
with a significant number of African Nova Scotian congregation members.
church has and continues to play an important role in Black Nova Scotian
communities. In addition to providing spiritual guidance, the church has
historically proved an important platform for social activism, hosting
community meetings, speaking out against injustice, and providing a safe
space for community members to congregate and address issues affecting them.
Well into the 20th century, the Black church was the primary voice
of the Black community, expressing its needs to the greater society. The
church allowed the community to speak with one voice, and proved influential
in bringing about change. Local churches continue be a voice for their
The African United Baptist
Association was founded in 1854 by Reverend Richard Preston
and Septimus Clarke. The AUBA serves as a parent organization uniting 20
Black Baptist Churches around Nova
Scotia. It is the province’s oldest Black
organization. Cornwallis Street United
Baptist Church – the “Mother
Church” of the
AUBA – was the first church founded by Rev. Richard Preston after he
was ordained in 1832. Many church-based and provincial organizations like the
Women’s Missionary, the Men’s Brotherhood, and the Baptist Youth
Fellowship are supported by the AUBA.
Rev. Donald E. Fairfax was
born and raised in the community of Cherry Brooke. Leaving the community at
the age of 17, he soon found his way to Cornwallis Street
His early association with the church was when he sang in the choir, under
the leadership of the late Miss Portia White who was Organist at that time.
Donald Fairfax was baptized in 1941, and ordained as a minister in 1951. In
1987 Rev. Fairfax was appointed to the Board of the Nova Scotia Human Rights
Commission. In 1989 he was awarded the 1989 Ronald Stafford Memorial Award by
the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers for his outstanding community
and social advocacy work in the city of Dartmouth.
And in 1991 Rev. Fairfax completed 44 years of faithful, dedicated service as
Pastor of Victoria Road Church.
Rev. Elias Mutale began
his theological studies in his home country, Zambia, in 1987. In 1988 he and
his family moved to Canada,
where Rev. Mutale continued theological studies at Acadia Divinity
College in Wolfville,
graduating with a Bachelor of Theology in 1900 and a Master of Divinity
degree in 1995. Rev. Mutale served eight years at an all-white parish in Annapolis Valley before becoming pastor of Victoria Road United
in 1998. At Victoria
Rev. Mutale established many different types of community projects in the
church covering youth employment, literacy development for adults, and work
readiness programs. Rev. Mutale is the regional minister for the Convention
of Atlantic Baptist Churches and is responsible for all African United
Baptist Association (AUBA) churches. In addition to pastoral care, Rev.
Mutale teaches, writes, and is a field education supervisor for Acadia Divinity College.
Rev. Dr. William P. Oliver was
born on February 11, 1912,
in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. He received his early
education at the local high school which placed emphasis on the importance of
a college education. He entered Acadia
University and received
his Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1934 and Bachelor of Divinity Degree in 1936.
In 1937, Dr. Oliver was called to minister at the "mother church"
of the A.U.B.A., Cornwallis
Church in Halifax. Dr. Oliver was
a founder and guiding spirit of the Nova Scotia Association for the
Advancement of Colored Peoples (NSAACP), the Black United Front (BUF), and
the Black Cultural Society for Nova
Scotia. Known as a leader with great wisdom and
unfailing dedication, he was no stranger to controversy or criticism. He was
not afraid to stand up alone if the cause was righteous. As a visionary he
has been described as "Nova
Scotia’s passionate defender of
equality". He died peacefully at home in Lucasville in May 1989.
Rev. Richard Preston is one
of Black Nova Scotia’s most celebrated leaders and co-founder of the
African United Baptist Association. He arrived in Nova Scotia around 1815 with the Black
Refugees, looking for his mother who was then (unbeknownst
to him) living in the Preston settlement.
After being reunited with his mother, Richard Preston traveled to London, England
in 1831 to study ministry. He was ordained in 1832, and upon returning to Nova Scotia later that
same year, Preston established Cornwallis Street Baptist
Church in Halifax. In 1854, Preston called a meeting of all Black Baptist congregations
in Nova Scotia
for the purposes of forming a parent organization, the African United Baptist
Association. Preston would go on to preach
throughout Nova Scotia
and organize thirteen churches around the province over the next 21 years.
Until his death in 1861, Richard Preston was a prominent social activist and
leader for the Black community.
Dr. Donald D. Skeir
served over 40 years as a pastor for the communities of North
Preston, East Preston, and
Cherrybrook. Rev. Skeir was actively involved in numerous community and
provincial organizations (member of the Nova Scotia Association for the
Advancement of Coloured People; former President, Board Member and Treasurer
for the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children; former Chairperson of the East
Preston Day Care Board of Directors; a former Director of the Nova Scotia
Human Rights Commission; former Moderator of the African United Baptist
Association). Rev. Skeir continues to be celebrated as a leader in the Black
community. A scholarship fund in memory of Rev. Skier and his wife Evelina
Skeir gives annual scholarships to high school graduates pursuing higher
On The Web…
Cornwallis Street Baptist Church (Halifax)
Baptist Church (Hammonds Plains)
Blacks in Nova Scotia have historically proved
underrepresented in government politics. African Nova Scotians are, for the
most part, absent from government-affiliated volunteer agencies, boards, and
commissions. And only three government initiatives specifically target the
needs of African Nova Scotian communities: the Black Business Initiative
(BBI), the Council on African Canadian Education (CACE), and the African
Canadian Services Division.
Numerous reports, submissions, and recommendations have
attempted to define the problems, provide solutions, or establish corrective
measures. However, government's accountability and resources for specific
initiatives have not been consistent. There is a widespread belief across
communities that the root causes of discrimination, institutional racism, and
cultural biases have not been addressed.
The provincial government employs about 160 African
Nova Scotians. The majority of African Nova Scotian workers in the provincial
public service are women rather than men. Within the provincial government,
only a few African Nova Scotian public servants hold managerial positions.
Provincial public service employment for all African Nova Scotians is 2.23
per cent. There are a high number of "term" positions and a
tendency for African Nova Scotian public servants to move horizontally in
organizational structures rather than vertically.
creation of the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs in 2003 is meant to
help encourage and facilitate dialogue between government and the African
Nova Scotian community.(For further
information, visit: www.gov.ns.ca/ansa)
Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs was created in 2003 to give Nova Scotians of African
descent a voice in government by providing a vehicle by which the community
can communicate concerns, and a platform to address issues such as
discrimination, housing, employment, education, community development, and
access to resources.
In addition to reviewing and providing input on
proposed legislation and regulations, the Office endeavors to strengthen the delivery
of services to African Nova Scotians, advocate for improved services and
programs for African Nova Scotians, and facilitate and/or create dialogue
between government and community. The Honourable Barry Barnet is
the current Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Barnet is white
and the first person to hold this position.
1979: Graham Downey of Halifax is appointed
Deputy Mayor of Halifax.
1979: Wayne Adams is first elected to Halifax County Municipal
Council, where he would be re-elected five times to represent District 8.
1986: Corrine Sparks of Lake Loon
is appointed to a judgeship on the Provincial Bench of Nova Scotia, becoming
the first Black Nova Scotian to be appointed to the bench.
Daye, a Canadian Junior Lightweight Boxing Champion and co-founder of the
Black United Front, is appointed Sergeant-at-Arms in the Nova Scotia
Legislature. He is the first Black man in Canada to receive this
1991: Halifax Lawyer Donald Oliver, Q.C., is appointed
to the Canadian Senate by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, becoming the first
Black Nova Scotian appointed to the Senate.
1993: Wayne Adams takes the newly
created riding of Preston for the Liberals,
becoming the first African Nova Scotian MLA and cabinet minister. He’ll
be appointed to the Order of Canada
1993: The legislative seat of Preston is created. This riding includes the Black
communities of Lake Loon-Cherry Brook, East Preston
and North Preston, increasing the chance of
a Black person being elected to the Nova Scotian legislature.
1994: Gordon Earle, ombudsman for the
province of Manitoba, is appointed Deputy Minister
of Housing in the Province
of Nova Scotia, making him
a top ranked civil servant. He is the first Black Nova Scotian to be
appointed to this position.
1997: Gordon Earle wins the federal
riding of Halifax West, becoming the province’s first African Nova
Scotian Member of Parliament.
1998: Yvonne Atwell defeats Wayne
Adams and becomes the MLA for Preston, the
first Black woman to hold such a position in Nova Scotia.
Ruck, a Dartmouth
historian and activist, becomes the second Black Nova Scotian to be appointed to the
2000: Senator Calvin Ruck retires
from the Canadian Senate.
2003: Premier John Hamm appoints Barry
Barnet, the first cabinet minister to hold the brand new portfolio African
Nova Scotian Affairs. Barnet is white.
2004: Senator Calvin Ruck passes away
at the age of 79. A Social Worker and Community Advocate, Senator Ruck was
probably best known for his work as an author. His book on the No. 2
Construction Battalion helped to promote the untold story of the Black
Canadian experience in the First World War.
2006: Mayann Francis, Executive
Director of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, is appointed Lieutenant
Governor of Nova Scotia; she is the first Black person to hold this post.
On The Web…
the arrival of the Black pioneers in the late 1700s, social activism among
Blacks in Nova Scotia
has proved both constant and necessary. Blacks in Halifax have and continue to express
concerns around prominent issues such as racial discrimination, land
misappropriation and substandard housing. In 1919 Africville residents
petitioned the city of Halifax
for better living conditions (Saunders et al, 1992). Moreover, groups
like the Halifax Colored Citizens Improvement League, the Nova Scotia
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Africville
Genealogical Society were born to advocate the Black community and help bring
positive change (Pachai, 1990).
churches have historically provided an important platform for community
activism, hosting community meetings, speaking out against injustice, and
providing a safe space for members of their respective communities to
congregate and address issues affecting their people. For example, in 1987
Rev. Willard Clayton raised the issue of the need for water service and
compensation to residents of Upper Hammonds Plains, citing the 1974
expropriation of Pockwock Lake in Hammonds Plains to supply water for the
city of Halifax, the town of Bedford, and Halifax County .The Upper Hammonds
Plains community was offered 100,000 for the land at the time – much
less than what it was actually worth. This is but one example of a church-led
movement for change in the Black community. In effect, organized bodies like
the church and other community organizations have been instrumental in
bringing about change by uniting members of the community to speak as a
strong collective voice.
Trailblazers & Timeline
1898: James Robinson Johnson graduates from the
Dalhousie University School of Law, becoming the first Black Nova Scotian to
graduate with a degree in law. A committed youth leader, activist and lawyer,
one of Johnson’s career objectives was to break down the prejudice that
existed in rural black communities against post-secondary education.
1919: Africville residents petition
the city of Halifax
for better living conditions (an Infectious
was built on the hill overlooking the community in the 1870’s, followed
by the Trachoma
Hospital in 1903. Such
developments continued into the twentieth century with, for example, a
stone-crushing plant, sewage disposal pits, and an abattoir on the edges of
1921: James A.R. Kinney establishes
the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children in Dartmouth. Kinney was a
leading member of the African United Baptist Association, serving as its
clerk from 1916 to 1921 and treasurer from 1939 to 1949. The NS Home for
Colored Children was established to provide care for black orphans and
neglected children since they were not accepted in white institutions. The
Home is still in existence today, though it is no longer exclusive to black
1932: The Halifax Coloured Citizens
Improvement League is established under the leadership of local Beresford
Augustus Husbands. B.A. Husbands was a leader in educational and community
affairs; he also had real estate holdings, was an importer, and ran a
wholesale and retail store
1944: A public meeting to protest
denigration of black people in the story of Black Sambo in the Grade II
reader then in use. Beresford Augustus Husbands took up the issue on behalf
of the Halifax Coloured Citizens Improvement League and wrote to the premier.
1945: The Nova Scotia Association for
the Advancement of Coloured People is established.
1946: Viola Desmond, a successful Halifax beautician and businesswoman, is arrested
for choosing to sit downstairs in the racially segregated Roseland Theatre in
New Glasgow (rather than upstairs in the balcony where Blacks were forced to
sit). Desmond was forcibly removed from the theatre, thrown in jail for 12
hours and finally charged with “attempting to defraud the Federal
Government” by refusing to pay the one cent amusement tax on a 3 cent
balcony ticket downstairs tickets cost 2 cents. After a short trial Desmond
was fined $20 and sentenced to 30 days in prison. The recently formed NSAACP
assisted in raising money to pay the fine and bring public attention to the
province’s “Jim Crow” laws.
1946: Carrie M. Best establishes The
Clarion, Nova Scotia’s
first newspaper for Blacks and a vehicle for Carrie’s investigative
reporting into discrimination. The Viola Desmond case was the launching pad
for Best’s career – she and Desmond later organized other Blacks
to lobby the Nova Scotia
government, which finally abolished segregation in 1954. When Best stopped publication of her own newspaper in 1956,
she continued advocating for the rights of Blacks both at public speaking
events and in the columns of several Nova
1954: Legal segregation ends in Nova Scotia. The
province’s public schools are integrated.
1968: Delegates of the Black Panther
Party visit the Black community of Halifax
and create a stir in the province.
1968 –1969: The Black United Front of Nova
Scotia, a provincial Black social reform organization, begins operation.
1969: Former Africville residents form
the Africville Action Committee in hopes of getting more direct compensation.
The organization lobbied for more just property settlements and an emergency
fund for relocated residents. The committee spent two years mobilizing
support among local organizations, writing letters to newspapers and meeting
with government. But a lack of resources and experienced leaders, coupled
with the bureaucratic and legal objections to proposals, and the cool
response of local politicians, ultimately caused the action committee to fade
1969: The Nova Scotia Human Rights
Commission begins operation.
the people of North Preston, East Preston, Cherrybrook, Lake Loon
and Lake Major unite to ultimately defeat an
attempt by the Halifax
County to seize
community land around Lake
Loon in the name of
protecting the water supply of Dartmouth.
The Watershed Association Development Enterprise
(WADE) evolved from theses activities
1979: The Association of Black Social Workers (ABSW) is established. Since
its inception ABSW has been an advocate for Nova Scotia’s Black social workers,
a voice for Black Nova Scotian children within the child welfare system, and
a valuable resource for the African-Nova Scotian community.
1981: The Africville
Genealogical Society forms to preserve the memory of Africville, lobby the
government for equitable compensation for former residents, and organize
annual reunions in Seview
Park (former site of
1989: The first Cole Harbour
High School “race
riot” happens—and makes national news—when a snowball fight
and hurled racial slurs escalate into a school-yard brawl pitting whites
1990: The Black Learners Advisory Committee is formed in response to
ongoing struggles of African Nova Scotians to eliminate racism and receive
equity in education.
A “race riot” erupts in downtown Halifax when about 150 Black and White
youths clash at a popular downtown bar. The conflict continues as a crowd
moves up Argyle Street,
Brunswick Street and Rainnie Drive.
The incident attracts national attention and inspires a peace march
(spearheaded by the Cultural Awareness Youth Group of Nova Scotia).
1992: The over-full Sackville landfill
site is set to close and environmental racism is the charge as Preston area
residents take their case before the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission,
arguing that the selection of East Lake for the new landfill site was
non-consultative and all-but-foregone (the proposed site is less than nine
kilometers from the predominantly Black communities of North Preston and East
Preston). The decision is later rescinded.
1994: The Black Learners Advisory Committee releases the BLAC Report
on Education – Redressing Inequity, Empowering Black Learners. The
study encompasses 46 recommendations, one of which states that the BLAC have
its status modified to a provincial advisory council.
Victor Carvery stage a protest, camping out for months on the former
Africville site. The Carverys want compensation from the city for former
residents for the expropriation of land in the 1960s.
United Front, a 12-year-old advocacy group, folds due to lack of funding from
“race riots” at Cole
School. After skirmishes the previous year 40
students fight along racial lines in October. Two students are expelled and
12 are suspended. The following day three of those students are brought back
to the school by their parents and the school fire alarm is pulled. Hundreds
of students pour out of the school and several fights begin. Two students are
sent to hospital. Principal Gary Hartlen blames the parents who brought their
suspended or expelled students to school: “This was not a school
problem today; in our opinion this was a community problem.”
1998: North Preston heavyweight boxer Kirk Johnson is pulled over in
his car by Constable Michael Sanford. During a two-month period this year
Johnson is stopped 28 times by local police. On this occasion, his car is
2001: Constable Carol Campbell-Waugh
successfully sues lawyers Anne Derrick and Burney “Rocky” Jones
for their 1995 claim that Campbell-Waugh would not have conducted a search
for a stolen $10 by asking three grade 7 girls to pull their underwear away
from their bodies if they weren’t poor African Nova Scotians.
Campbell-Waugh’s award is the highest defamation verdict in Nova Scotia
history—$240,000 in damages, plus $105,000 in legal fees.
2002: The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal (and in the
following year the Supreme Court of Canada) rule that Anne Derrick
and Burnley “Rocky” Jones do not
have to pay $240,000 in damages to Constable Carol Campbell-Waugh.
2002: Halifax City Council approves a motion to
reconfirm that a sewage treatment plant (part of the city’s harbour
cleanup project) should be located at the city-owned site at the corner of
Cornwallis and Barrington Streets. Council does not believe that the Human
Rights Complaint put forth by the Central Halifax Community Association, the
Brunswick Heritage Area Residents’ Association and the Africville Genealogical
Society has validity. North End residents (many of them with roots in
Africville) are concerned that the city is merely taking advantage of one of
its poorest communities, drawing comparisons to the city’s unlawful
destruction of Africville in the 1960s.
2003: Boxer Kirk Johnson wins a
discrimination complaint against the Halifax Regional Police. The Nova Scotia
Human Rights decision ruled that the Halifax Regional Police discriminated
against Mr. Johnson when his vehicle was pulled over and seized in 1998. A
cash settlement was also awarded to Mr. Johnson.
2004: Police Chief Frank Beazley
apologizes to Kirk Johnson for Constable Michael Sanford’s seizure of
Johnson’s car in 1998, acknowledges the findings of the Nova Scotia
Human Rights Commission that Johnson was a victim of racial discrimination,
and admits that the Halifax Regional Police Service has some issues to work
On The Web…
of historical footage, interviews, information, and timelines.
have made significant contributions in sports, winning international awards
and excelling in boxing, basketball, and football (among other sports).
Various community recreation initiatives continue to support youth sports
programs. The Community Y (in Halifax’s
North End Community) stayed a strong force in basketball throughout the
1970s. A new recreation centre in North Preston
has provided a much-needed outlet for youth in the community to participate
in recreational activities. Several Halifax
youth who developed their skills in basketball at the community level have
since gone on to play university ball. And the annual Provincial Black
Basketball Tournament continues to be the foremost sports event in the
province’s Black community, attracting teams and spectators from across
and the United States.
Provincial Black Basketball Association is a non-profit
organization that is committed to the promotion of the game of basketball
within Black community in Nova
Scotia and Canada. The association is the
official sponsor and promoter of the annual Black Basketball Tournament. The
event draws players and spectators from across North
America and has become an important event in the African Nova
Scotian social calendar.
Trailblazers & Timeline
1890: George Dixon of Halifax wins the World
Bantamweight boxing title. This is the first time a Black man has won a world
boxing title in any weight class. Dixon
was elected to the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1956 and the International
Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
1966: Delmore " Buddy" Daye
of Halifax is crowned Canadian Junior Lightweight Champion.
1967: Dave Downey of Halifax wins the Canadian Middleweight
Smith of Halifax begins a
distinguished football career in the Canadian Football League when he is
signed by the Ottawa Roughriders.
1972: The first provincial black
basketball tournament is organized in Halifax.
1979: Jamaican born Trevor Berbick,
fighting out of Halifax,
is crowned the Canadian Heavyweight Champion.
1988: Raymond Downey of Halifax becomes the
first Black Nova Scotian to win an Olympic medal. Downey won the Light Middleweight bronze
medal for Canada
at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul,
1992: Tyrone Williams of Halifax
becomes the first Black Nova Scotian drafted by the National Football League.
The Arizona Cardinals chose Williams in the Ninth round of the NFL Entry
Draft. He was the 239th overall pick.
1993: St. Mary’s Huskies star basketball
player Will Njoku wins the Mike Moser Award as the Most Outstanding Player in
the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union (CIAU) in his junior year. Njoku
goes on to play professional ball in Belgium, China, France, Germany, Portugal and Turkey.
2002: Kirk Johnson of North Preston gets
a crack at the World Boxing Association Heavyweight Title. He is disqualified
in the title bout against John Ruiz for low blows. Johnson's record is now at 34 - 2- 1 (25 KO's).
2005: Lauren Grant joins the Canada
Games team as a sprinter. Grant is a striker for Dalhousie University Soccer
team and for the Club Team Athens United. Her club team won the Nova Scotia
provincials and finished fifth at the Nationals in Calgary in 2005.
On The Web…
Abucar, Dr. Mohamed. (1988)Struggle for Development: The Black
Communities of North & East Preston and Cherry Brook, Nova
Scotia 1784-1987. Dartmouth,
NS: McCurdy Printing &
Black Learners Advisory
Report on Education. Halifax: The Council on African Canadian
Cain, Patricia, Copeland, Wanda,
Johnson, Allister’ Sparks,
Jocelyn, Thomas, Matthew, & Williams, Craig. (2000).We can't walk alone: A path
to capacity building in African Nova Scotian communities. Halifax,
NS: Watershed Area Development
Enterprises (WADE) and Atlantic Community Economic Development Institute.
Clarke, George Elliot. (1991).Fire on the Water: An Anthology of Black
Nova Scotian Writing. Halifax: Pottersfield Press.
B. (1796). Proceedings of the Governor and Assembly of Jamaica, in
Regard to the Maroon Negroes.
Grant, John N. (n.d) The origins of Maroon Hill. Halifax,
NS: Pottersfield Press.
Sylvia. (2005).A Survey of Early Black
Women In Nova Scotia.
In Peggy Bristow et al. , We’re Rooted Here and They
Can’t Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women’s History. Toronto;
University of Toronto Press, 1994.
Matheson, Keith. (2003). A Profile of
the Canadian Population in 2001. Statistics Canada
Oliver, Pearleen.(1953) A Brief History of The Colored Baptists of
NS: African United Baptist
Pachai, Bridglal. (1987).Beneath The Clouds of the Promised Land:
The Survival of Nova Scotia’s
Blacks. Volume I: 1600-1800. Halifax,
NS: McCurdy Printing &
Bridglal. (1990).Beneath The Clouds of
the Promised Land: The Survival of Nova
Scotia’s Blacks. Volume II: 1800-1989. Hantsport,
NS: Lancelot Press Ltd.
Bridglal. (1997).Blacks. Tantallon, NS:
Four East Publications.
Saunders, Charles A. &
Africville Genealogy Society. (1992).The
Spirit of Africville. Halifax, NS: