We are Africville - Maxine Tynes

We are Africville

we are the dispossessed Black of the land

creeping wifti shadows

with life

with pride

with memories

into the place made for us

creeping with pain away from our home

carrying, always carrying

Africville on our backs

in our hearts

in the face of our child and our anger.

I am Africville

says a woman, child, man at the homestead site;

This park is green; but

Black, so Black with community.

I talk Africville

to you

and to you

until it is both you and me

till it stands and lives again

till you face and see and stand on its life and its forever Black past

No house is Africville.

No road, no tree, no well.

Africville is man/woman/child in the street and heart Black Halifax,

the Prestons, Toronto.

Wherever we are, Africville,

you and we axe that Blackpast homeground.

We mourn for the burial of our houses, our church, our roads;

but we wear Our Africville face and skin and heart.

For all the world.

For Africville.

We Are Africville By: Irvine Carvery

We are the little children who sits quietly in church while the congregation
sings and sways to the spirit of the spiritual.
We Are Africville
We are the children who feels the wind against their faces as
we speed down Aunt Noggie’s hill on sleds
We Are Africville
We are the little children who takes their first dives into the water
from the big rock down Kildare’s Field
We Are Africville
We are the little children who sit in Grandmother’s sun porch listening to
tell of life in Africville when he was a young boy.
We Are Africville
We are grown adults with little children of our own who will never
share in the things and places we have known.
We Are Africville

Backgrounder - Black History in Canada

1608 - First Black Person in Canada
  • The first Black person thought to have set foot on land that is now referred to as Canada was Mathieu Da Costa, a free man who was hired as an interpreter fro Samuel de Champlain's 1605 excursion.

1689 - Louis XIV Formally Authorised Slavery in New France
  • Enslaved Africans lived and worked in Canada since at least 1628. The first enslaved Black person in Canada's history was a six-year-old boy, to whom the Jesuit father Paul Le Jeune gave catechism.
  • By 1759, when New France fell to the British, historians estimate that there were between several hundred to several thousand enslaved Black people in Canada, as well as many enslaved Aboriginal peoples.

"I dreaded the big boat up ahead, growing larger with each oar stroke. In size, it dwarfed a twelve-man canoe, and it stank worse than the pen they had put us in on the island. The boat terrified me, but I was even more afraid of sinking deep into the salty water, with no possibility for my spirit to return to my ancestors... I clenched my teeth and looked out over the water at all my people tied in canoes and being pushed, prodded and pulled up a long plank rising along the great wall of the ship. I turned back to see my homeland. There were mountains in the distance. One of them rose like an enormous lion. But all its power was trapped on the land. It could do nothing for any of us out on the water." - Aminata Diallo

  • When White Loyalists were allowed to bring enslaved pople into Canada after 1783, the Black population almost doubled. In 1807, the slave trade was banned by the British. By 1834, slavery was abolished in Canada and throughout the British Empire.

1734 - Marie-Josephe Angélique Tortured and Hanged (Spring)
  • Enslaved Black woman Marie-Josephe Angélique was accused of setting fire to the house of her "owner" in Montréal. Although to this day it is unclear whether Angélique actually set the fire, she was tortured and hanged for her "crime."

1776 - Black Loyalists Reached Nova Scotia
  • The British promised freedom, land and rights to slaves and free Black people in exchange for service during the American Revolution, 1775-1783.
  • After signing the Treaty of Paris in 1783, an exodus of Black Loyalists to Nova Scotia, Québec, the West Indies, England, and Belgium began. The names of the passengers sailing to Nova Scotia in 1783 were recorded in the "Book of Negroes." The list included physical descriptions along with each person's status as slave or free. Lawrence Hill's novel of the same name chronicles the voyage of Aminata from New York to Nova Scotia and is based on the actual passage of about 3,000 Black Loyalists from the newly formed United States into Canada in 1783.
A page from the "Book of Negroes"

  • The earliest colonial settlement of Africville began with the relocation of Black Loyalists, slaves from the Thirteen Colonies who escaped from rebel masters and were freed by the British in the course of the American Revolutionary War. The Crown transported them and other Loyalists to Nova Scotia, promising land and supplies for their service. The Crown also promised land and equal rights to War of 1812 Refugees.

1784 - Canada's First Race Riot Rocked Nova Scotia (July 26-27)
  • The Black Loyalists were among the first settlers in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. On its fringes, they established their own community, Birchtown. Hundres of White disbanded soldiers started a riot when they found themselves competing for job with Black neighbors who were paid less for the same work.

1790 - Imperial Statute
  • The Imperial Statute of 1790 effectively allowed settlers to bring enslaved persons to Upper Canada. Under the statute, those enslave had only to be fed and clothed.


1792 - The Black Loyalist Exodus (January 15)
  • The difficulty of supporting themselves in the face of widespread discrimination convinced almost 1,200 Black Loyalists to leave Halifax and relocate to Sierra Leone, Africa, forming the first major back-to-Africa exodus in the history of the Americas. The colonists of Freetown faced many challenges in settling, but they were free and resolute in their endeavour to succeed.

1793 - Upper Canada's Lieutenant-Covernor John Graves Simcoe's Anti-Slave Trade Bill (June 19)
  • Attorney General White introduced Lieutenant-Govenor John Graves Simcoe's anti-slavery measure and it passed. The bill did not ban slavery completely but marked its gradual reduction.

1796 - The Marrons Landed in Halifax (July 22)
  • A group of almost 600 freedom fighters called Maroons landed in Halifax. They came from the Jamaican community of escaped enslaved people, who had guarded their freedom fro more than a century and fought off countless attemps to re-enslave them. Once in Nova Scotia, they helped build Citadel Hill, were part of a militia unit, cleared woods for roads, and were employed as general labourers.

1800 - Canad's Second Back-To-Africa Movement
  • After several years of neglect, poor conditions and intolerance, several hundred Jamaican Maroons abandoned Nova Scotia and set sail for Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa.

1812 - 1815 - The "Coloured Troops" & The War of 1812
  • Thousands of Black volunteers fought for the British during the War of 1812.

1825 - Prince Edward Island abolished slavery.

1833 - British Parliament Abolished Slavery (August 28)
  • Slavery was abolished throughout the British colonies by an Imperial Act which became effective August 1, 1834. Many Canadians continue to celebrate August 1 as Emancipation Day.

1850 - Fugitive Slave Act
  • The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was enacted by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850. It greatly influenced the migration of African American into Canada. It was repealed June 28, 1864.

1851 - Formation of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada
  • The number of abolitionist sympathizers grew in Canada in the 1850s-1860s. The Anti-Slavery Society of Canada was formed "to aid in the extinction of Slavery all over the world."

1857 - William Neilson Hall Awarded the Victoria Cross (November 16)
  • William Hall served aboard the HMS Shannon in Calcutta during the 1857 Indian Mutiny. He was the first Canadian nave recipient, the first Black person, and the first Nova Scotian to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

1815 - 1860 - The Underground Railroad
  • Canada's reputation as a safe haven for Black people grew during and after the War of 1812. Between 1815 and 1860, tens of thousands of African-Americans bravely sought refuge in Canada via the legendary Underground Railroad.

1861 - The Victoria Pioneer Rifles
  • In 1851, James Douglas became the first appointed Black politician in Canada and then took over as governor of the colony of British Columbia African-Americans invited in by James Douglas emigrated from California to Victoria to become Canada's first and only all-Black police force.

1900 - The Campbell Road/Africville Settlement
  • In 1836, Campbell Road was constructed creating an access route along the north side of the Halifax Peninsula which may have attracted settlement. The community of Africville was never officially established, but the first land transaction documented on paper was dated 1848.
  • First known as "The Campbell Road Settlement", the community became known as "Africville" about 1900. Although many people thought it was named Africville because the people who lived there came from Africa, this was not the case. One elderly woman, a resident of Africville, was quoted as saying, "It wasn't Africville out there. None of the people came from Africa…it was part of Richmond (Northern Halifax), just the part where the colour folks lived."
  • Africville began as a small and poor, but self-sufficient rural community of about 50 people in the 19th century. In the late 1850s, the Nova Scotia Railway, later to become the Intercolonial Railway, was built from Richmond to the south, bisecting Africville as the railway's mainline along the western shores of Bedford Basin. A second line arrived in 1906 with the arrival of the Halifax and Southwestern Railway, which connected to the Intercolonial at Africville. The Intercolonial Railway, later Canadian National Railways, constructed Basin Yard west of the community, adding more tracks. Trains ran through the area constantly.
  • Drawn by jobs in industries and related facilities, this urban community had a peak population of 400 at the time of the Halifax Explosion in 1917. The community's haphazardly positioned dwellings ranged from small, well maintained and brightly painted homes to tiny ramshackle dwellings converted from sheds.
  • Elevated land to the south protected Africville from the direct blast of the Halifax Explosion and the complete destruction that levelled the neighbouring community of Richmond, but Africville still suffered considerable damage. A doctor of a relief train arriving at Halifax noted Africville residents "as they wandered disconsolately around the ruins of their still standing little homes". Four Africville residents (and one Mi'kmaq woman visiting from Queens County, Nova Scotia) were killed by the explosion.In the aftermath of the disaster, Africville received modest relief assistance from the city, but none of the reconstruction and none of the modernization invested into other parts of the city at that time.


1911 - Anti-Black Campaign (February)
  • By 1909, hundreds of Black people from Oklahoma moved to the Canadian Praries, where they met severe discrimination. In 1911, a few newspapers in Winnipeg even predicted

1914 - 1918 - Black Canadian Involvement in the First World War
  • In 1916, military officials authorized the creation of the No, 2 Construction Battalion. This battalion of exclusively Black soldiers was not permitted to fight. Instead, they served in France with the Canadian Forestry Corps.

1923 - Hogan's Alley in Vancouver
  • Hundreds of Black Canadians settled in the community of Strathcona on the east side of the city of Vancouver. The community was recognized with a commemorative Black History Month stamp by Canada Post in 2014.

1944 - Ontario Passes Racial Discrimination Act (March 14)
  • Ontario was the first province to respond to the battle against oppression when it passed the Racial Discrimination Act of 1944, a landmark legislation prohibiting the publication and display of any symbol, sign, or notice that expressed ethnic, racial, or religious discrimination. On April 1, 1947, The Saskatchewan Bill of Rights Act passed under Tommy Douglas, marking Canada's first general law prohibiting discrimination.

1939 - 1945 - Black Canadian Involvement in the Second World War
  • The Canadian military initially rejected Black volunteers, but many were later accepted into the Regular Army and officer corps. On the home front, the all-Black Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was one of the greatest success stories of the war years.

Viola Desmond.jpg
1946 - Viola Desmond
  • Long before the modern civil rights movement in the United States, a black woman from Halifax took a stand for racial equality in a rural Nova Scotia movie theatre. It was 1946, and Viola Desmond, a hairdresser, caused a stir by refusing to move to a section of the theatre unofficially set aside for black patrons. Desmond was injured as she was forcibly removed from the theatre and jailed overnight. She was release the next morning after paying a fine. Officials denied that her treatment had anything to do with her race. Her decision to fight the case galvanized Nova Scotia's black population to press for change. Segregation in the province was legally ended in 1954.

1946 - Jackie Robinson Plays His First Game for the Montreal Royals (April 18)
  • When he joined the Montreal Royals, Jackie Robinson became the first Black player in modern "organized" baseball.

1954 - Ontario Government Passed Fair Accommodation Practices Act (April 6)
  • The Act declared, "no one can deny to any person or class of persons the accommodation, services pr facilities usually available to members of the public." The Act also precluded anyone from posting discriminatory signs.

1958 - Willie O'Ree Breaks Barriers on the Ice (January 18)
  • Scouted from the Quebec Aces, Willie O'Ree was the first Black player in the NHL. He played for the Boston Bruin and his first game was against the Montreal Canadiens.

1962 - Fairclough Dismantled Discrimination Policy (January 19)
  • While she served as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Ellen Fairclough radically reformed the country's "White Canada" immigration policy, helping to reduce racial discrimination in Canada's policies.

1963 - First Black Person Elected to a Canadian Parliment (September 25)
  • Leonard Braithwaite became the first Black person in a provincial legislature when he was elected as the Liberal member for Etobicoke, Ontario, in 1963. In 1964, Braithwaite introduced legislation to remove the lave that allowed segregated schools to exist.

1964-67 - City of Halifax Demolishes Africville
  • During the 1940s and 1950s in different parts of Canada, the federal, provincial and municipal governments were working together for urban renewal: to redevelop areas classified as slums and relocate the people to new and improved housing. The intent was to redevelop some land for "higher" uses with greater economic return: business and industry. Many years earlier, and again in 1947 after a major fire burnt several Africville houses, officials discussed the redevelopment and relocation of Africville. Concrete plans of relocation did not officially emerge until 1961. Stimulated by the Stephenson Report of 1957 and the City's establishing its Department of Development in 1961, it proposed relocation of these residents.
  • In 1962, the City of Halifax unanimously adopted the relocation proposal. The Rose Report, published in 1964, was also passed 37/41 in favour of relocation. The report
    proposed support of residents through relocation, complete with free lawyers and social workers, job training, employment assistance, education services, etc., with the goal of improving their lives.
  • Anti-Black racism combined with a drive for "urban renewal" lead the city to threaten eviction of the neighborhood's property-owning Black residents if they did not voluntarily sell their properties and relocate.

Children playing around a water well in Africville, Nova Scotia, 1965
  • The formal eviction took place mainly between 1964 and 1967. The residents were assisted in their move by Halifax transporting them and their goods with the city dump trucks. This image forever stuck in the minds and hearts of people; they took it to represent the degrading way they were treated before, during and after the move. There were many hardships, suspicion and jealousy that emerged, mostly due to complications of land and ownership claims. Only 14 residents held clear legal titles to their land. Those with no legal rights were given a $500 payment and promised a furniture allowance, social assistance, and public housing units.Young families felt they had enough money to begin a new life, but most of the elderly residents would not budge; they had much more of an emotional connection to their homes. They were filled with grief and felt cheated out of their property. Resistance to eviction became more difficult as residents accepted the buyouts and their homes were demolished. The city quickly demolished each house as soon as residents moved out. The church at Africville was demolished in 1969 at night to avoid controversy. The last Africville home was demolished on January 2, 1970.
  • After relocation, the residents were faced with just as many problems as before. The cost of living went up in their new homes, more people were unemployed and without regular incomes, none of the promised employment or education programs were implemented, and none of the promises was fulfilled. "Benefits were so modest as to be virtually irrelevant…within a year and a half this post-relocation program lay in ruins." Family strains and debt forced many to rely on public assistance, and anxiety was high among the people. One of the biggest complaints was that they felt no sense of ownership or pride in the sterile public housing projects.

1971 - Prime Minister Trudeau Introduced Canada's Multicultural Policy (October)
  • Canada's multiculturalism policy grew partly in reaction to the Royal Commission on Biligualism and Biculturalism.

1972 - First Black Woman Elected to Canadian Provincial Legislature
  • Rosemary Brown was elected as the New Democratic Party member for Vancouver-Burrard, British Columbia. Further, in 1975, Rosemary Brown was the first Black woman to run for leadership of a Canadian federal political party.

1993 - The First Black Woman Elected to Parliament
  • Jean Augustine was the first Black woman to be elected to the House of Commons in a federal Cabinet.

1995 - Canadian Sprinter Became "World's Fastest Human" (August 6)
  • Donovan Bailey assumed the title of the "World's Fastest Human" by winning the 100-meter sprint at the World Track Championships in Göteborg, Sweden.

2010 - The Africville Apology (February 23-24)
  • On February 23, 2010 the Halifax Council ratified a proposed "Africville apology" with an arrangement with the Government of Canada to establish a $250,000 Africville Heritage Trust to design a museum and build a replica of the community church.
  • On February 24, 2010 Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly made the Africville Apology, apologizing the eviction as part of a $4.5-million compensation deal. The City restored the name Africville to Seaview Park at the annual Africville Family Reunion on July 29, 2011. The Seaview African United Baptist Church, demolished in 1969, was rebuilt in the summer of 2011 to serve as a church and historic interpretation centre. The nearly complete church was ceremonially opened on September 25, 2011

2014 - Lincoln Alexander Day Celebrated Annually Throughout Canada (January 21)
  • Lincoln Alexander was elected Canada's first Black MP representing Hamilton West, Ontario, from 1968 to 1980. In 1979, he was appointed Minister of Labour, becoming the country's first Black federal Cabinet minister. Alexander made history again by becoming the provinces first Black Lieutenant-Governor, serving from 1985 to 1991.

There is a growing movement by peoples of African descent around the world to pursue reparations from European nations that traded Afican people. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is an organization of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies. Established in 1973, CARICOM is pursuing compensation and apologies from the United Kingdom and even other European countries - France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark - who profited from the enslavement of African peoples.

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