Black African History – Africville (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Africville, Nova Scotia

The following documentary titled Remember Africville (1991), available on the National Film Board of Canada site, recounts the history of a small black settlement called Africville, located within the seaside city limits of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The settlement was a racially isolated area established in the 1830s by population of African descent – former slaves, escaped slaves and free people, often Black loyalists – whom played a founding role in the settling of Nova Scotia seeking employment and a better life.

The community of Africville grew in the 1900s with its own school and church. Systemic racism limited employment opportunities and was an underlying cause for the refusal to provide basic municipal services (e.g., roads, plumbing, water) to the community. Despite resistance and protest, the families were forcefully relocated in the 1960s and their homes demolished in the apparent pursuit of municipal urban renewal policies undergoing across Canada. The residents of Africville were often relocated to government housing within the city of Halifax in conditions that undermined their independence and subjected them to more racism and discrimination. Despite policies of development, the site was ever only converted into Seaview municipal park – the location of an annual pilgrimage for organizations and descendants of the community.

The documentary contains original footage of the independent community of Africville and their painful experiences of relocation as well as protests and the campaign of redress that subsequently unfolded. It also draws upon archived materials including filmed video, photographs and testimony. In 2002, the site of Africville was designated as a National Historic Landmark. In 2011, the City of Halifax restored the name of Africville to the site. And in 2013, the Mayor of Halifax issued a public apology and established along with the Government of Canada the Africville Heritage Trust to rebuild the demolished Africville church. Part of the apology was a $4.5 million dollar compensation deal.

Today, Africville represents a symbol of African community organization in Canada and site honoring the ongoing struggle against systemic racism.

Sources and References
Website: Africville.ca — last accessed on November 16th 2014
Online Archive: CBC video of the Declaration of the National Park — last accessed on November 16th 2014
Website: Nova Scotia Archives site — last accessed on November 16th 2014
Website: City of Halifax apology (wiki) — last accessed on November 16th 2014

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