1984

The Halifax City Regional Library (as it was previously known) recognized the need to acknowledge the history, culture, and achievement of the African Nova Scotian community.

In partnership with the Black United Front of Nova Scotia and writer/actor David Woods, the first celebration of Black History Week took place at the Halifax North Memorial Library on Gottingen Street. Although not initially held in February, the event went ahead with the purpose of celebrating the history of the Black community served by the library.


Black History of Nova Scotia

A Chronology of Events

1605
1776
1782
1792
1796
1800
1813-15
1815
1821
1832
1833
1848
1854
1859
1890
1898
1928
1945
1946
1952
1954
1960
1962
1964-67
1965
1966
1967
1967
1967
1968
1968
1968-69
1969
1969
1971
1973
1973-74
1974
1974
1976
1979
1979
1981
1983
1984
1986
1988
1989
1990
1991
1991
1992
1992
1993
1993
1994
1994
1996
1996
1996
1996
1997
1998
1998
2000
2001
2001
2001
2003
2003
2004
2005
2006
2006
2007
2010
2010
2010
2010
2010
2010
2011
2011
2012
2012
2012
2012
2012
2012
2014
2014
2014
2014
2015
2015
2016
2016
2016
2016
2016
2016
2016
2016
2016

Mathieu Da Costa arrives in Nova Scotia with an expedition led by the Sieur DeMonts, founding Port Royal.

The American War of Independence begins, leading many Americans loyal to the British Crown to migrate to Canada.

The first major groups of Black settlers arrived in this province; 1500 Free Black Loyalists come to Nova Scotia from the Thirteen Colonies.

Approximately 1200 Black Loyalists leave Nova Scotia headed for Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa, in response to the unfair treatment at the hand of the Nova Scotia government and the general hardships of life in this province.

Approximately 500 Maroons arrive in Halifax from Jamaica.

The Maroons are removed from Nova Scotia and taken to Sierra Leone by the British Government in order to avoid the cost of their maintenance in Nova Scotia.

Some 2000 Black refugees from the War of 1812 arrive in Nova Scotia.

Richard Preston arrives in Nova Scotia. He would later become an ordained Baptist minister and co-founder of the African United Baptist Association.

95 Blacks leave Nova Scotia for the island of Trinidad.

The Cornwallis Street Baptist Church - the first African Baptist Church and Mother Church of the African United Baptist Association - is organized in Halifax.

The British Parliament passes the Imperial Act. This Act abolishes slavery in the British Empire, including Nova Scotia. The Imperial Act becomes British law in 1834.

The first legal deeds for the community of Africville are issued.

The African United Baptist Association is founded by Rev. Richard Preston and Septimus Clarke.

William Hall of Horton's Bluff becomes the first Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

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.

James Robinson Johnson graduates from the Dalhousie University School of Law, becoming the first Black Nova Scotian to graduate with a degree in law.

Madeline Symonds becomes the first Black woman to graduate from the Provincial Normal College, now the Nova Scotia Teacher's College.

The Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) - a social reform organization - is founded.

Dr. Carrie Best begins publication of The Clarion, Nova Scotia's first Black newspaper.

Sam Langford of Weymouth Falls is inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame. Langford is considered to be the "Greatest Champion that never was".

Legal segregation of schools in Nova Scotia is abolished.

Rev. W.P. Oliver is chosen to serve as president of the United Baptist Convention of the Maritimes - the first Black to be so honoured.

The City of Halifax approves a plan for the destruction of the community of Africville.

The community of Africville is destroyed by the city of Halifax.

The Department of Education establishes a fund to help with the education of disadvantaged Blacks in Nova Scotia.

Delmore "Buddy" Daye of Halifax is crowned Canadian Junior Lightweight Champion.

Isaac Phils of Sydney becomes the first Black appointed to the Order of Canada.

Haligonian Dave Downey wins the Canadian Middleweight Boxing title.

The Inglewood Players, an all Black theatre company from the Annapolis Valley community of Inglewood, is founded, receiving high praise for its first production "Coming Here To Stay".

Delegates of the Black Panther Party visit the Black community of Halifax and create a stir in the province.

A Black child is refused burial in a cemetery in Windsor, NS because of her colour - resulting in a protest in the Black community.

The Black United Front of Nova Scotia, a provincial Black social reform organization, begins operation.

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission begins operation.

Wayne Smith of Halifax begins a distinguished football career in the Canadian Football League when he is signed by the Ottawa Roughriders.

Dr. George McCurdy of Amherstburg, Ontario is appointed Director of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Clyde Gray of Three Miles Plains is crowned the Commonwealth Welterweight Champion.

Bill Riley of Amherst, N.S. becomes the third Black person to play in the National Hockey League, playing with the Washington Capitals.

Dr. Carrie Best of New Glasgow is appointed to the Order of Canada.

The First Provincial Black Golf Tournament is held in Truro, Nova Scotia.

Paula Fairfax of Dartmouth becomes the first Black woman to win the Miss Nova Scotia Beauty contest.

Graham Downey of Halifax is appointed Deputy Mayor of Halifax.

Jamaican-born Trevor Berbick, fighting out of Halifax, is crowned the Canadian Heavyweight Champion.

Rev. Joseph C. Mack of the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church is appointed to the Order of Canada.

The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia opens.

Daurene Lewis is elected Mayor of the town of Annapolis Royal. This is the first time in Canadian history that a Black woman is elected mayor of a town in Canada.

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.

Raymond Downey of Halifax becomes the first Black Nova Scotian to win an Olympic medal (bronze medal for Boxing).

Dr. W.P. Oliver, noted Black educator, minister and political leader, dies in Halifax.

Delmore "Buddy" Daye is appointed Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Legislative Assembly. He is the first Black man in Canada to receive this appointment.

The establishment of an Endowed Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University is announced. The Chair is later named the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies after the first Black lawyer in Nova Scotia.

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 .

Tyrone Williams of Halifax becomes the first Black Nova Scotian drafted by the National Football League. The Arizona Cardinals choose Williams in the Ninth round of the NFL Entry Draft - the 239th overall pick.

George Boyd becomes the first Black anchor of a national news show, when he becomes as an anchor on CBC Newsworld.

The legislative seat of Preston is created. This riding includes the Black communities of Lake Loon-Cherrybrook, East Preston, and North Preston; increasing the chance of a Black person being elected to the Nova Scotian legislature.

Wayne Adams is chosen the first Black member of the Nova Scotia Provincial Legislature, winning the legislative seat of Preston.

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.

The Black Learners Advisory Committee issues its final report on the state of education in the Black community of Nova Scotia.

The African Canadian Services Division is created as part of the Department of Education. The African Canadian Services Division was formerly known as the Black Learners Advisory Committee.

The Canadian Historical Sites and Monuments Board places two monuments at the “Old Black Burial Ground” in Birchtown, honouring the Black Loyalists who lived there.

The Nova Scotia Arts Council announces the creation of the Portia White Prize. Named after the famed singer, the Portia White Prize is awarded for artistic excellence by a Nova Scotian artist.

The Black United Front closes its doors due to a lack of funding from the provincial government.

The African Nova Scotian Music Association holds its first annual awards presentation celebrating excellence in Black music in Nova Scotia.

Yvonne Atwell defeats Wayne Adams and becomes the MLA for Preston; the first Black woman to hold such a position in Nova Scotia.

Calvin Ruck becomes the second Black Nova Scotian to be appointed to the Canadian Senate.

Senator Calvin Ruck retires from the Canadian Senate.

Dr. Carrie Best, Editor of The Clarion, the first Black newspaper in Nova Scotia, dies in New Glasgow.

George Elliot Clarke wins the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. He is the first Black Canadian writer to win this prestigious award.

Halifax lawyers, Burnley “Rocky” Jones and Anne Derrick, are ordered to pay $240,000 to a Halifax police officer for defamation alleging they called the officer a racist when the officer strip searched three young Black girls at a local elementary school.

The verdict against Burnley “Rocky” Jones and Anne Derrick for defamation is overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada.

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. The case is currently under appeal.

Senator Calvin Ruck passes away at the age of 79. A Social Worker and Community Advocate, Senator Ruck was 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.

Michaelle Jean is appointed Governor General of Canada. She is the first African Canadian to be appointed the Queen's Representative.

Craig Smith is selected to serve as the President of the newly formed Black Hockey and Sports Hall of Fame, to be located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Whitney Pier native, Mayann Francis, is appointed the Lieutenant Governor for the Province of Nova Scotia. She is the first African Nova Scotian appointed to the Vice Regal position.

2007 marks the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade in the British Colonies, including Canada.

Mayor Peter Kelly formally apologizes to the former residents of Africville and their descendants for the treatment of the community and the forced removal of its residents in the 1960s by the City of Halifax. The apology was part of a settlement package with the Africville Genealogy Society that included the construction of a replica of the Seaview United Baptist Church.

Lt. Gov. Mayann Francis, invoking Royal Prerogative, grants Viola Desmond a posthumous free pardon for her 1946 conviction on tax evasion. Premier Stephen MacNeil then posthumously apologizes to Viola Desmond on behalf of the Government of Nova Scotia. The province of Nova Scotia then announces that the first Nova Scotia Heritage Day holiday will be named in honour of Viola Desmond.

Canada Post issues a commemorative stamp recognizing Dr. Carrie Best as part of its Black History Month collection.

Mayor Peter Kelly formally apologizes to the former residents of Africville and their descendants for the treatment of the community and the forced removal of its residents in the 1960s by the City of Halifax. The apology was part of a settlement package with the Africville Genealogy Society that included the construction of a replica of the Seaview United Baptist Church.

Lt. Gov. Mayann Francis, invoking Royal Prerogative, granted Viola Desmond a posthumous free pardon for her 1946 conviction on tax evasion. Premier Stephen MacNeil then posthumously apologized to Viola Desmond on behalf of the Government of Nova Scotia. The province of Nova Scotia then announced that the first Nova Scotia Heritage Day holiday would be named in honour of Viola Desmond.

Canada Post issues a commemorative stamp recognizing Dr. Carrie Best as part of its Black History Month collection.

Canada Post issues a commemorative stamp recognizing Dr. Carrie Best as part of its Black History Month collection.

Canada Post issues a commemorative stamp recognizing Dr. Carrie Best as part of its Black History Month collection.

The Replica of the Seaview Baptist Church is completed. It is established as the Africville Museum with exhibits highlighting the history of the community.

Canada Post issues a commemorative stamp recognizing Viola Desmond as part of its Black History Month collection.

The Delmore”Buddy” Daye Learning Institute is established to address issues in the education of African Nova Scotian learners.

The Replica of the Seaview Baptist Church is completed and it is established as the Africville Museum with exhibits highlighting the history of the community of Africville.

Canada Post issues a commemorative stamp recognizing Viola Desmond as part of its Black History Month collection.

The Delmore”Buddy” Daye Learning Institute was established to address issues in the education of African Nova Scotian learners.

Canada Post issues a commemorative stamp featuring the community of Africville.

The Province of Nova Scotia issues an apology to the former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children in response to a class action lawsuit filed by the former residents amid allegations of physical and sexual abuse suffered over a 50 year period.

Canada Post issues a commemorative stamp featuring the community of Africville.

The Province of Nova Scotia issued an apology to the former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children in response to a class action lawsuit filed by the former residents amid allegations of physical and sexual abuse suffered by the residents over a 50 year period.

Graham Downey, Halifax’s first Black Alderman and former Deputy Mayor dies at the age of 76.

Graham Downey, Halifax’s first Black Alderman and former Deputy Mayor dies at the age of 76.

Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard becomes the 1st African Nova Scotian woman and 3rd African Nova Scotian appointed to the Senate of Canada.

Viola Desmond is named as the first Canadian woman to be featured on Canadian currency. The Royal Mint of Canada announces that a new $10.00 bill featuring a likeness of Mrs. Desmond will be released in 2018.

Halifax Transit announces that the newest Halifax Harbour ferry will be named in honour of Viola Desmond. The “Viola Desmond” is launched in July 2016.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the formation of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canada’s only all Black Regiment, Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp in recognition of the military service.

Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard becomes the 1st African Nova Scotian woman and 3rd African Nova Scotian appointed to the Senate of Canada. Dr. Thomas Bernard was officially sworn in as an independent Senator on November, 16, 2016.

Lindell Smith is elected to the Halifax Regional Council representing District 8 (Halifax Peninsula North). Smith is the first African Nova Scotian member of Regional Council since Graham Downey was elected in the 1970’s.

Viola Desmond is named as the first Canadian woman to be featured on Canadian currency. The Royal Mint of Canada announced that a new $10.00 bill featuring a likeness of Mrs. Desmond will be released in 2018.

Halifax Transit announced that the newest Halifax Harbour ferry would be named in honor of Viola Desmond. The “Viola Desmond” was launched in July 2016.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the formation of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canada’s only all Black Regiment, Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp in recognition of the military service.


African Heritage Month at Halifax Public Libraries

1984

The first Black History Week programs are held at Halifax North Memorial Public Library. These programs are created through a partnership between the then Halifax City Regional Library, The Cultural Awareness Youth Group, and the Black United Front.

1987

The first meeting of the Black History Month Committee is held at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library. The purpose of the committee is to involve individuals, community organizations and government agencies in the development and hosting of events and activities that highlight Black history in Nova Scotia.

1989

Representatives from the Chicago based PUSH/Excel Program, founded by Rev. Jesse Jackson, present a number of workshops and a youth rally at the Halifax North Memorial Library.

1989

“Journeys: Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia,” an original puppet show, debuts. The show features the music of local artists Four The Moment, and tells the history of the Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia: from their arrival to their departure in 1792.

1990

The first Black History Month Young People’s Day is held.

1991

CBC Radio’s “Mainstreet” program does a remote broadcast from the auditorium of the Halifax North Memorial Public Library to kick off Black History Month celebrations.

1991

The first Black History Month Quiz, sponsored by the Halifax City Regional Library is held. The Quiz features a Halifax versus Dartmouth format, and the teams included the mayors of both cities, media personalities, and well-known residents of the Black community.

1992

The first Black History Month poster and calendar was produced. It was designed by Rick Janson, Halifax City Regional Library communications staff member. Zellers Canada sponsored the printing of the calendar as part of a settlement following complaints about the selling of culturally insensitive dolls in their local stores.

1994

Black History Month in Nova Scotia celebrates its 10th anniversary with a special opening night held at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library.

1994

The Black History Month committee was incorporates to become The Black History Month Association (BHMA) and continues to work out of offices at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library.

2004

Halifax Public Libraries celebrates the 20th anniversary of Black History Month events in Halifax and in Nova Scotia.

2009

Halifax Public Libraries celebrates the 25th anniversary of African Heritage Month.

2016

TD Bank Group joins Halifax Public Libraries as the presenting sponsor of the Library’s African Heritage Month celebrations.

2016

The inaugural Lift Every Voice music showcase is held at Halifax Central Library and produced by the African Nova Scotian Music Association.


Through the Years

Past Events

Some of the early Black History Month events included:

  • Discussions on the role of family, women of achievement, and the church in the Black community
  • Musical entertainment by groups such as Sonlight, Gospel Heirs and Four the Moment
  • Author readings by George Elliott Clarke and Itah Sadu
  • Youth rallies and special puppet shows like “Africville Child”
  • Special guests from the Jesse Jackson PUSH Excel program
  • Appearances by renowned children’s author, Richardo Keens Douglas
  • Forums on issues affecting the African Nova Scotian community
  • Afrocentric craft programs
  • Film launches, such as Sylvia Hamilton’s Black Mother Black Daughter

The Beginning of the Black History Month Association

As interest in the celebration of Black History Month grew throughout the province, the Library sought input from community members and, in 1991, formed the Black History Month Association.

The Association soon took over hosting the Opening Night celebration, a press conference, and youth day. In 1992, the Association hosted its first formal dinner and dance at the McInnis Room at Dalhousie University. The Black History Month Association still meets on a regular basis at Halifax North Memorial Public Library, coordinating and planning annual African Heritage Month events.

Continuing the Timeline

We hope you will join us for African Heritage events this year, and year-round, creating more stories for the future.