Black History of Nova Scotia

A chronology of key events and achievements.

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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 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 commerative stamp in recognition of the military service.


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


Canada Post issues a commerative 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.


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 commerative 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 commerative 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 commerative stamp recognizing Dr. Carrie Best as part of its Black History Month collection


Craig Smith was 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.


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


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.


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.


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 that they called the officer a racist when the officer strip searched three young Black girls at a local elementary school


Senator Calvin Ruck retires from the Canadian Senate.


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.


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


The African Canadian Services Division is created as part of the Department of Education. The African Canadian Services Division was formerly know as the Black Learner’s Advisory Committee.


The Canadian Historical Sites and Monuments Board places two monuments at the “Old Black Burial Ground” in Birchtown, honoring 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


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 Scotia to be appointed to this position.


The Black Learner’s Advisory Committee issues its final report on the state of education in the Black community of Nova Scotia


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. Mr. Adams won the legislative seat of Preston.


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.


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


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 .


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.


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


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


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.


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.


The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia is opened.


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


Graham Downey of Halifax is appointed Deputy Mayor of Halifax.


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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, N.S. because of her colour - resulting in a protest in the Black community.


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, was founded and receives high praises for its first production "Coming Here To Stay".


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


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


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


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


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.


Legal segregation of schools in Nova Scotia is ended.


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".


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


95 Blacks leave Nova Scotia for the island of Trinidad.


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


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


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.


Approximately 500 Maroons arrive in Halifax from Jamaica.


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.


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


The start of the American War of Independence - this war led to the migration to Nova Scotia of Americans loyal to the British Crown.


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