Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 13 to 18
- Grade: 8 to 12
- Reading age: 13 to 18
Beginning in the 1700s, Black men and women settled in various parts of Nova Scotia. By the 1800s, a small Black community had developed just north of Halifax on the shores of the Bedford Basin. The community became known as Africville and grew to about 400 people. A school and a church were the community’s key institutions.
Africville’s residents fished, farmed, operated small retail stores and found work in the city where they were able. Jobs for Black people were hard to find, with many occupations blocked by racist practices. Women often worked as domestic labourers and many men were train porters.
Over time the City of Halifax developed industrial operations around Africville that destabilized and polluted the community. Simultaneously, the City refused residents’ petitions for public services. Running water, sewage disposal, paved roads, street lights, a cemetery, public transit, garbage collection and more were denied.
In the 1960s, urban renewal plans targeted Africville with city officials deciding without consulting the community to demolish it and relocate residents. Residents strongly opposed this, but their protests were ignored and the land was forcibly seized. A devastating blow was the city’s decision to bulldoze Seaview United Baptist Church, the heart of the community, in the middle of the night.
As early as the 1970s, Black community organizers and former Africville residents began advocating for an apology and appropriate compensation for the destruction of Africville. In 2010 — forty years later —Halifax’s mayor made a public apology for the community’s suffering and mistreatment. While some former residents accepted this others continue to campaign for restitution, showing how the spirit and resilience of Africville lives on in new generations of African Nova Scotians.
About the authors
Gloria Ann Wesley is an African Nova Scotian writer who published her first book of poetry, To My Someday Child in 1975. She later published Woman, Sing (2002) and Burlap and Lace (2007). Her first young adult fiction, Chasing Freedom, was published in 2011.
Wesley’s poetry appears in three Canadian anthologies: Canada in Us Now (Harold Head, 1976), Other Voices: Writings by Blacks in Canada (Lorris Elliott, 1985) and Fire on the Water (George Elliott Clarke, 1992). Gloria Wesley holds the distinction of being the first published Black Nova Scotian poet (by Resolution of the Nova Scotia Legislature, 5 April 2007).
"A wonderful series [Righting Canada's Wrongs] of beautiful books."