THE SPIRIT OF AFRICVILLE
Edited by the Africville Genealogy Society
Volume 20 Number 6
The four contributors to this book are Donald Clairmont, Stephen Kimber, Charles Saunders and Bridglal Pachai. Donald Clairmont teaches sociology at Dalhousie University and is the author of an academic study on the impact of the Africville relocation. To The Spirit of Africville he contributes an historical overview of Africville and an account of the relocation. Stephen Kimber teaches journalism at King's College in Halifax and is an author and magazine journalist. He contributes a chapter on the Africville experience and lessons for the future.
Charles Saunders is an author and newspaper columnist. He contributes a narrated walk through Africville as it existed in 1959. Bridglal Pachai is Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and author of several books on the history of Blacks in Nova Scotia. His contribution to this book is a history of Nova Scotia's Black settlers.
Africville was a community on the Bedford Basin in Halifax. Its inhabitants were mostly Black people. The City of Halifax had never extended water and sewage services to Africville, and had situated a dump very near it. In the spirit of an era of desegregation and urban renewal between 1964 and 1967, after some years of discussion (though not with the majority of people who lived in Africville), the City of Halifax decided to relocate the residents and demolish the buildings of Africville.
This was and remains a controversial action. Africville was a community with a church as its centre. Most of the people who lived there had a long history in the community. There had been a school and a sense of identity. After relocation, the people were moved into public housing in Halifax and their sense of community was destroyed.
Since 1982 former residents and their descendants have been holding annual reunions in Seaview Park, which is where Africville once stood. In 1989 there was a conference and exhibition at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax about the Africville experience, and the Africville Genealogy Society continues to promote the memory of Africville and what it stands for.
This is an informative book. Bridglal Pachai gives a clear and concise history of Black settlers in Nova Scotia. Donald Clairmont writes a history of Africville as well as an explanation of the reasons it was demolished and the process that was followed. (Alan Borovoy was involved as an advisor and catalyst in the foundation of the Halifax Human Rights Advisory Committee.) Charles Saunders and Stephen Kimber give voice to the residents, sharing with us how it was to live in Africville, the pride and humiliation they felt, and what they want now.
The book is well illustrated with black-and-white and colour photos of Africville and its residents before 1967, as well as photos of participants in the 1989 conference. There is no index but the chapter titles are informative and adequate. This is an attractive book, drawing one's attention first for the pictures, perhaps, but compelling the casual reader to delve deeper into the content to discover what really happened in this important and controversial episode in Canada's history.
Catherine R. Cox is a teacher-librarian at Moncton High School in Moncton, New Brunswick.
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