The community of Africville was founded in the late 1800s when African Nova Scotians built homes on the Bedford Basin on the northern edge of Halifax. Africville grew to include a church, a school, and small businesses. At its peak, about 400 people lived there. The community was lively and vibrant, with a strong sense of culture and tradition. But the community had its problems. Racist attitudes prevented people from getting well-paying jobs in the city and the City of Halifax refused residents basic services such as running water, sewage disposal, and garbage collection.
In the 1960s, in the name of urban renewal, the City of Halifax decided to demolish Africville, relocate its residents and use the land for industrial development. Residents strongly opposed this move, but their homes were bulldozed, and many had to move into public housing projects in other parts of the city.
After years of pressure from former members of the community and their descendants, the City of Halifax finally apologized for the destruction of Africville and offered some compensation. A replica of the church was built on the site. But former residents and their descendants were refused compensation beyond what little was paid in the 1960s.
Through historical photographs, documents, and first-person narratives, this book tells the story of Africville. It documents how the city destroyed Africville and much later apologized for it — and how the spirit of the community lives on.
GLORIA ANN WESLEY is an award-winning African-Nova Scotian writer and a former teacher. She is the author of two novels, two books of poetry, and several picture books. If This is Freedom was chosen for One Book Nova Scotia in 2017. Her latest work is Abigail's Wish. Gloria resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"A wonderful series [Righting Canada's Wrongs] of beautiful books."
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