BLACK COMMUNITY IN CANADA
In the Maritimes, African Nova Scotians can trace their lineage back to the 18th century. The first large group of immigrants were Black Loyalists who came as refugees after the American Revolution between 1782 and 1785. A group of exiled Jamaican Maroons followed in 1796, but most left the province in 1800. Following the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain, Black Refugees seeking freedom arrived in Nova Scotia between 1813 and 1816. In the early 20th century, hundreds of Caribbean immigrants, primarily from Barbados came to Cape Breton to work in the steel mills and coal mines. Beginning in the 1960s, Africville, Halifax’s largest Black community, was bulldozed and demolished to make way for the A. Murray MacKay Bridge, erected on the Africville site, and over time, a dog park and a container terminal were also built. The National Film Board of Canada's Remember Africville pays homage to the Africville story and its descendants' fight for reconciliation.
The are many African Nova Scotians who have influenced education, politics, and entertainment in Canada. Acclaimed poet, novelist, playwright, and professor George Elliott Clarke was born near Windsor, Nova Scotia and grew up in Halifax. Sylvia D. Hamilton, filmmaker, writer, educator was born in Beechville, a predominantly Black community just outside Halifax. Hamilton’s films have focused primarily on Black women, Portia White: Think On Me (2000), for example, was about the trailblazing Nova Scotia singer Portia White who became an internationally known contralto singer in the 1940s. George Dixon was born in Africville in 1870 (he died in 1908). He is considered the first Black world boxing champion in any weight class, while also being the first ever Canadian-born boxing champion. He was only 5 feet 3 1/2 inches tall and did not weigh more than 120 pounds. Dixon is credited with introducing innovations to fight training such as shadowboxing. Dixon was elected to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955, and the next year he was nominated to the American Ring Hall of Fame. In 1968 the George Dixon Centre, on the north-end Halifax was named after him. Burnley Allan “Rocky” Jones was an African-Nova Scotian political activist who helped to establish Kwacha House in the 1960s, the first inner-city intercultural self-help program for young people. In 1968, Jones helped to bring Stokley Carmichael and members of the Black Panther Party to visit Halifax. Jones passed away in 2013.
While there are historical Black communities in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, the recuperative work to recover and share those stories is still in its early stages but actively ongoing such as efforts to recognize New Brunswick native Abraham Beverley Walker as Canada’s First Canadian-born Black Lawyer.