Black History Month: Africville

Did you know that Africville was a small community of predominantly Black Canadians located in Halifax, Nova Scotia?

Known as one of the first free Black communities in settlements, Africville developed on the southern shore of Bedford Basin and existed from the onset of the 19th century. Towards the end of the 20th century, however, the city neglected the community, failing to provide basic infrastructure and services such as roads, water, and sewerage.

In turn, the residents of Africville were forced to relocate from this culturally significant location, and soon after, former residents and activists began a long protest on the site against their treatment and the condemnation. Most significantly, the Africville Church was demolished in 1967 due to what the city then called "urban renewal," which has since been seen as an act of racial injustice.

In 1996, the area which once inhabited Africville was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada as being representative of Black Canadian settlements in the province and as an enduring symbol of the need for vigilance in defence of their communities and institutions.

In 2011, the Seaview African United Baptist Church (est. 1849), which was once the beacon around which the community's social life was centred, was reconstructed as part of the Africville Apology. It now stands as a testament to the heartbeat of a community once exiled.

George Elliott Clarke, a scholar, professor, and past Poet Laureate of Canada, has long produced creative works and criticism revolving around this community, creating a cultural geography that he coins "Africadia." To learn more about Clarke's chronicling and contributions, visit this website.

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Every February, Canadians are invited to participate in Black History Month (BHM) festivities and events that honour the legacy of Black citizens, past and present. At McGill, this year's theme is Healing Forward. Now in its fifth year, BHM will bring together students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members to honour and celebrate Blackness at McGill and more broadly in the greater communities of Montreal, Quebec and Canada. Learn more about this theme and the events hosted by McGill here.

 


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