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THE LEGACY OF AFRICAN NOVA SCOTIANS

The Tides of Tomorrow: 2024 Sustainable Ocean Conference recognizes that the histories, legacies and contributions of the African Nova Scotians have enriched the part of Mi’kma’ki known as Nova Scotia for over 400 years.

Please continue reading to learn a brief history and legacy of the African Nova Scotians. Click through our links and resources to learn more, and see how this relates to our work.

legacy acknowledgement 

The following acknowledgement of past, and continued injustices, cannot undo the harms and oppression that have been faced by generations of African Nova Scotians and are still felt today. It is our aim to center truth - both the true history of African Nova Scotians' arrival and living conditions within the province - and to share and celebrate the rich contributions African Nova Scotians have made to society, despite the barriers and racism they have had to overcome. 

 

We want to talk about and learn from this history so that patterns of oppression and environmental racism come to an end. We encourage you to do the same.

Do the best you can until you know better.

Then when you know better, do better.

- Maya Angelou

AFRICAN NOVA SCOTIANS

As a distinct people residing in the part of Mi’kma’ki known as Nova Scotia, African Nova Scotians have enriched the land and waters for over 400 years. African Nova Scotians are descendants from five major migrations throughout Nova Scotian, Canadian and world history – the Black Loyalists, Jamaican Maroons, War of 1812 Refugees, Carribean Migrants and Late Arrivals.

 

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Nova Scotia has 52 historical Black communities, including Shelburne, Lincolnville, Africville, Digby, Birchtown, Annapolis Royal, Lucasville, Sydney, and Hammonds Plains. 

 

Many communities were displaced to rural areas, located approximately 20 minutes outside of larger, white-dominated communities.  It is important to mention that upon arrival, living conditions were very challenging, and jobs were scarce for African Nova Scotians due to racism and pre-existing black slavery. This led many African Nova Scotians to flee to Sierra Leone (despite dangerous overseas voyages where many died), and later Trinidad.  

Despite the injustices faced, African Nova Scotians have enriched the fabric of society through innovations and improvements in equity, medicine, art, music, dance, religion, culture, fashion, sports, cuisine, education, and more. African Nova Scotians have contributed significantly to the ocean sector as fishers, processors, sailors, shipbuilders, and navigators.  

NOVA SCOTIA PAST AND PRESENT

 

African Nova Scotians have lived in this region for over 400 years, long before many white settlers, and 150 years before Canada’s founding.  Though many African Nova Scotians came to the province to flee enslavement elsewhere, unfortunately Nova Scotia was also an area where enslavement happened actively, which many Canadians may not have known. Here in Nova Scotia, slavery occurred primarily with the influx of Black Loyalists that arrived in the province.  Black Loyalists, promised land and provisions for their loyalty during the American Revolution, faced discrimination instead when arriving to Canada. They received much lower wages than whites, endured harsh climates in remote areas, and suffered unfair treatment and few job prospects. In 1784, White settlers destroyed Black Loyalists' homes due to competition for jobs, despite Black people being paid much less. Many Black Loyalists, including children, were forced into indentured servitude, treated almost as poorly as enslaved people. The reality of being kidnapped and sold back into slavery haunted many, as this was still ‘legal’. Black Loyalists bravely petitioned the British government for the land they were promised, with Thomas Peters representing their case in London with the help of abolitionist Granville Sharp. Peters was told Black Loyalists would be given free land if they settled in Sierra Leone. In 1792, 1196 Black Loyalists left for Sierra Leone, seeking better opportunities – many died enroute. It was not until 1833 that slavery was abolished in the British Empire.  

Until 1961, African Nova Scotians made up over half of all Black people living in Canada.  Nova Scotians of African heritage continue to experience deep systemic oppression and injustices, and both overt racism and micro-aggressions.  The Jim Crow era of segregation deeply impacted Black people in Canada too, with many discriminatory practices, laws, and attitudes prevalent throughout history.    

As students, we are from a multitude of areas, some calling Nova Scotia home since birth, while others simply visiting for school.  We all aim to learn about the richness and diversity of African Nova Scotians as a founding culture of the province, and to make space for our current and future African Nova Scotian colleagues within the marine sector and beyond.   

We live in a time and place where racism is so prevalent, that Nova Scotia needs an Equity and Anti-Racism Strategy.  Though this is needed, and we applaud the brave Members of the Legislative Assembly for standing up for what is right, it says a lot about how far society still must go to achieve a harmonious and safe society for all.  If not even our highest elected officials are safe from racist remarks in their place of work, nobody is safe, and more work is needed.   

today teaches tomorrow a lesson.

- African Proverb

Image by lj novascotia

LAND TITLES INITIATIVE

Recently, the African Nova Scotian community has been working with the province of Nova Scotia to re-claim their property through the Land Titles Initiative.

 

For over 200 years, generations of Black people in the province have passed down lands that have been in their families for centuries but have faces issues due to systemic racism. The Iniative aims to break these barriers down by working with the communities of North Preston, East Preston, Lake Loon, Cherry Brook, Lincolnville and Sunnyville.

This is the last year for the International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD), established by the United Nations (UN) for the years 2015 - 2024. The UN recognizes the importance of the contributions that people of African descent provide globally, and how far they have come as a global community. Because of IDPAD, Canada formally adopted Emancipation Day in 2021, which is celebrated August 1st, to mark when the Slavery Abolition Act was formally passed by the British Empire in 1834.

 

The 2024 Sustainable Ocean Conference: Tides of Tomorrow acknowledges the IDPAD and the key aspects surrounding the Decade to move towards an inclusive future. 

Image by Rui Alves

international decade for people of african descent

COMMITMENTS BY DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY

 

In 2021, Dalhousie University signed on to the Scarborough Charter. The Charter principles emphasize the importance of universities and colleges in promoting Black flourishing, inclusive excellence, mutuality, and accountability.

Black Flourishing:

address anti-Black racism, remove barriers to equity, and promote innovation for equality and sustainability.

Inclusive Excellence:

diversity and inclusion are essential to enhance excellence, education, innovation, and societal transformation.

Mutuality:

foster beneficial relationships with communities, supporting Black economic development as local connectors.

Accountability:

institutions commit to ongoing education and concrete action, prioritizing transformative inclusion, and continuous procedural improvements.

...strive(s) to recognize and eradicate systemic racism, and its historical and current impacts, there is an increased desire to acknowledge the history and richness of the african nova scotian people.

Dalhousie University

OUr work in mi'kma'ki

 

At the Sustainable Ocean Conference and in our daily work, we respect and look to uplift the work and voices of Mi’kmaq researchers, practitioners, and community members. We look to do this within our conference programming and will continue to create and hold space for conversations regarding truth and reconciliation as we enter the field of marine management. As marine managers, we have a responsibility to make space for Indigenous voices in discussions, policies and solutions. Who better to lead efforts to create a more equitable and just marine future, than Wabanaki people who have been caring for these very waters for generations?

 

We recognize that there are many ways of knowing that traditionally have not been valued. It is our aim to learn from, and celebrate, a diversity of experiences and perspectives to ensure an inclusive, collaborative, and welcoming space at the conference and beyond.  

LEARN MORE

 

The best place to learn more about African Nova Scotian history and what current events may be upcoming would be at the Black Cultural Centre and the Africville Museum.

 

Our class took a trip to the Black Cultural Centre this March to learn more about the rich history of African Nova Scotians, and from trailblazers like Mathieu Da Costa, Dr. Carrie Best, Viola Desmond, Rev. Richard Preston, and Portia May White, among others.

 

“The genesis of the Black Cultural Centre lay in a proposal put forward in 1972 by Reverend Dr. William Pearly Oliver for the creation of a Cultural Educational Centre to meet the needs and aspirations of the Black Communities of Nova Scotia. Many events have taken place at the Centre, such as cultural portrayals such as music, plays, and concerts, as well as educational activities in the form of workshops, lectures and guided tours. Programs of the Black Cultural Centre extend beyond its doors to the broader community of Nova Scotia. This outreach is achieved through cultural events across Nova Scotia.”

VIDEO RESOURCES

 

Augy Jones highlights the history of African Nova Scotians and discusses the way their experience is markedly unique and distinct from just being "Black Canadian".

  • "There's Something in the Water" filmed and narrated by Elliot Page

​Documentary based on Dr. Ingrid Waldron's book by the same title. The film takes place in Nova Scotia, filmed and narrated by Elliot Page (filmed as Ellen Page).​

  • "The Book of Negroes mini-series" on CBC​​

Content Warning: Some people may find the content of the mini-series triggering. Please look up associated content and/or trigger warnings prior to watching.​​

WRITTEN RESOURCES

 

​A detailed timeline of the history of African Nova Scotians.

The Halifax Public Library catalogues have a wide array of books, films and other resources, written by African Nova Scotians and people of African descent. There is something for all ages: novels, comic books, historical retellings, cookbooks, crafting guides, and more!​

  • "There's Something in the Water" by Dr. Ingrid Waldron

  • "The Book of Negroes" by Lawrence Hill

ONLINE/INTERACTIVE RESOURCES

 

A resource guide that details the history of the Mi'kmaq People in Nova Scotia through a paper trail. Features archival holdings, a virtual exibit, and an explanation of how to pronounce Mi'kmaq, as well as the difference between 'Mi'kmaq' and 'Mi'kmaw'

educational RESOURCES 

 

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