With the emergence of the American industrial revolution in the mid-eighteenth century, the monarchy in Nova Scotia pledged freedom and land to many former slaves in the United States after they became Black Loyalists. However, the new land was fraught with conflicts and cultural disputes, driving the majority of the newcomers to seek property on the outskirts of Halifax, formerly known as Chebucto, which was founded in 1749 with the arrival of 2,500 English settlers commanded by Colonel Cornwallis.
In 1796, the southern bank of Bedford Basin formed an enclave for a Black community of African Canadians. It became known as “African Village” after the construction of Campbell Road in 1836, which connected the Africville area to the centre of Halifax. This led more Black refugees, Jamaican Maroons, and formerly enslaved people of colour from the Chesapeake area of the United States to settle in Africville.
Africville is important in Black History as it was the first area where people of colour possessed land properties in the Americas. Sunday Miller, former Executive Director of the Africville Heritage Trust, has stated that “the black communities in Nova Scotia were the first free black communities outside of Africa.” 1848 marked the first possession of land property in Africville by Black Canadians William Arnold and William Brown.
The establishment of the Seaview African United Baptist Church in 1849 anchored the settlement of the Black community along the bank. The church was considered “the beating heart of Africville” and Nova Scotians sought to visit it for Baptism and Easter Sunrise Services. In 1883, after years of homeschooling, the first school opened in Africville following numerous petitions from the residents.”
The 1855 development of Nova Scotia Railway tracks, crossing through Africville parallel to Campbell Road, presented the hamlet with its first urban problem, resulting in the confiscation of several properties. The community, on the other hand, persisted and prospered in the region. Africville’s population expanded to 400 residents in the 1960s, with 80 families, but the neighbourhood suffered from inadequate infrastructure.
In her article “Africville: Urban Removal in Canada,” Pamela Brown writes, “thought of as a ‘shack town,’ Africville was a depressed community both in physical and socio-economic terms.” Brown describes the deplorable conditions in which residents had lived for years near the city dump, where sewage, lights, unpaved roads, and municipal amenities were missing. According to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the people of Africville had approached the City of Halifax to provide essential services but had been rejected. On the other hand, Robert Osbourne argued that the neighbourhood was plagued by additional burdens between 1850 and 1900, such as a prison, slaughterhouse, cotton factory, nocturnal soil deposit dumps, and two communicable disease hospitals.
Because of its advantageous location on the waterfront near the Halifax Harbour, the site of Africville was coveted for industrial development and was officially zoned in 1917, after the Halifax Explosion, which damaged Africville. According to Charles Saunders, Africville residents were compelled to migrate to city-owned public housing in the regions surrounding Uniacke Square and Mulgrave Park with 500 dollars’ compensation unless they had proof of land ownership; those were very few in Africville. In 1953, Africville’s school was shut down and Africville students were bused to the nearest schools, facing another wave of cultural conflict.
With the launch of the North Slope Development Plan in 1962, a series of relocations was implemented as part of the city’s urban redevelopment efforts for what they characterized as humanitarian reasons. Brown notes that “the development of the Bedford Basin shoreline was deemed important for both harbor expansion and the economic growth of the city. It was for these reasons that the City wanted to acquire Africville shoreline property.” Residents were notified through the media, with local newspapers explaining the idea as follows: “the Expressway is to be two lanes at first and four lanes later as it is laid down it will go right through the Africville district which is scheduled for removal starting in spring [of 1962].”
More than 70 residents were evicted and their homes were razed between 1964 and 1967 to utilize a portion of the land to build access to the A. Murray MacKay Bridge, opened in 1970. According to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the last home was destroyed in 1970.
When people of Africville were here, they were self‐sufficient.
They might not have had a lot of money, but they weren’t on
government assistance. They were trying to create a community
that the government wasn’t willing for them to have.
When they took them off this land and forced them to be
a ward of the government, which is what happened for those
who went into social housing, you took their dignity from them.
– Sunday Miller, former Executive Director, Africville Heritage Trust
Eddie Carvery, the last inhabitant of Africville, returned in 1970 to live in a tent in protest of what had happened to his family’s land. Tattrie recounted forty years of living on the grounds of former Africville in The Hermit of Africville: The Life of Eddie Carvery until Carvery’s protest camp was ultimately destroyed in 2019.
As part of efforts to recognize Africville on a municipal and national level, it was proclaimed a National Historic Site of Canada in September 1997. In February 2010, the Halifax council made history by issuing an apology to the former residents of Africville, which was accompanied by a one-hectare landholding and a $3 million settlement. The Africville Heritage Trust was allocated $250,000 to develop a museum commemorating the neighborhood’s history as well as a replica of the demolished church. After being kept safe at Beechville church for 50 years, the community of Africville was recognized on February 17, 2020, Heritage Day, by placing the Seaview United Baptist Church’s lone remaining bell on the site of the Africville Museum. The former Africville district is now the location of a motorway interchange, a replica of Seaview Baptist Church, and Africville Park with an off-leash dog walking area. Each summer, former inhabitants of Africville gather on the grounds of Africville to commemorate the site’s history and the anguish of segregation and discrimination in Nova Scotia and elsewhere.
 L.D. McCann, “Halifax,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2012, accessed June 8, 2022, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/halifax.
 Matthew McRae, “The Story of Africville,” n.d., Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
 Jon Tattrie, “Africville,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2014, accessed June 8, 2022, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/africville.
 Elissa Bernard, “Africville from the Beginning,” The Chronicle Herald, September 18, 2014, https://web.archive.org/web/20180215024515/http://thechronicleherald.ca/artslife/1237401-africville-from-the-beginning.
 D.H. Clairmont and D.W. Magill, Africville: The Life and Death of a Canadian Black Community, 3rd ed. (Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 1999), 57.
 Priya Sam, “Africville Church: The Demolition of the Heartbeat of a Community,” March 4, 2017, https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/africville-church-the-demolition-of-the-heartbeat-of-a-community-1.3311050.
 Tattrie, “Africville.”
 Clairmont and Magill, Africville, 93.
 Mary Pamela Vincer, “A History of Marginalization – Africville: a Canadian Example of Forced Migration” (major research paper, Ryerson University, 2008), https://rshare.library.ryerson.ca/articles/thesis/A_History_of_Marginalization_-_Africville_a_Canadian_Example_of_Forced_Migration/14654451, 33.
 Pamela Brown, “Africville: Urban Removal in Canada,” Hartford Web Publishing, December 2, 1996, http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/44/170.html.
 Robert L. A. Osbourne, “Africville: Place of Memory” (master’s thesis, Dalhousie University, 2005), https://dalspace.library.dal.ca/handle/10222/76272, 12.
 Vincer, “A History of Marginalization,” 5.
 Charles Saunders, in The Spirit of Africville (Halifax: Formac Publishing, 1992), 70.
 Tattrie, “Africville.”
 Clairmont and Magill, Africville, 138.
 Brown, “Africville.”
 “Africville Cleanup Set for Spring,” The Mail-Star, Halifax, N.S., November 22, 1961.
 Donald Clairmont, “Africville: A Spirit that Lives On,” Halifax Municipal Archives, 1974, 16.
 “History of the MacKay Bridge,” Halifax Harbour Bridges, accessed June 13, 2022, https://www.hdbc.ca/mackayhistory/.
 Tattrie, “Africville.”
 Tattrie, “Africville.”
 Jon Tattrie, The Hermit of Africville: The Life of Eddie Carvery (Lawrencetown Beach, NS: Pottersfield Press, 2010).
 “Africville National Historic Site of Canada,” Parks Canada Directory of Federal Heritage Designations, https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_nhs_eng.aspx?id=1763.
 “Halifax council ratifies Africville apology,” CBC News, February 23, 2010, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/halifax-council-ratifies-africville-apology-1.894946.
 “Heritage Day 2020 Honours the Community of Africville,” Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, February 14, 2020, https://lt.gov.ns.ca/news-events/2020-02-14/heritage-day-2020-honours-community-africville.
 Katie McKay, “Africville Reparations: 40 Years Later,” Spacing Atlantic, February 23, 2010, http://spacing.ca/atlantic/2010/02/23/africville-reparations-40-years-later/.
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