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Africville During the American Revolution

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AFRICVILLE

During the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the African population grew vastly in Nova Scotia. When they first arrived here in the City of Halifax, they encountered white colonists who viewed them as inferior on account of their race.[1]

Black people have lived in Nova Scotia since before the founding of Halifax in 1749. However, it was only after the American Revolution, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, that large groups of Black settlers began to arrive in the province. Many of them were former enslaved people who had been promised freedom and land in Nova Scotia.[2]

They were forced to settle on the most uninviting land in the province. In spite of this, they developed a spirited and tenacious community ‒ Africville. “Africville was a poor, black neighborhood in the North End of Halifax that was systematically destroyed by the city.”[3] The residents of Africville were treated very poorly; undesirable structures were built next to their land, they were declined basic amenities and services, and their entire community was relocated and destroyed. “Africville got the shaft in comparison with the rest of Halifax, which reduced the area into an industrialized slum by the first half of the 20th century.”[4] Africville is an example of the issue of marginalization in Halifax because the residents were ignored and disregarded on the basis of racism.

This African-Canadian neighborhood was located on the south shore of the Bedford Basin during the 19th and 20th century. It was a vibrant, self-sustaining community that thrived despite the harshest opposition.[5] Poverty was very common among the Africville inhabitants because of the racial discrimination that they faced. “65% of the Africville residents worked as domestic servants”[6] due to the fact that not very many people would employ a person of colour. There was also very little access to education in the community. Africville didn’t receive its first school until 1883; the school was later closed in 1953. This led to the children being discriminated against tremendously at the “white” schools they were obligated to go to. Africville pulled through many other hardships as well; for example, the Halifax Explosion. In 1917, the Halifax Explosion wreaked havoc in the north end of Africville. Several houses and properties were sorely damaged. Despite the fact that donations were made to help rebuild the detrimental effects of the explosion, the City of Halifax made no effort, whatsoever, to assist with repairing the damages in Africville.

Africville was heavily disregarded when it came to what the rest of the people in Halifax wanted. The City of Halifax placed countless undesirable structures in and next to Africville during the second half of the 19th century, including: a fertilizer plant, slaughterhouses, Rockhead Prison (1854), the “night-soil disposal pits” (human waste), and the Infectious Diseases Hospital (1870s).[7] All of the structures that were built were hazardous and could have health risks involved or put the residents in some sort of danger. For example, Halifax built an open-pit dump only 350 meters away from Africville. The open-pit dump caused there to be an infestation of rats all throughout Africville, jeopardizing the locals’ health. The City of Halifax was not concerned that these things were endangering the citizens; and when the residents of Africville protested, they were completely ignored. The residents of Africville also protested due to the fact that they were declined basic amenities and services that the rest of Halifax took for granted. “The City of Halifax collected taxes in Africville, but did not provide services such as paved roads, running water, [electricity,] or sewers.”[8] The residents asked the City numerous times if they would provide them with these services, but they were overlooked every time. The city council eventually chose to relocate the residents of Africville and destroy their community instead of giving them the proper municipal services.

By the late 1960’s, after years of debate, the City Council voted for the relocation of Africville residents. When the decision was officially made, some people saw it as an opportunity to improve the residents’ poor living conditions; many others saw it as the destruction of a community. Either way, the relocation proved that the residents had little to no influence in their own community.[9] The first building to be torn down was the community church. It was torn down in the middle of the night without any of the residents’ knowledge. After the church was knocked down, the City started to destroy the locals’ homes. Some homes were demolished without the owner’s knowledge, and others were only given a few hours to collect their belongings and find a place to go. “Africville disappeared and its people scattered—some

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