Africville – The Lost Town
the north end of Halifax was a town called Africville ... until 1970, when
bulldozers knocked down what was left of the community. The city had
expropriated the land to make way for industrial development.
some, Africville was a slum, populated by former American slaves who
escaped during the War of 1812. To about 400 black settlers, it was a place
where they could live in privacy, free from racism and discrimination.
The history of
town was officially founded in the 1840s, but many of the families who
lived there can trace their roots in Africville as far back as the 1700s.
Its people were among the first settlers in Nova Scotia, which once was a
"slave society." However, the rocky terrain of Nova Scotia
limited agricultural potential and prevented slavery from developing on a
American slaves migrated to Nova Scotia after the American Revolution,
freed by the British to encourage them to leave their revolutionary
masters. They were promised equality, but ended up selling themselves into
slavery in order to survive.
1792, an agent of the Sierra Leone Company persuaded nearly 2,000 of the
Halifax settlers to migrate to Africa. Then, in 1796, more than 550
Maroons, a group of African descent slaves deported from Jamaica, settled
on the lands vacated by the black settlers. In 1800, they were shipped off
to Sierra Leone where they helped to suppress a rebellion by the former
the War of 1812, as many as 3,000 blacks streamed into the province and
settled within a short distance of Halifax. The British had promised they
would be given basic necessities to help them settle into a life of
freedom. But the British did not follow through on their promise, and left
the refugees to fend for themselves, without food, clothing or shelter.
original Africville settlers were made up of the many blacks who had come
to Nova Scotia over several centuries. These settlers moved to Africville
in order to escape the economic hardships encountered on the rocky and
barren land of their original settlements.
first land purchase in Africville is believed to have been in
1848.According to Parks Canada, the population of Africville never exceeded
400 people, who came from up to 80 different families. It was a tight-knit
community of law-abiding, tax paying, Baptist citizens who did their best
to survive in the conditions they faced. By 1849, the newly formed
community had established a Baptist church.
the 1850s, some Africville residents were relocated due to railway
construction. The city began building industrial sites all around and
through Africville after Halifax residents rejected the unappealing
structures. Africville became the home to Rockhead Prison (1853), the
city's night soil disposal pits (1858), an infectious disease hospital
(during the 1870s), a trachoma hospital (1905), an open city dump and
incinerator (in the early 1950s) and a slaughterhouse.
Halifax city council, according to its minutes, regarded the "area
around Africville as a location for city facilities not tolerated in other
neighbourhoods." In addition to the smelly, dirty industries that were
relocated to Africville, the city failed to install water service, sewage
or lights. Africville also lacked recreational facilities although the
Halifax Recreation and Playgrounds Commission did provide facilities to
other areas of the city. The residents had no fire or police protection,
which led to illegal liquor and entertainment enterprises developing in the
small town. By the mid-1940s, Africville was seen as a real problem for the
city of Halifax.
1947, Halifax city council designated Africville as industrial land.
However, the residents of Africville expressed a desire to stay and develop
the area residentially. City council authorized the borrowing of funds to
provide water and sewerage services, but the services were never installed.
In the 1950s, discussions in the Halifax city council concerning the
industrial potential of the Africville site increased. The city of Halifax
owned sizable property to the south, east and west; railway tracks
surrounded and intersected the community and the shoreline was valuable for
mid-1954, the city manager submitted to Halifax city council a report that
recommended the shifting of Africville residents to city-owned property
southwest of the existing community. The report stated: "The area is
not suited for residences, but, properly developed, is ideal for industrial
purposes. There is water frontage for piers, the railway for sidings, a
road to be developed leading directly downtown and in the other direction
to the provincial highway."
city of Halifax claimed that the relocation was for humanitarian reasons as
a part of a large urban renewal plan the city had proposed, including the
improvement of living conditions, and the racial integration of Africville
residents. They proposed welfare planning, co-ordinating employment,
educational and rehabilitative programs with the re-housing of residents.
city council set up an alliance of black and white "caretakers"
to be the voice of Africville residents in relocation exchange decisions.
The "caretakers" were members of the Halifax Human Rights
Advisory, consisting of 10 members, four whites and six blacks. The white
caretakers were university graduates or tradesmen with little or no
knowledge of Africville's social structure and minimal contact with
Africville and its residents. The black caretakers were all middle-class
and were concerned about white discrimination against Nova Scotian blacks.
Only one of them was from Nova Scotia and all had only little knowledge of
Africville's history and social structure.
residents were not consulted in the formation of initial relocation terms,
and no attention was given to recommendations from the community.
Consequently, the final terms favoured the city.
the end, many citizens were shipped off to slum housing, their personal
belongings transported in city garbage trucks. Bulldozers were sent in
during the night to level the community; not only the houses, but the
stores, businesses and even the church. One resident recalls,"Those
who refused or were slow to leave often found themselves scrambling out of
the back door with their belongings as the bulldozers were coming in the
claims were in chaos: only a handful of families could establish legal
title, others claimed squatter rights, and others rented. They were given
less than $500 compensation. Most of the residents were relocated to public
housing in Mulgrave Park in Halifax. The total cost of the expropriation
was $800,000. In 1968, the Africville relocation was proclaimed a success,
and the last building was bulldozed in 1970.
site where Africville was located is now a deserted park. All that remains
of the community is a monument in the shape of a sundial inscribed with the
names of early black settlers.
city still holds that residents were removed involuntarily from their homes
in the name of "progressive" relocation. However, the "new
start" promised the residents of Africville has never materialized.
They still suffer from socio-economic hardships and live in crowded public
saw the abolition of Africville as a positive government action to bring
employment, education and desegregation to a black slum community, while
others saw it as another instance of whites taking land that they wanted to
develop while disregarding the current residents. The people of Africville
had lost their homes, their businesses and their livelihood. But to most of
the residents, the biggest loss was their sense of community, their circle
of support and the place where they had a sense of belonging.
incident has become known as one of the most severe episodes of racial
discrimination in Canadian history. But what is surprising is that few
Canadians have ever even heard of Africville. Many former Africville
residents spoke out about their loss and it has become the rallying point
for Nova Scotia's black community to fight racism and to educate others on
diversity. Above all, Africville has become a symbol of the link between
social well-being and community heritage for all Canadians.
Famous Canadians from
Live footage: CBC
Africville und das Halifax der Schwarzen
Etwa sechstausend Schwarze kamen in drei Wogen in die
junge Garnisonsstadt und Umgebung: 1782 amerikanische Loyalisten und
Sklaven, 1796 Maronneger, die von den in Jamaika herrschenden Briten
verbannt worden waren, und nach dem amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskrieg
1812 Flüchtlinge aus den USA. In Nova Scotia waren ihnen britisches Recht,
Freiheit und Schutz zugesichert worden. Aber sie wurden mit Gleichgültigkeit
oder Feindseligkeit empfangen. Das Leben wurde ihnen so schwer gemacht,
dass ein Drittel der Loyalisten und fast alle Maronneger noch im 19.
Jahrhundert wieder aufs Schiff stiegen und nach Sierra Leone weiterzogen.
Diejenigen, die blieben, bauten kleine Gemeinden auf.
Africville als Symbol
Die bekannteste Gemeinde ist Africville, das zum Symbol für
den Kampf gegen Rassismus und Rassentrennung wurde. Africville lag in überaus
reizvoller Umgebung am Wasser, und die kleinen Häuser verteilten sich rund
um die Baptist Church, den Pulsschlag des Ortes. Trotz seiner Lage
innerhalb der Stadtgrenzen und ständigen Drängens der Bewohner wurde
Africville von jeglicher Entwicklung ausgeschlossen. Weder Polizeischutz
noch Modernisierung der Infrastruktur wurden bewilligt; bis zum Ende blieb
Africville ohne Wasser- und Abwassereinrichtungen. Stattdessen wurde quer
durch die Gemeinde eine Eisenbahntrasse gelegt. Einrichtungen wie ein
Schlachthof und eine Fabrik, die man in anderen Vierteln nicht haben wollte,
kamen nach Africville, letztendlich sogar eine offene Müllhalde. Die
Stadtverwaltung wollte das Land industriell nutzen. In den sechziger Jahren
beschloss sie den Abriss der Gemeinde und Umzug der Bewohner in moderne Häuser.
Nachdem der letzte Bewohner nach jahrelangem Widerstand 1970 seine Koffer
gepackt hatte, wurde das Dorf vernichtet.