My intent is to go quickly summarize the history of Africville, because I believe you should know it already - it’s infamous, however I don’t know if I can be quite so brief. So we’ll see.
Alright back to the East Coast (the best coast). If you are from the Canadian Maritimes you should know Africville and you probably have an opinion on it. If you are not I suspect you have some notion of it because it is one of the most well known and contentious Black settlements in the country.
I want to make note before I begin that before Africville the land belonged to the First Nations, the Mi’kmaw to be exact. This particular fact is...relevant to any discussions people have about Africville and the claims of it’s descendants. I’m going to leave a link (1)at the end which is a piece written by George Elliot Clark, a well known poet and playwright and Order of Canada Inductee, which speaks to the complexities of the Africville legacy and the displaced community. I’m not going to get into it myself because I have no claims to Africville myself.
Let’s begin! Please bear with me if I meanader a little because there is much to cover and I need to figure out what essential elements I need to make sure you have in case you don’t/can’t read the links.
I’m going to begin with the Maroons. I could do a whole thing on these guys, I think I must have at some point, but I won’t. The Maroons ( http://www.bccnsweb.com/web/our-history/the-maroons/ ) are Jamaican freemen who came to NS by way of the Brits to basically build the city (roads/infrastructure and the Citadel Hill). Their history is both hilarious and tragic. Gah! I’ll do a post on them later honestly it’s good. Anyway in the time they were here (1796) they lived in Africville. Some Maroons got the fuck out because they HATED it in Halifax and others remained in Africville and so to do their relations today.
Now the link (2)I’ll share with you has a different take but how I was told and the story I know is that, as I said above the Maroons settled there, American Blacks came to NS in the early 1800's because they believed that they could get an acre of land to settle on. Once they got here however the whole thing was tits up. The gov’t didn’t want them and so provided the most undesirable land and refused to provide infrastructure (water mains, roads, power lines) hoping to deter them. But they weren’t, they claimed the land and built on it over time. Then in the 60's the gov’t enacted some BS legislation and had them removed/evicted from the land. Many moved to Dartmouth across the bridge and their families remain there today.
I’m writing this and I’m so frustrated because what happened in Africville is...horrific. Okay, you have to understand that these were deed holding landowners who were Black. They purchased that land, the built on that land, they made it flourish. Okay. They built a church and community. And despite these efforts the city refused, REFUSED, to provide the basics of life - running water, roads, sewage,power (even though the city still collected taxes). Now you think that’s bad but the city wasn’t done yet. The city wanted that damn land back. So they built a hospital that specialised in infectious diseases and a fucking toxic waste dump right next to Africville to drive the residents out.
You know what? I can’t do this justice in a small piece. This is going to have to happen in parts. This is the story of all the histories I will share. This is the essential history that will demonstrate (at least to me - some may argue this) the Black experience in Canada from an historical perspective So I can’t fuck it up.
Okay next time I’ll delve a little into what Africville was like and I’ll get into the stimga that was associated with the village and how that stigma remained attached to the residents long after Africville was gone.