Africville

Author: Rachel Howlett and Heather Li
Editor: Aarisha Haider and Christina Di Carlo

Established in the 1840s, Africville was a predominantly Black community in the north end of what is currently Halifax, Nova Scotia (1). The land was found to be inhospitable prior to the arrival of residents to the region, who formed a tight knit community and thrived there (2). It is estimated that there were about 400 residents, where many fished or worked in Halifax (2). Regardless of their employment for the city and the taxes they paid, they were denied community municipal services such as running water, electricity, paved roads, and indoor plumbing (2). No amount of protests or petitions had an impact on the City of Halifax’s neglect of their community (3). In the 1950s, the city decided to put a dump directly to the west side of Africville, after ruling out other locations due the dump’s status as “a health menace” (2). In the 1960s, the City of Halifax unilaterally decided to relocate the community as part of a redevelopment plan amidst protests and disagreements from residents (4). Not all residents were informed about the demolition of their homes upon the City’s repossession and those who were informed were sometimes given information just hours before (2). Only those with property deeds received amounts to make a down payment on a property (2). The process lasted over three years as residents resisted the eviction although the loss of the Seaview African United Baptist Church in 1967 marked a sober inevitability (3). The relocation of Africville residents had intended to be an “urban renewal” but had done nothing to address insecure and inadequate housing (1). Additionally, the sense of community, freedom and privacy of Africville had been stolen from its residents and replaced with a more isolated way of life (1). Former residents of the community were forced to live in public housing and on the $500 of compensation they had received as payment for their homes (5). The last Africville home was demolished in 1970 (5).
The story of Africville was not an isolated event, as there were large housing displacement movements for many in Atlantic Canada throughout the 1950s and 1960s (6). This displacement was supported by funding from the federal government through the National Housing Act, leading to the forceful relocation of approximately 4,500 in Halifax alone (6). In 1968, 45 urban “redevelopment” programs in what is currently Canada had a cost of $270 million dollars for 1500 cleared acres (7). The experiences of the Africville community has come to be widely known, but only represents 10% of the displaced Black Nova Scotians in the 20th century, revealing the depth of systemic racism amongst the told and untold stories of communities across the country (7).

References
  1. Loo, T. Africville and the Dynamics of State Power in Postwar Canada [internet]. Atlantic Canada: Acadiensis [cited 2021, May 20]. Available from: https://www-jstor-org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/stable/pdf/41803299.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Ae576b093a0d3d8e6d4e4971b60462117

  2. Khan, A. Africville: A Story of Environmental Racism [Internet]. Toronto: Network in Canadian History & Environment [cited 2021, May 20]. Available from: https://niche-canada.org/2021/02/17/africville-a-story-of-environmental-racism/

  3. Rabble. Africville [Internet]. Rabble [cited 2021, May 20]. Available from: https://rabble.ca/toolkit/rabblepedia/africville

  4. Government of Canada. Africville National Historic Site of Canada [internet]. Ottawa: Directory of Federal Heritage Designations [cited 2021, May 20]: Available from: https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_nhs_eng.aspx?id=1763

  5. Nelson JJ. The Space of Africville: Creating, Regulating, and Remembering the Urban ‘Slum’. Canadian Journal of Law and Society [Internet]. 2000 [cited 2021 Sep 22]; 15(2):163-185. Available from https://doi.org/10.1017/S0829320100006402

  6. Loo, T. The View from Jacob Street. Acadiensis: Journal of the History of the Atlantic Region [Internet]. 2019 Autumn [cited 2021 Oct 7]; 48(2):5-42. Available from https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/26817800

  7. DH Clairmont, DW Magill. Africville: The Life and Death of a Canadian Black Community. 3rd ed. Canadian Scholars; 1999.


Additional Resources


  1. The Canadian Musuem of Human Right's webpage on Africville: https://humanrights.ca/story/the-story-of-africville

  2. The ENRICH Project's Africville Story Map, which showcases how the community dveloped over the years: https://dalspatial.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=d2e8df48f88e4ddc90ebe494a2cfa2a1