Nova Scotia

Africville church commemorated, 50 years after demolition

The Africville Heritage Trust Society has events planned between May 30 and June 3 to remember the Seaview Baptist Church.

The City of Halifax tore down the Seaview Baptist Church in 1967

The replica of Nova Scotia's historic Africville church. (CBC)

The memory of Seaview United Baptist Church is being celebrated in Halifax this week, half a century after it and the rest of Africville was demolished by the former City of Halifax in 1967.

Sunday Miller, the executive director of the Africville Heritage Trust Society, said the celebration is not about the destruction of the church but the legacy and what it meant to the people who attended.

"The legacy of this church — and it was the heart of the community — is what we're celebrating," said Miller.

"Yes, the church may have been destroyed 50 years ago but the church wasn't a building, it was the people and that spirit is still here and that means that the legacy of that church is still here."

Brenda C. Steed-Ross, one of the founders of the Africville Genealogy Society, said the church's destruction was particularly hard on the elders in the community.

"The impact was on our parents and grandparents, you know? The older people more so than us. They were pretty saddened by it."

Steed-Ross was raised in Africville and said the church played an important role in the community.

'The focal point'

"We wanted the memory of our church not to die, we wanted to keep the memory of our church alive. It was the centre of our community and the events and things always centred around our church," said Steed-Ross.

Linda Mantley, another founder of the society, agrees.

"We're celebrating it because the church was the focal point. That's where all the meetings were taking place when the people were fighting to keep their homes and so we're celebrating the legacy from all the people out home," Mantley said.

Former residents reunite

The Africville Heritage Trust Society organized the celebrations with a grant from Canada 150. 

The events began in April when a sunrise Easter service was held at the Africville Museum, a smaller replica of the original Seaview United Baptist Church.

"It was a real good turnout," said Steed-Ross. "We had standing room [only] in the museum. It was held in the museum because that hour of the morning is cold."

Between May 30 and June 3, there are a number of events and revival services happening at the museum and in a heated tent next to it in Africville Park.

"Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night they're going to have ministers come in and their choirs to celebrate the revival services that used to happen around Easter time," said Steed-Ross.

Miller said the Heritage Trust Society has taken old tapes of community elders singing spirituals in Africville, converted them to digital and has made the songs available for sale on CD through the Heritage Trust Society's office. A portion of the profits goes to support the Africville Scholarship Fund.

Celebration schedule

On Tuesday night, there was a revival service with Rev. Joyce Ross and the East Preston Revival Choir.

Rev. Wallace Smith and the St. Thomas Baptist Church Choir will hold a revival service on Wednesday night from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

On Thursday, the revival service will feature Rev. Dr. Lennett Anderson and the Emmanuel Baptist Church Music Ministry from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

There will be a gospel concert on Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with Sanctified Brothers, Revival Tabernacle Choir, Debra DeLeon and Debra Downey-Brebner. Tickets to the gospel concert are $30 for adults and $25 for seniors and children.

Celebrations conclude Saturday with an intergenerational event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.