Nova Scotia

Africville residents' survival to be part of study on protests

Two women from the U.K. are in Halifax this week and will be returning in July to gather stories about the ways former Africville residents survived despite a lack of essential city services before the City of Halifax forced them from their community in the late 1960s.

'We are, in some ways, very privileged to be the guardian of these stories,' says U.K. researcher Karen Salt

U.K. researchers Lisa Robinson (left) and Karen Salt are doing research at the Africville Museum. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

Two women from the United Kingdom are visiting Halifax this week to research the resilience of former Africville residents who were displaced from the community in the late 1960s in the name of urban renewal.

"Obviously, there's larger protest cultures and resistance happening, from Black Lives Matter to various groups that are thinking about food or other forms of justice, and then we were thinking there's a story to be told about the strategies of survival across the diaspora," said one of the researchers, Karen Salt, on Tuesday.

Salt is an assistant professor at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. She also heads the university's Centre for Research in Race and Rights.

The research is part of a study on geographies of black protests, which is also focusing on the plight of black banana growers in St. Lucia and the struggles of young people in Nottingham.

"We are, in some ways, very privileged to be the guardian of these stories," Salt said. "And now we're assembling a resource for other people so that they will be able to go online and read these stories, read archival documents, see objects, listen to interviews from people and actually start to see the vitality, I think really, across the diaspora."

Keeping protest history alive

Salt said she thought Africville's struggle was a good story to share because it shows the galvanizing force from the community to resist their removal, the immense amount of environmental racism residents suffered and various ways the community is trying to keep its protest history alive.

Africville was once home to hundreds of people and families for more than a century. The community was evicted in the 1960s by the city of Halifax in the name of urban renewal.

Lisa Robinson, a U.K. resident involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, is in Halifax doing research on the former black community of Africville. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

Eddie Carvery grew up in Africville and has been protesting there since 1970. The researchers want Carvery to be part of the study. They will return to Halifax for Africville's 35th reunion in July to film interviews with former residents and descendants.

Salt's co-researcher, Lisa Robinson, is director of Bright Ideas Nottingham, a social enterprise that works with local people to effect change and improvement in their communities.

Robinson, who is also active in the Black Lives Matter movement, called the story of Africville "absolutely inspirational."

"It's a story that will keep lots of other activists going," she said. "And people who think maybe they haven't got any more energy to carry on with their struggle, I think this Africville story will give people encouragement and energy for their own struggles."

Looking at Africville through a different lens

Juanita Peters is the general manager of the Africville Heritage Trust. She agrees that Africville's story is a universal story.

"We're the template for what goes wrong when you make decisions for a people without all the information," Peters said. "And even more importantly, it's really important to look at the lessons of Africville through different lenses."

Former Africville resident Eddie Carvery has been protesting in Africville since 1970 demanding compensation for the razing of his community. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

Up to 300 former Africville residents and descendants are still awaiting a court decision on whether they can join a lawsuit against the City of Halifax over the loss of their land four decades ago.

In 2010, some former residents reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the city. No individual compensation was paid out. The settlement included an apology, a hectare of land on the former site to rebuild the Seaview African United Baptist Church and $3 million to help build it.

About the Author

Sherri Borden Colley has been a reporter for more than 20 years. Many of the stories she writes are about social justice, race and culture, human rights and the courts. To get in touch with Sherri email