Viola Desmond to be featured on stamp
Known as Nova Scotia's Rosa Parks
Nova Scotia civil rights activist Viola Desmond will soon be featured on a commemorative stamp from Canada Post.
Desmond, a black woman, went to jail in 1946 for sitting in a segregated section of a New Glasgow theatre reserved for whites.
Her sister, Wanda Robson, is thrilled by the national recognition of her struggle, 47 years after her death.
"It's beyond my dreams that this would come about. It's overwhelming, really," Wanda Robson said.
She has a copy of a first draft of the postage stamp featuring her sister and the theatre where she refused to move from the whites-only section.
Robson made sure the final version was accurate, down to the title of the movie on the marquee.
"It's a picture of her with her hair [in the style] of the '40s, swept up, superimposed over the theatre. The story itself — the whole story — is important, of course," Robson said.
The stamp that will be publicly unveiled Feb. 1 to kick off Black History month in Nova Scotia.
Robson hopes the stamp issued in her sister's honour will prompt those outside the province to ask who she was and what she did.
Her struggle recently became the inspiration for a film called Long Road to Justice.
Apology and pardon
"She was beautiful, she was well dressed and she was very well spoken, and they carried her out to a patrol car, hauled her off to jail and she spent the night in the town lock-up," the film tells viewers.
Her family received an apology and a pardon from the province in April 2010, and the town of New Glasgow paid tribute to Desmond in August 2010.
Desmond, then a 32-year-old beautician, was driving from Halifax to Sydney on Nov. 8, 1946, when her car broke down in New Glasgow. She decided to see a movie at the Roseland Theatre while she waited for repairs.
Desmond sat downstairs, unaware of the theatre's rule that blacks could sit only in the balcony seats. She was asked to leave but refused. Eventually, the manager and a police officer pulled her out.
Desmond spent the night in jail. The next morning, she was convicted of tax evasion. Prosecutors made no mention of race. They told the judge that Desmond didn't pay the full price to sit up front and therefore didn't pay the proper tax — a difference of one cent.
She was fined $20 and sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Desmond, who owned her own hairdressing business, fought unsuccessfully to appeal both her conviction and fine.
Thanks to her public court battle, the Nova Scotia government dismantled its segregation laws.