Tag Archives: Feb 2011 African/African American Heritage Series

The Lost Town of Africville

The memorial to the town of Africville. It reads “Landed Deeded 1848-1969. Dedicated in loving memory of the first black settlers and all the former residents of the community of Campbell Road, Africville and all the members of the Seaview United Baptist Church.”

Africville was one of Canada’s oldest black settlements. Founded by Black Loyalists who fled to Nova Scotia after the American Revolutionary War, the area’s African-Canadian population grew after the War of 1812 along the Bedford Basin on Campbell Road, which was dubbed “Africville.”  Africville was never able to officially incorporate as its own town, existing alongside the city of Halifax.

Africville faced systematic discrimination through lack of positive development and government neglect. Again and again, Africville got the shaft in comparision with the rest of Halifax, which reduced the area into an industrialized slum by the first half of the 20th century:

Throughout its history, Africville was confronted with much racial isolation. The town never received proper roads, health services, water, street lamps or electricity. Simple things all towns received, they did not. The continuing issues and protests for water and sewage, clearly show the relationship between the city of Halifax and the Africvillians. The lack of these services had serious health implications for the lives of the people, and the city’s concerns for them was as existent as these facilities they demanded. Contamination of the wells was a serious and ongoing issues, so even the little water they did receive needed to be boiled before use. As the City of Halifax expanded, Africville became a preferred site for all types of undesirable industries and facilities—prison in 1853, a slaughterhouse, even a depository for fecal waste, from nearby Russellville. In 1958 the city decided to move the town garbage dump to the Africville area. While the residents knew they couldn’t legally fight this, they illegally salvaged the dump for usable goods. They would get clothes, copper, steel, brass, tin..etc. The dump was the final pin in labelling this area an official slum. In 1870 Africville also received an infectious disease hospital. (source)

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African-Americans in the Pacific Northwest–Guest Blog by Evangeline Holland

Note: This is cross-posted with permission from Edwardian Promenade.

Excerpt from the September 1913 issue of The Crisis:

Mr. Harris's Grocery, Tacoma, WA

Mr. Harris’s Grocery, Tacoma, WA

The characteristic of the Great Northwest is its unexpectedness. One looks for tall black mountains and ghostlike trees, snow and the echo of ice on the hills, and all this one finds. But there is more. There is the creeping spell of the silent ocean with its strange metamorphoses of climate, its seasons of rain and shine, until one is puzzled with his calendar and lost to all his weather bearings. Then come the cities. Portland one receives as plausible; a large city with a certain Eastern calm and steady growth. The colored population is but a handful, a bit over a thousand, but it is manly and holds its head erect and has hopes. Portland was the only place out of nearly fifty places where The Crisis has lectured that did not keep its financial contract, but this was probably a personal fault and not typical. Typical was the effort to establish a social center, to enlarge and popularize a colored hotel, to build new homes and open new avenues of employment.

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The Fight of the Century–Guest Blog by Evangeline Holland

Note: This is cross-posted with permission from Edwardian Promenade.

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson

By the turn of the century, the color line in sports was firmly in place, but the charismatic and controversial Jack Johnson smashed this line with a firm one-two to the jaw. Though boxing had long roots, it was a fairly new sport to Americans in the 1880s, and though banned in many states, one law which was standard across the board was to deny black boxers the right to spar with white opponents. To circumvent this rule, many African-Americans traveled to France, where mixed-race bouts were not illegal, which is where solid contenders such as Johnson, Sam Langford, and Joe Jeannette built their reputations. This law was relaxed to an extent in the late 1890s, but black boxers were still barred from fighting for the world heavyweight championship. Jack Johnson refused to accept this restriction, and he worked hard to prove his mettle, winning at least 50 fights against both white and black opponents in 1902, and beating “Denver” Ed Martin over 20 rounds for the World Colored Heavyweight Championship in 1903.

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Kakum National Park and Cape Coast Castle in Ghana: A Personal Essay–Guest Blog by Eccentric Yoruba

Note from Ay-leen: This essay is cross-posted from Eccentric Yoruba’s Dreamwidth journal and describes the story of the international slave trade from a unique vantage point: where historical hardship becomes a tourist commodity at the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.

Our next guided tour was to the Kakum National Park and Cape Coast, which is home to several colonial castles. Once more we woke up really early in the morning and got into a bus with other Nigerians and off we went on our two hour journey to Kakum. The national park is famous for its canopy walk, which has several hanging walkways above a thick forest. Apparently, some people find the canopy walk challenging and cannot go through it, that is totally understandable. It took a while walking through the forest until we reached the walkways. One by one, we were guided to them, but not before we were warned not to swing the walkways and to refrain from such behaviour.

The canopy walkways of Kakum National Park

There are seven canopies in total. I took the shortcut, which means I walked through only three. “Are you scared?” one of the men– presumably a safety guide–asked me when I turned left for the shortcut.

“Yes, I am absolutely frightened,” I replied even though I had a huge grin plastered on my face and had paused to take a picture a few moments ago. As I walked hastily through the shortcut, I heard the man say behind me, “You’re lying.” In front of me a little girl was crying while her mother told her not to be scared: “We’ll soon reach the end.” I felt sorry for her.

Part of the reason I had chosen the shortcut was because I wanted to see Cape Coast. To be honest, I was dreading it at the same time because I’d heard stories; of the slave dungeons and the Door of No Return, of people breaking into tears while there, and I wasn’t ready to be caught unawares by several strong emotions and end up crying in public.

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