I looked around the museum, observing the scanty room with banners hanging orderly by clothes pegs. There was a small jukebox-like machine in different corners that you could listen to elders talk about their experiences of the events that unfolded in their lifetimes. I should have asked the significance of this antique equipment when so many other modern technology could have sufficed. The thought didn’t come to mind then. I was still in a daze when Brittany left me to do my self-directed tour. What else would I need to know after she eloquently filled my head with centuries of history? All that was left to do, was see the pictures, read the banners, and fill in the details.
Our Church, Our Community
“To understand Africville, you have to know about the church. The church in Africville, founded in 1849, was always a focal part of the community. In 1885, it changed its name from Campbell Road to Africville, and later to Seaview African United Baptist Church. Social life revolved around the church and its leaders were essentially the community’s leaders. Baptisms, weddings and funerals instilled a sense of community in the people. Everything was done through the church: Clubs, youth organizations, ladies’ auxiliary and Bible classes’. It was the centre of unity and belonged to everyone in the community.
See article: Africville’s Story: The Spirt Lives On
I walked in a chronological direction, that way I could follow the sequence of the stories. From the banners, I gathered life in Africville was typical of any rural community. People went to church, their children played together: soft-ball in the summer and hockey in the winter. They went to school, church, and played with friends.
Adults went to work. They farmed, fished, and raised cattle. With the growth in the city, some residences went off to the city to work for the government; as porters on the railway, labourers, stevedores on Pier 9, and in the factories. Women also found work as domestics, seamstresses, factory workers, and at the Infectious Diseases Hospital.
Africville had its challenges. It was separated from the city geographically and because of its racial make up. The residents struggled to obtain a level of services within their community. They just didn’t have political power or influence with City Officials. Perhaps one of the reason the residence didn’t want to leave was the loyalty towards the founding families.
Founding Families: The first purchases of land were made by William Arnold, William Brown, Eppy Carvery, Henry Hill and Bennett Fletcher.
One day though, everything changed. The songs stopped. The playing stopped. How could the government be so, so… But I cannot judge. I will take in this piece of history, not through lens of anger, but with an open heart that seeks to understand. With the bulldozing, and the evicting, the trauma, and the death, Africville was no more.
“Oh Africville, Africville
No more can I call you my home
Oh Africville, Africville
I want to go home”
Written by: Ruth Johnson
History sure has a way to open your eyes to reality. The one we live in was a fight for our ancestors long ago. Does Halifax’s history have anything to do with me? This was were Jamaican Maroons also came. Probably, they lived in Africville too. They may have had to face the same unimaginable lack of services. Was that the price for freedom? Separated, but equal?
How can we take it for granted when it wasn’t always so…
See Video: I Did Not See The Flowers
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