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POI Descriptive Title

Seaview Memorial Park / Africville





POI Historical Details

Africville was a small unincorporated community located on the southern shore of Bedford Basin, in the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Settled in earnest after the War of 1812, it all began with a promise to Black Loyalists of free land and equal rights. The community of Africville was never officially established, but the first land transaction documented on paper was dated 1848. The community had a population of approximately 400 residents. Many thought it was named Africville because the people who located there were African, yet this was not the case. These people had no emotional connection to Africa, or considered it their home. One elderly women, a resident of Africville, was quoted saying, "it wasn't Africville out there. None of the people came from Africa...it was part of Richmond (Northern Halifax), just the part where the colour folks lived."

Africville began as a small and poor, but self-sufficient rural community of about 50 people in the 19th century; however, an influx of population and the imposition of industries and facilities starting in World War I led the community to evolve to a more crowded and neglected urban neighbourhood whose population peaked at 400 at the time of expulsion. The community's haphazardly positioned dwellings ranged from small well-maintained and brightly-painted homes to tiny ramshackle dwellings converted from sheds. In the late 1850s, the Nova Scotia Railway, later to become the Intercolonial Railway was built from Richmond to the south, bisecting Africville as the railway's mainline along the western shores of Bedford Basin. A second line arrived in 1906 with the arrival of the Halifax and Southwestern Railway which connected to the Intercolonial at Africville. The Intercolonial Railway, later Canadian National Railways, constructed Basin Yard west of the community, adding more tracks. Trains ran through the area constantly.

In the Halifax Explosion of 1917, elevated land to the south protected Africville from the direct blast and complete destruction which levelled the neighbouring community of Richmond. However the community did suffer considerable damage. A doctor of a relief train arriving at Halifax made note of Africville residents "as they wandered disconsolately around the ruins of their still standing little homes". Four Africville residents (and one Mi'kmaq woman visiting from Queens County, Nova Scotia) were killed in the community. In the aftermath of the disaster, Africville received modest relief assistance but none of the reconstruction and none of the modernization which was invested into other parts of the city after the explosion.

During the 20th century, the City of Halifax began to encroach on the southern shores of Bedford Basin, and Africville was eventually included as part of the city through municipal amalgamation. The community was populated almost entirely by black families from a wide selection of origins. During the late 1960s Africville and its dwellings were ordered destroyed, and the residents evicted in advance of the opening of the nearby A. Murray MacKay suspension bridge, related highway interchange construction and related Port of Halifax development at Fairview Cove to the west.

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Donald H. Clairmont & Dennis William Magill, Africville: The Life and Death of a Canadian Black Community. Canadian Scholar's Press, Toronto (1999).

Africville Genealogy Society. The Spirit of Africville. (Halifax: Formac Publishing Company Limited, 1992).

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