Black History Month: Viola Desmond - Canada's Rosa Parks?

Mon, May 01, 2017 @ 06:12 PM

We thought you might be interested in a book we've recently read and highly recommend.

Cape Breton University history professor Graham Reynolds has written a book - Viola Desmond's Canada: A History of Blacks and Racial Segregation in the Promised Land.

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Source: Wikipedia, Creative Commons, Labeled for Reuse

Long title - fascinating tale! Basically, Viola was a successful business woman in Halifax.  While waiting for her car to be fixed one day, she decided to view a movie. She asked to sit downstairs, as she had poor vision and would see the film more easily from the downstairs area of the theatre. 

Little did Viola know that the theatre was racially segregated. The theatre employees explained the circumstances to her but the police were called and Viola was forcibly removed and jailed.

When brought before a magistrate, there wasn't any mention of racial segregation at all.  Instead, she was charged with and found guilty of defrauding the province of an amusement tax.  This tax represented the difference in the theatre ticket price between seating downstairs and seating upstairs!  Can you imagine how Viola felt?  That's why we think of her as Canada's Rosa Parks!

We learned some astounding things from this book.  We were dismayed to discover that in 1930's Canada, the Ku Klux Klan operated freely.  We had no idea!

Viola Desmond was charged so wrongly, so cynically in 1946.  She wasn't pardoned until after her death - in 1965.

You can order this interesting book from Chapters/Indigo. If you read it, please share your thoughts with us!

Learn more about Viola's story and other interesting Black History Month topics at Historica Canada: Black History Month.


 

Don't forget to Enter for a Chance to Win
Our Black History Month Book Package

The Book of Negroes, illustrated edition containing photos, works of art and documents that inspired Lawrence Hill to write his award-winning novel. We've added a lovely tea infuser mug and two packages of delicious teas. Enter to win a chance to curl up, sip tea and read this tragic yet fascinating story of a female slave's experience in the United States, Canada and Britain. So appropriate to Black History Month!

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Entering couldn't be easier - just register here.

ENTER CONTEST

It's time to celebrate Black History Month and honour the contributions people of African descent have made to our cultural heritage.  Please join us on our journey to learn more!


 
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Mustafa Salemwalla

Written by Mustafa Salemwalla

Mustafa hails from Tanzania and spent 30 years getting to know the magnificent continent of Africa. Hence his passion for African art, sculpture, fashion and empowerment of artisans.

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