In 1946, a Black Halifax businesswoman, Viola Desmond, was wrongfully arrested for sitting in a white’s-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. In 2010, sixty-four years later, the Nova Scotia government recognized this gross miscarriage of justice and posthumously granted her a free pardon. Most Canadians are aware of Rosa Parks, the American civil rights icon who refused to give up her seat on a racially segregated bus in Alabama, but Viola Desmond’s similar act of courage in resisting the practice of racial segregation occurred nine years before this historic event. However, today, even after the Nova Scotia Government’s unprecedented pardon of Desmond, many Canadians are still unaware of her story or that racial segregation existed throughout many parts of Canada during most of the twentieth century. On the subject of race, Canadians seem to exhibit a form of collective amnesia. Viola Desmond’s Canada is groundbreaking book aimed at providing both general readers and students of Canadian history with a concise overview of the narrative of the Black experience in Canada. The book traces this narrative from slavery under French and British rule in the eighteenth century to the practice of racial segregation and the fight for racial equality in the twentieth century. Included are personal recollections by Wanda Robson, Viola Desmond’s youngest sister, together with important but previously unpublished documents and other primary sources in the history of Blacks in Canada.
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