The Spirit Lives On

It was originally called the Campbell Road Settlement.  It hugged the shores of Halifax (Nova Scotia)’s Bedford Basin.  People started establishing the vibrant community as early as the 1840s.  The people of African descent — former slaves, escaped slaves, descendants of refugees from the War of 1812 and free people who came to Canada for the promise of a better life. The community was known as Africville.


Here’s a brief TIMELINE of Africville:

In 1848, there is a record that began with the purchase of land by William Arnold and William Brown. In 1849, A church is organized and built, later to be known as Seaview African United Baptist Church, and the first baptism takes place there. An elementary school was built in 1883. Africville was self-reliant … as a necessity.

The tax-paying residents petitioned the government officials many times for essential services, but were repeatedly denied. The government regarded the area so undesirable that they established institutions nearby such as a prison, an infectious disease hospital built on the hill overlooking the community (1874), and even a slaughterhouse, to name a few.

There was also the construction of the Railway began in 1854, and so land on Campbell Road’s south side is expropriated for it and a few houses are removed.

The Halifax explosion in 1917 was devastating. The northern peninsula provided some protection from destruction, however four Africville residents die: James B. Allison, 40, Aldora Andrews, 8, Esther Roan, 52, and Charles Henry Simonds, 20. Africville receives little of the reconstruction and none of the modernization that were invested in other parts of the city after the explosion.

In 1945, the Civic Planning Commission recommended development of the Northern Slope of the city as a residential, park and shopping centre complex, while removing the residents of Africville to “decent minimum standard housing elsewhere.”

In 1948, City Council approves the borrowing of funds to give water and sewer services, but these are never installed. Meanwhile, residents rely on local springs that become contaminated by the railway and surrounding industrial waste.

In 1955, the city dump is relocated near Africville, which adds to Africville’s alienation by the rest of the city community.

In 1957, a report is released by Council, recommending plans for industrial development.

In 1963, the last baptism takes place at Africville.

On April 26, 1965, the Mail Star quotes the Welfare Director as saying, “the City has fallen down on its responsibility to Africville. Providing proper water and sewerage facilities for these people, when needed, would have enabled them to give as good an account of themselves as any other families in the area and would make relocation unnecessary.”

By 1967, settlement negotiations concluded. Relocation of residents continue.

“Between 1964 and 1970 about 80 families were moved to public housing developments in Halifax.  Personal belongings were moved in dump trucks,” wrote Sylvia D. Hamilton in Oxford Companion to Canadian History.

In 1969, the last remaining resident of Africville – Aaron “Pa” Carvery – relinquished hold on his property days before the close of the decade, on December 30, 1969, when the City gave him a cheque for $14,387.76. Pa moved out on January 2, 1970. Pa had refused earlier offers from city officials with a “suitcase of money stuck under my nose so as to tempt me … I got up and walked out of the office.” Pa remarked: The City gave the Africville people no deal at all. Some were put into places far worse than what they left. Also when people lived in Africville, they were not on welfare.”

In 2002, Africville was named a National Historic Site by the Government of Canada.

In 2008, a reunion was attended by over 1,500 people from all parts of Canada, the US and beyond. Paramount Chief from Ghana addresses Gala gathering.

In 2009, Service Road was renamed to Africville Road.

February 24, 2010, Mayor Peter Kelly formally apologized for the loss of the historic Halifax community of Africville in the 1960s. In part, he said,

“On behalf of the Halifax Regional Municipality, I apologize to the former Africville residents and their descendants for what they have endured for almost 50 years, ever since the loss of their community that had stood on the shores of Bedford Basin for more than 150 years. …We apologize for the heartache experienced at the loss of the Seaview United Baptist Church, the spiritual heart of the community, removed in the middle of the night. We acknowledge the tremendous importance the church had, both for the congregation and the community as a whole.”

And finally, on January 14, 2011, there was a formal deed transfer of 2.5 acres of land at Seaview Park to the Africville Heritage Trust Board.

For the full text of the apology, go to the City Of Nova Scotia’s Apology page, plus you can find more on itsAfricville Main Page. To get even more information, the best place to go is The Spirit Lives On, where you can find so much! You can even find the Africville Genealogy Society on Facebook.

If you have the time, you can watch Remember Africville on the National Film Board of Canada, watch a wide variety at YouTube, and at CBC Archives.


  1. This is what I call history. Thanks TK. And yes there is a blessing in the dump as what the young man said in YouTube. I remember going through the dumps in my early childhood days back in the Philippines.


  2. My family arrived in Halifax in 1967, as Africville was being dismantled. I was 10 years old, but still was able to see that this was a contentious issue, affecting many people whose homes were being bulldozed. Very sad. Thanks for this glimpse into history.


  3. that is such a sad story. I know many towns across America are barely thriving due to many changes thoughout the years. It is all in the name of progress I guess. Modernization and the need to be where the jobs are seem to be a theme in America.


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