Africville

Catastrophe & Resilience

Overview

Destruction takes many forms.

Africville and locations north of North Street are points of interest on this route. Africville was around the shoreline from the Richmond waterfront piers, and buffered somewhat from the greatest concussive forces of the explosion. Even so, death and destruction left their mark here, and added to the hardships and challenges already presented by racism and prejudice.

The route for this drift is a suggestion, but feel free to wander and explore. You may contribute your own photos, videos and comments along the way.

Stay safe in the debris field.

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Ground Zero

1 0 A 1917 Map
1 0 B Blast Cloud
1 0 C Assembly Hall
In the decades since the explosion, the Graving Dock and Shipyard businesses grew, and now they are both part of the Irving empire. The Irving Shipyard is where Canada’s east coast Navy procurement program is centred; Arctic patrol vessels are being assembled here now. They will play an important role in the Canadian Arctic, as climate change frees up the waterways, and resources, that are now locked in ice.

Ground Zero, where the SS Mont-Blanc exploded, is next to where Pier 6 stood at the foot of Richmond Street. This location is now within the Halifax Shipyard, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.

1

Africville Museum

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This church was rebuilt several years ago, and replaces the original structure, which was destroyed when Africville was bulldozed in the early 1960’s as part of the city’s “urban renewal” campaign. It is the heart of this historic Black community, founded over 150 years ago.
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The Africville Church, c. 1965. Image taken by Bob Brooks, and courtesy of the Nova Scotia Archives.
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This church was rebuilt several years ago, and replaces the original structure, which was destroyed when Africville was bulldozed in the early 1960’s as part of the city’s “urban renewal” campaign. It is the heart of this historic Black community, founded over 150 years ago.

The Community of Africville:
On the shores of the Bedford Basin, on the northern edge of peninsular Halifax, lies Africville. For over 150 years, Africville was home to the hundreds of individuals and families who settled there, some of whom could trace their roots in Nova Scotia back to the late 1700s. Africville was a vibrant, self-sustaining community that thrived despite the harshest opposition. The majority of those who lived in Africville were landowners; in fact, the first registered deed dates back to 1848. The 5 original land purchases belonged to families Arnold, Brown, Carvery, Hill and Fletcher. Just one year later, the first church was built and the settlement grew by the addition of families Dixon, Bailey and Grant, making a total of 8 families to settle on these shores. (Excerpted from the Africville Museum website [Africville Heritage Trust http://africvillemuseum.org/the-organization/]

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The Africville community. Neg sheet 8A, image 20, Bob Brooks collection, NS Archives.

You can continue walking through the park here, instead of on the sidewalk by the road, if you wish.

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Esther Roan

Although Africville itself was buffered by the hill from the worst damages of the explosion, it was inequitably treated in terms of compensation and recognition, as was the custom of the time. The split second disaster of the explosion has perhaps not been felt as deeply as centuries of discrimination. During the explosion itself, Africville’s only midwife, Esther Roan, was lost to the community. Artist Jenna Marks has produced an animated film about that experience.

To see the whole film, please visit https://vimeo.com/75657943

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Cultural Resilience

Many news items, films and plays have been written and produced about Africville, and other Black communities in the province of Nova Scotia, which are some of the oldest settlement communities in Canada. The media mark ongoing efforts undertaken by these communities to resist being pushed out of their homes and histories. These productions mark ongoing efforts undertaken by these communities to resist being pushed out of their homes and histories. This image is from an online listing for the 1991 NFB film ‘Remember Africville’, directed by Shelagh Mackenzie.

In this short video excerpt, Juanita Peters talks about the impact of the Halifax Explosion in the African Nova Scotian community. Peters has been one of the many people extensively involved in the development of plays and films about African Nova Scotia.

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Visit to Africville

3 4 1 Africville Sign
3 4 2 Welcome To Africville

The sign formally marks the entrance to the former Africville community. At this point, turn right and onto the gravel walking trail that traverses the hillside here.

5

Under the Bridge

7 27 1  Welcome To Africville
7 27 2  Under The Bridge
7 27 3  Under The Bridge

Once Africville was cleared, the city began to develop sites for the Fairview Cove Container Terminal and the footings for the MacKay Bridge.

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Trail Turn

3 6 1 Trail Turn
3 6 2 Trail Turn

At the fork, the trail turns. Head to your left, up the hill. At the top, you will be facing back towards the harbour.

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Joe’s Reflections

3 7 1 Stone Sill
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View from Africville towards the Bedford Basin, 1965. Neg sheet 8A, image 20, Bob Brooks collection, NS Archives.
Audio
3 7 3 Africville Joes Reflections

Jazz musician and composer Joe Sealy was born in Montreal, but has deep family roots in Africville. He lived in Halifax from 1967 until 1976. Joe’s father was raised in Africville, and was 7 when the Halifax Explosion happened. A small piece of shrapnel caused a minor head injury, and he walked to the closest hospital to have it attended to. When he got there, he saw so many other people with far more serious injuries, that he turned right around and went back home. He carried the shrapnel for the rest of his life. Joe developed the jazz composition Africville Suite in 1995 as a tribute to his father.The recording was released a year later later, and was awarded a Juno in 1997. This composition is called ‘Joe’s Reflections’. (Courtesy Blue Jade Publishing Ltd.)

If you had been standing here early on the morning of December 6, 1917, you would have seen the SS Imo leaving its anchorage in Birch Cove in the Bedford Basin, heading towards the Narrows.

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Mont Blanc Terrace

3 8 1 Mont Blanc Terrace

This path takes you behind the Mont Blanc Terrace buildings. Please take care as there is no sidewalk beyond the path, and the slope behind the buildings is steep.

3 8 2 Green Dumpsters
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Africville Houses

3 9 1 Africville Houses
This might be one of the original Africville houses.
3 9 2 Africville Houses Sheet 4 29
View of Africville, c. 1965. Image taken by Bob Brooks, and courtesy of the Nova Scotia Archives.
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Imo Lane

3 10 1 Imo Lane Artifact

Many fragments of the Mont-Blanc landed here. This one was contributed to the collection of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Every artifact is connected to a person, and tells their story. This photograph and many others are displayed at an exhibition at the Dalhousie Art Gallery October 11-December 17, 2017.

3 10 2 Imo Lane Artifact
3 10 3 Imo Lane Artifact

These are examples of everyday artifacts that NiS+TS members gather and accession as we walk through the debris field today. These objects are some of many on display at the Nova Scotia Archives during December 2017

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Abutment Remains

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This part of the Halifax harbourfront has remained relatively undeveloped, with a number of local and small businesses located in a commercial strip established after the explosion. These replace the many local businesses and homes that were destroyed in the explosion. In behind this strip of buildings is what’s left of the concrete abutment for a pedestrian bridge that once connected the bottom of Duffus Street to the shipyards below, until the explosion.

More Drifts

North End & North Street

Building Communities

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WhistleBlowing

The Approach from the Water

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