The Society

Bulldozed and steamrolled

Africville was powerless to fight city hall
By Clare Mellor
Chronicle Herald | February 25, 2010

Charles Vaughan, Halifax’s mayor at the time, assured Africville residents that the city would do everything in its power to make their removal from their community as "painless as possible."

Later that same evening, Jan. 16, 1964, Halifax city council unanimously passed a resolution paving the way for the city to acquire all of the properties and buildings in Africville, The Mail-Star said on July 17, 1964.

Now, 46 years later, Mayor Peter Kelly has apologized for the city’s actions, which proved to be anything but painless for Africville residents.

"The repercussions of what happened in Africville linger to this day," Kelly said in the apology Wednesday. "They haunt us in the form of lost opportunities for young people who were never nurtured in the rich traditions, culture and heritage of Africville.

"They play out in lingering feelings of hurt and distrust, emotions that this municipality continues to work hard with the African-Nova Scotian community to overcome."

On a rainy night in August 1962, about 100 Africville residents crowded into a small Baptist church in the north end and "were unanimous" in their opposition to being moved from their community on the shores of Bedford Basin, where the approaches to the A. Murray MacKay Bridge are now located.

J.E. (Gee) Ahern, the MLA for Halifax North, had called the community meeting, said an Aug. 9, 1962, story in The Mail-Star.

Men and women rose one after the other at the meeting to speak out against any move and "to blast the city hall officials for their reluctance to give out building permits for the area."

"We want to be able to buy land out here (in Africville) and build on it, according to city specifications," Africville resident Clarence Carvery said at the meeting.

The Mail-Star story said 60 per cent of Africville residents owned their own homes.

Ward 6 Alderman H.R. Wyman sympathized at the meeting with the people of Africville.

"The city pays the market price when appropriating property," Wyman said.

"But this is still unfair in many cases. It is not giving a man proper compensation if we take a home he owns and give him a house someone else owns, even at cheap rent."

A July 1967 editorial in The Mail-Star praised the disappearance of the community, which by then was almost complete.

"By next month, the last of some 80 families will have left the squalid shacktown which was a national disgrace and a century-old indictment of the failure of this city to grapple with a sociological problem unique in Canada," the editorial says.

In 1970, at an impromptu address at the north-end library, Daisy Carvery said she didn’t think the public was aware of how badly the people of Africville had been treated.

"The city moved us out of Africville in their garbage trucks," she said, according to The Mail-Star of Feb. 26, 1970.

"The city took our homes and moved us into city housing, which was not nearly as good as our Africville homes."

This article remains copyright of The Halifax Herald and is displayed on this site for archival reasons. No infringement on copyright is inteneded.

This article remains copyright of the original media owner and is displayed on this site for archival reasons. No infringement on copyright is inteneded.

 

The Africville Genealogy Society gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage for this project.
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