Remembering Africville Transcript

[Lively music]

Africville, on the north edge of Halifax, August 1962.

[Civic Official 1] The time has come to move to some place nicer.

[Civic Official 2] Wouldn’t you rather live somewhere with clean water and indoor toilets?

[Female Resident 1] But we’ve been asking the city for water and sewer for years. Why not just give it to us?

[Male Resident 1] We can’t afford houses in Halifax!

[Female Resident 2] We want to live here in Africville.

[Civic Official 1] But folks, let’s face it, Africville is...

[Male Resident 2] Go ahead, say it! You think Africville is a slum.

[Civic Officials 1 & 2] No, no, we don’t!

[Male Resident 2] Sure you do!

[Female Resident 1] Tell the truth!

[Male Resident 3] We pay our taxes just like everybody else, but we don’t even have a fire department or street lights.

[Female Resident 2] Africville used to be a wonderful place to live. We played outside all day. We went with our daddies to catch fish, we picked blueberries, we went to school and church together. And if you ever got a scrape or a bump, you could go to any house and whoever was home would fix you up. Everybody took care of everybody else.

[Narrator] Black people were promised land when they came to Nova Scotia but mostly they got rocks and scrub — no use for farming at all. So they came here. William Arnold and William Brown bought land here in 1848.

[Female Resident 2] We have been here for nearly 120 years and you have the nerve to ask us to leave?!

[Civic Official 2] But don’t you want to live a better life?

[Female Resident 2] We like the life we had just fine, young man. Black people had their own place where we could just be ourselves. We had gardens and a few chickens and pigs.

[Civic Official 1] Well, it’s not like that anymore. I’m sorry to say it, but Africville is an embarrassment to Halifax. I don’t know how you live like this.

[Male Resident 4] What choice do we have? Black people had only been here a few years before the railway tracks were put smack in the  middle of our houses... and then the good people of Halifax decided to put their night soil in pits just over there. Anything the city didn’t want ended up here in Africville — slaughterhouses where animals were sent to be butchered, that electricity tower, the city dump is a hundred paces from my house! And do you remember when three children died because it took so long for the fire trucks to get here? That was only seven years ago.

[Civic Official 1] Okay, okay. But when I walk around, I see lots of  lazy fellows sitting around, Black and white both. Not everyone is so fine and hard-working.

[Female Resident 1] We didn’t invite those ne’er-do-wells. They drifted here because they knew you wouldn’t bother coming to find them.

[Male Resident 2] No police station in Africville either.

[Female Resident 2] Don’t make us move. All we’re asking is the same things people in town have.

[Male Resident 4] I don’t trust them.

[Female Resident 2] We can’t win. If they want us to move, they’ll move us.

[Male Resident 1] Maybe we should just try to get the best thing we can.

[Gavel banging] [Narrator] January 1964. Out of 400 people living in Africville, 41 come to vote on whether to move. Thirty-seven vote yes. Most people have just given up believing. Nobody within the city is listening to them and nothing the people of Africville say will make a difference.

[Male Resident 3] This is what they send us to move our things?

[Female Resident 3] What will our new neighbours think?

[Male Resident 5] I don’t believe it! They demolished my house while I was in the hospital.

[Female Resident 4] Hey, the church — it’s gone! 

[Female Resident 2] Knocked the heart right out of Africville with it.

[Narrator] With their community destroyed, the lives of  the people of Africville were changed forever.

[Mayor Peter Kelly] On behalf of the Halifax regional municipality  I apologize to the former Africville residents and their descendants for what they have endured for almost fifty years. You lost your houses, your church, all the places where you gathered with family and friends to mark the milestones of your lives. For all that, we apologize.

[Ringing church bells]

[Narrator] The Africville church was rebuilt as a museum in 2012. Every July, people come from all over for the Africville reunion to remember the way their community was destroyed and celebrate the memories they keep alive.

[Lively music]