Remembering Africville

Community Featured

Just in time to kick off African Heritage Month, a travelling exhibit of Africville is making its way to Pictou County at the Museum of Industry.

The exhibit is a hybrid of one that has toured all over Canada and the United States to teach more people about Africville.

The exhibit is set up with an artist rendition of homes, the Africville church and other buildings that had been in the community to give guests a sense of what it was like to walk through and live in Africville.

“To see if we could give people a little taste of what it was like to walk down the road in Africville,” said Juanita Peters, executive director of the Africville Museum, about the purpose of the exhibit. “I hope that people walk away with what it felt like to live in such a close-knit community.”

This year, 2020, marks the 10th anniversary of the Africville apology, after the land was expropriated by the city of Halifax in the late 1960s. The exhibit will be touring until the end of 2021. Peters added that another of the goals is to help people get a sense of how close the community was and the safety and security that the residents felt.

“There was a time when you could just walk in someone’s house without being invited, it was a beautiful time,” Peters said. “It’s not like today where we have all kinds of extra concerns.”

Bernice Byers-Arsenault, a former Africville resident as well as one of the girls on the Africville stamp that was issued, is pleased with the exhibit.

“It tells you the story, it tells you about family, community, and church,” Byers-Arsenault said. “We were closely knit — it was one large family living in a small community. It was one big happy family.” She noted that the community was a safe haven and many didn’t lock their doors.

“I would skate in between the train tracks, we would go fishing in the basin and pick blueberries,” the former resident said. “I miss it.”

The exhibit is now open.

From back, left, Phillip Gnemmi, museum assistant at the Africville Museum in Halifax, Angela Gannon, the artist behind the recreated Africville, Juanita Peters, executive director of the Africville Museum, front, Bernice Byers-Arsenault, former Africville resident. Those co-ordinating and helping set up the Africville exhibit posed for a photo framed in one of the recreated Africville house windows. (Brimicombe photo)