“Freedom and a Farm.” The promise was exciting to the thousands of African-Americans, mostly runaway slaves, who were encouraged by the British to fight in British regiments against the Americans. They joined the tens of thousands of American refugees who had sided with the British during the American Revolution, and who pinned their hopes for a brighter future on the British slogan. The refugees left the newly independent states for British North America and pledged their loyalty to King George III.
February is Black History month. We’ll help celebrate it with two entries dealing with music inspired and produced by two very different Afro-Canadian communities. The first is from Nova Scotia. You can get directly involved in this one by going to your post office where two stamps issued for Black History Month are on sale. The one I bought features the face of Viola Desmond. If you buy a booklet of ten you get her story. Stranded in New Glasgow in 1946 and waiting for her car to be repaired, Viola went to the movies to pass the time but found that the theatre was segregated. Blacks sat in the balcony. She refused to move from her orchestra seat and was jailed and fined. She appealed and finally, after a decade, won and destroyed Nova Scotia’s segregation laws. Buy the stamps and read the story.
On May 23, 1914, the ship Komagata Maru was turned away from a Vancouver harbour when it tried to land. Onboard were 376 South Asian immigrants from British India, veterans of the British Indian Army, who sought to make a life for themselves in the empire they had fought to defend. How wrong they were. Instead of a warm reception, the Komagata Maru was surrounded by Canadian immigration boats half a mile from shore and ordered to leave.
[Editor’s Note: The Canadian Encyclopedia is proud to present its first free app, Vancouver In Time, highlighting the stories of the city. The Komagata Maru is one of 45 unique stories in the app. Download the app here.]
The steamer Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver harbour in May 1914 with more than 370 passengers from India on board. They were looking to begin new lives in Canada, but the authorities said No. The standoff lasted two months and ended in mayhem and murder. Read More