DREAMSCAPES WINTER/SPRING 2024
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TRACING LEGACY
 
(2024 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: LINDSAY DAVIES



Home to some of the most authentic coastal experiences amid 13,300 kilometres of stunning shoreline, the mighty province of Nova Scotia also lays claim to the world’s highest tides, a plethora of lighthouses, and adventures galore.

But did you know there’s an often overlooked side, one that is steeped in Black history?

It’s time to hit the roads of western Nova Scotia and visit these historical attractions and drive routes that have put Canada’s early African heritage on the map.

Africville Park: A Testament to Resilience

Located in the north end of Halifax, discover Africville Park. Learn about the bygone days when a close-knit Black community once called this span by the waters of Bedford Basin home for over 120 years.  Officially settled in the early 19th century by former enslaved and free Black Loyalists who fled from America, Africville became a self-sufficient community with a rich cultural heritage. 

Today, Africville Park stands on the grounds of this once bustling community. It serves as a memorial to honour the lives, resilience, and cultural significance of the people who called Africville home. Follow marked trails replete with interpretive signage and bold public art that share insights of Africville.

For a deeper understanding, visit the on-site Africville Museum where a collection of artifacts and photographs illustrate the community spirit. Hear oral histories and videos from former residents in this museum that is a replica of the Seaview Baptist Church, which was the heart of Africville.

One thing is for certain, it was a place where all were welcome and that is still felt in every interaction. While Africville is no longer, the spirit of the community continues to touch everyone who visits. 

Black Loyalist Heritage Centre: Preserving Legacies in Birchtown

Along the South Shore on the outskirts of Shelburne, you will find the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre. The ultramodern museum and education centre rests on the former site of Birchtown, which was the world’s largest free African population outside of Africa in the late 18th century.

Step inside the gallery space and prepare for an immersive experience. It’s history at your fingertips. Touchscreen panels are the gateway to mountains of information as you dive into the lives of the Black Loyalists. Learn how thousands were freed by the British during the American Revolution, the challenges they faced upon arrival in Birchtown, how many residents left to establish Freetown in Sierra Leone, Africa and the impact of those who stayed. Do not forget to look at the floor. Beneath your feet are exposed artifacts from an archaeological dig.

During your visit, bank some time for exploring the grounds. Stroll through the forest via Aminata’s Walk and see a replica pit house they used to survive the Nova Scotian winters. Afterwards, stop in at the Old Schoolhouse, St. Paul’s Anglican Church and the Black Burial Grounds for more insight into what life was like there.

Mathieu Da Costa African Heritage Trail: Tracing a Legacy of Achievement

In exploring western Nova Scotia’s rich Black history that dates back over four centuries, you’ll discover the Mathieu Da Costa African Heritage Trail. It offers a compelling journey that starts in Annapolis Royal in the west and spans outside Windsor in the east. 

View important landmarks and learn about rich Nova Scotian African culture as you ponder the trail stops.  Aptly named after one of Canada’s earliest trailblazers—Mathieu Da Costa, said to be the first known African in the New World—the interpretive panels illustrate the impact of other prominent early Black leaders in Canada, from the country’s first female police officer, Rose Fortune to Civil War veteran Ben Jackson.

The Mathieu Da Costa African Heritage Trail also highlights important African Nova Scotian communities such as Inglewood and Windsor Plains. Whether person or place, each interpretive panel keeps these legacies alive for all to remember.

There is no doubt that early African Nova Scotians have played a significant role in the province’s history, and a drive to these parts will help visitors engage in the present and honour the past.

Travel Tip

At reception obtain a name card representing a Black Loyalist and follow their story to learn the impact they made on Birchtown and Nova Scotia!

Travel Planner

To plan your visit and for more information about Black Nova Scotians contributions, visit novascotia.com/tripideas/stories/discoverafrican-nova-scotia

 
 
 
 
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