Image: Black businesswoman Viola Desmond faced segregation in the 1940s. Born and raised in Halifax, Viola Desmond trained as a teacher but soon joined her husband Jack Desmond in a combined barbershop and hairdressing salon, a beauty parlour on Gottingen Street. While expanding her business across the province, Viola went to New Glasgow in 1946. In New Glasgow, Desmond developed car trouble and decided to go to the movies while repairs were made. She bought a ticket, entered the theatre and took a seat on the main floor, unaware that tickets sold to African Canadians in this town were for the balcony and the main floor was reserved solely for White patrons. Theatre staff demanded that she go to the balcony, but she refused, since she could see better from the main floor. The police were summoned immediately and she was dragged out, which injured her hip. She was charged and held overnight in jail; she was not advised of her rights. Maintaining her dignity, Desmond remained sitting upright, wearing her white gloves (a sign of sophistication and class at the time). The following morning, despite not having done anything wrong, she paid the imposed fine of $20. Besides being fined, she was charged with defrauding the Government of Nova Scotia of the difference in the tax between a ground floor and a balcony seat, which amounted to one cent. While discussing the incident with the doctor who tended to her, Desmond decided to fight the charges. Clearly, the issue was about her being African Canadian and there being a racist seating policy in place; it was not about tax evasion. In taking the matter to the courts, Viola Desmond's experience helped to galvanize public opinion locally and internationally, and to raise awareness about the reality of Canadian segregation. ************************* Maurice Ruddick On October 23, 1958, a massive "bump"—similar to a small earthquake—collapsed No. 2 colliery of the Cumberland mines in Springhill, Nova Scotia, trapping 174 men 3900 metres underground. Rescuers acted immediately, with little hope there would be many survivors. Slowly they extracted men, alive and dead, from the ground. On the ninth day, they reached the last 7 to be found alive. Among them was Maurice Ruddick, a 46-year-old African Canadian, a slim man with a thin moustache who always pomaded his hair.
Recreated video clip: http://blackhistorycanada. For Ruddick. He later described the experience in "Springhill Disaster. Following a supervised placement with another Black doctor. The mines were sealed shortly after the Big Bump. it took an hour to ride to the surface in the trolleys. The 1958 mine collapse killed 74 men and ended Springhill's tenure as a large-scale mining town. racism dimmed his moment in the spotlight. survivors of the disaster were invited by Georgia's governor to vacation at a luxurious resort. despite a broken leg. Ruddick would sing during the trip. Maurice Ruddick died in 1988. His parents had to leave Alabama abruptly for their own safety. Alexander Augusta. their baritones rumbled up ahead of them. Upon learning that Ruddick was Black. Abbott was licensed in 1861. audible to the company men who worked on the surface. and after briefly settling in New York. but he and his family stayed in a trailer apart from his colleagues. Due to his family's involvements and wealth—they owned almost 50 properties in the Toronto area— Abbott was educated at North Buxton (near Chatham).When the miners finished a shift. jazz or popular songs of the day. the governor said that Ruddick would have to be segregated. becoming the first Canadian-born Black doctor in Canada. the 7 men struggled to survive. helped his companions keep their spirits up by singing and leading them in song and prayer. free family to be born in Toronto.ca/ *************************** Anderson Abbott
Anderson Abbott belonged to the first generation of his affluent.
. Ruddick. Oberlin College and the Toronto School of Medicine. blues." As they ascended from the pit. all but forgotten for his role during those 9 long days. the Toronto Academy." the song he wrote about the event. Ruddick and the other "miracle miners" enjoyed public attention briefly after the disaster. As you will learn in the accompanying Historica Minute Maurice Ruddick. After the mineshaft caved in on them. Some of the miners joined him to sing "Dem Bones" or "Don't Be Cruel" or "Bye Bye Love. the only Black in the group. Ruddick agreed to the governor's terms so the other miners' vacation would not be ruined. they chose Toronto as their home.
he accepted an appointment in Chicago. At the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth. Australia. physiotherapy. Harry left a substantial legacy and a blueprint for success. Abbott married and moved to Chatham. There he was appointed coroner for Kent County while also advocating for integrated schools. completely severing his left quadriceps muscle. The Commonwealth Games were often the site of Harry’s most difficult athletic setbacks. Harry would capture the bronze medal in the 100-metre dash and narrowly missed a second medal in the
. He also helped to set a world record in the 4 x 100-metre relay. and courage set the stage for what would later be known as “the greatest comeback. he was shy and avoided the limelight. ******************* Harry Jerome It is no coincidence that the Awards are in memory of African Canadian Harry Jerome. where he would represent Canada on three occasions.” But his finest moments would come at the Olympics. Despite his relatively brief life. displaying the true power of his determination and will to succeed.Abbott felt compelled to apply his medical services to the American Civil War effort and ended up in a segregated regiment. In spite of the negative reports from the Canadian press about him being a quitter. These obstacles would set the stage for his greatest athletic successes. Though labouring under the weight of the country’s expectations and assumptions. most orthopaedic surgeons said that he would never run again. After living in other Ontario towns. Among his experiences was caring for the dying President Abraham Lincoln.. Months of quiet determination. Harry Sr. becoming medical superintendent in 1896. He was born in Prince Albert. he spent his later years writing on Black history and other topics. 100-yard dash and indoor 60-metre dash. Harry received numerous accolades at the University of Oregon. Again returning to Toronto. Saskatchewan in 1940. his wife Elsie and their five children moved to North Vancouver in the 1950s. culminating in injury and disappointment almost as often as victory. represented Canada at two Pan American Games and twice at the Commonwealth Games. Harry’s physical successes were partnered with scholastic excellence and social consciousness. In 1964. Throughout his distinguished athletic career. Harry went on to set the standard as the world’s fastest man. DC hospitals. with records in the 100-metre. where they were the only Black people in their conservative neighbourhood. Returning to Toronto. As Harry’s athletic legend began to grow. Harry concentrated on his return. a testament to the severity of his injury. Harry suffered a career threatening injury. and then as a civilian surgeon in several Washington. Harry returned to track and field’s largest stage – the Tokyo Olympics. One of the premiere track athletes of his time. With a 30centimetre scar on his left thigh.
Harry went on to work with the Federal Ministry of Sport. he coupled his athletic achievements with scholastic success. In 1982. Harry was always conscious of the challenges facing African Canadians. in 1971. He was named British Columbia’s Athlete of the Century. He would also turn his athletic accomplishments into opportunities for others. Nova Scotia. After his retirement from active competition in 1968. He truly is a Canadian hero. At the University of Oregon. a statue in his honour was erected along the sea wall of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. *********************
Following World War One. Despite his passing. Despite his athletic successes. He fought to remove wage discrimination barriers against Blacks. many from the Caribbean were drawn to the area around Sydney. asking that licenses be suspended “if stations could justify neither having Blacks as on-air personalities nor airing stories about the [African Canadian] community. received the Order of Canada as a testament to his achievements. Harry Jerome died suddenly at the age of 42. Using his celebrity and sports contacts. determination. Calvin worked at Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation before finding employment in the job that many Black men
. and. Calvin Ruck was born to parents who had emigrated from Barbados. for the work offered in the coal mines. epitomizing excellence.” He was equally concerned about the opportunity for economic development among African Canadians. Harry never forgot about his roots or his role in bringing about positive change. and strove to improve mainstream Canadians’ perception of the Black community. In 1988.200-metre. he designed a series of cartoon manuals for coaching instruction and game rules for children. Once he wrote to the major department stores questioning the lack of Blacks as models in their catalogues and as clerks in their stores. and dedication. Using his considerable talents. earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees in science. He created the Premier Sports Program for use in schools in British Columbia. Harry would obtain equipment for young athletes who could not afford the expensive gear. He was a vocal opponent of the misrepresentation of African Canadians in Canadian television. he would follow his Olympic showing with gold medal performances at both the Pan American and Commonwealth Games. he left a considerable legacy that is a source of pride for all Canadians. Both the University of Oregon and the province of British Columbia have recreational facilities that bear his name. Harry Jerome took on the concerns of a community and a country. He was also involved in extensive work to create opportunities for Blacks outside the sports arena. Harry revolutionized track and field with the introduction of weight training for sprinters. Despite his stature in the greater community. Proving that this success was no fluke. settling in Whitney Pier.
changed the direction of Ruck's life. He became a quiet resister. a White neighbourhood.
. for example refusing to accept that barbershops would not serve his family or the Black community. the third African-Canadian so appointed. To cope with some issues of injustice. Ruck and his wife had to deal with a petition issued by the residents trying to keep them out. In the 1970s. His experience in trying to buy a home in Westphal near Dartmouth. Nova Scotia. tell and commemorate the history of the Black veterans of the First World War—"No. ongoing incidents of hostility made their day-to-day experience a near nightmare. Ruck enrolled in a social work program and graduated from Dalhousie University. 2 Construction Battalion"—that resulted in his success at having a permanent cairn erected at Pictou.were welcome to have at the time. Ruck was appointed to the Senate in 1998. He served on the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission during the 1980s. which affected the barber's income. to the battalion's honour in 1993. As he sat in the shop "waiting for service" other patrons would not come in. Maybe his work as a janitor at the air force base in Shearwater encouraged Ruck to reconsider the need to fight. it was his efforts to preserve. However. African-Canadians often felt it better to try to put up with them rather than confront them since outright challenges could result in being fired or facing increased problems. While the family was successful in ultimately buying the home of their dreams in 1954. from 1945 to 1958. that of porter with the Canadian National Railways.