January 24, 2008
In his publication entitled Black Nova Scotians John N. Grant (1980:31) described how the Stag Hotel 1, an Inn located in Preston, was sometimes the terminus of Lt. Governor Joseph Howe’s carriage drives.” (p. 31.) Stag Hotel is a clever play on words as the proprietor was William Deer, an African Canadian.
This inn is referred to at length in Manette’s thesis (1990) where she describes and quotes Mrs. Deer. It is also in Brown’s Illustrated History of Canada (Brown 1987: 287) but no mention is made of the fact that the owners were black.
The book by John N. Grant entitled Black Nova Scotians was produced by Nova Scotia Communications and Information Centre and published by the Nova Scotia Museum as part of the Education Resource Service Program presenting the history of the Black Nova Scotians both as a people and as an important chapter in the history of Nova Scotia. It asserts the unique heritage of Black Nova Scotians. It traces the history from the arrival of the first Black Loyalists in 1793, the Refugees of the War of 1812 through the period of slavery examinging the role of education and religion. Grant underlines the fact that mainstream white educators overlooked the existence of black history.
The Stag Hotel, was popular with Halifax sportsmen for its hunting and fishing. On May 28, 1873, Joseph Howe — ex-premier and new Lieutenant-Governor of the province — visited it for sentimental reasons. But the long drive was too much for his failing health, and he died three days later (Brown 1987: 287).”We inserted this image of a mid-19th century oil painting by an anonymous artist into a Google generated map of Preston, Nova Scotia. This image was uploaded from my Flickr account and is geotagged to a spot near the Black Cultural Centre in Cherrybrook, Nova Scotia. I am not sure of the exact location of the Stag Hotel in Preston although I know it is ten miles east of Dartmouth.
The words on the sign were written by Colonel William Charnley. He described the Stag Hotel kept by William Dear:
“Outside the House looks somewhat queer, Only Look-in, and there’s no fear, But you’ll find Inside, the best of Cheer, Brandy, Whiskey, Hop, Spruce, Ginger Beer, Clean Beds and food for Horses here: Round about, both far and near, Are Streams for Trout, and Woods for Deer. To suit the Public taste, ’tis clear, Bill Dear will Labour, so will his dearest dear (Brown 1987: 287) .”
Grant also included an illustration of the sign and the inn in his Black Nova Scotians.
Grant’s (1980) helpful publication is a useful complement to Winks’ drier read. I have incorporated many of my notes from this book into my chronology. In 1783, after the American Revolution, 50,000 Loyalists came to Maritimes. 3,000 were Black. Many, both black and white were disillusioned. Life was so difficult that many whites Loyalists chose to go back to the United States. The Black Loyalists couldn’t. In Nova Scotia Black Loyalists who had been promised land were having great difficulty. Thomas Peters, a former sergeant with the Black Pioneers, went to England with a petition for land grants that had been denied Black Loyalists. Some of the most industrious Black Loyalists emigrated at that time to Sierre Leone from Nova Scotia. In 1796 543 Maroons arrived in Nova Scotia. Maroons had waged war with Britain for 140 years (1655 – 1796) in Jamaica. In Halifax the Maroons built Citadel Hill fortifications. Wentworth ordered special uniforms for them and named the officers but the Maroons had control of their own hierarchy. Money ran out and the Maroons became increasingly impatient with continual discomfort and hardships. The Maroons, as well, eventually agreed to go to Sierre Leone. They left in 1801. Only a few remained. Slavery did exist in Nova Scotia but by 1810 it was largely a dead issue. Although not completely abolished until the 1830’s the law would not assist slave-owners to catch runaway slaves. During the War of 1812-1814 Cochrane promised freedom to to Chesapeake Bay area slaves who crossed over to British lines. He had planned to recruit the newly freed slaves to the army. The Black troops `the Colonial Marines’ produced the desired effect on the side of the British. Many of them, 1500-2000 would later come to Nova Scotia. Their first winter was extremely difficult. The land given to them was not rich enough for agriculture but they had no other alternatives. The war economy of Nova Scotia was booming. But after the war was the slowdown. The 1815 smallpox epidemic added to the difficulties. In 1820s ome of the Colonial Marines were sent to Ireland Island in Bermuda and others emigrated to Trinidad. There were a few success stories among the Black community. Mr. Campbell, a successful businessman in the 1830’s owned the chief livery stable in Halifax. His farm and stock were comparable to Lieutenant Governor Sir James Kempt. However, most remained as unskilled labourers. Cross-reference to [ Halifax Robert Field]. There is a wonderful story of the role black ministers played re: education and social change as well as an 1850 illustration of Richard Preston. There is also a beautiful story of how he found his mother in Preston. In 1901 there were 5,984 black Nova Scotians (1% of the population). In the same year there were 17,432 black Canadians. In 1873 a Depression hit Canada. Canada continued to experience the financial bust until the Klondike gold strike in the 1890’s. The boom in the West did not help the Maritimes in general and was particularly devastating for the already vulnerable black Nova Scotians.Grant concludes by celebrating the lives of seven Black Nova Scotians including champion boxer: George Dixon, Dr. W. H. Golor college president, William Hall, VC (1826-1904) and B.A. Husbands, president of Halifax Coloured Citizens Improvement League.Webliography and Bibliography
Grant, John N. 1980. Black Nova Scotians. Halifax. Nova Scotia Museum.
Manette, J. A. 1990. Revelation, Revolution, or Both: Black Art as Cultural Politics. Toronto.
Brown, Robert Craig, Ed. 1987. The Illustrated History of Canada. Toronto. Lester & Orpen Dennys Limited.
CC Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen and Melanie G. H. 2008. “Popular 19th Century African Canadian-owned Stag Hotel and NS Premier Joseph Howe.” >> Google Docs.Uploaded by ocean.flynn on 23 Jan 08, 12.32PM MST.
February 17, 2007
Black History Month on Prince Edward Island:
Hi Jinny, Here are some supplemental resources that I have been developing and/or uploading using Web 2.0 technologies since the fall of 2006. I am touched when PEI students are able to use some of my teaching, learning and research resources. I have made my home on other islands and even another continent, but I am deeply grateful that my childhood and youth unfolded in Charlottetown and Rocky Point and my family’s story is rooted in Prince Edward Island.
I will use this page to keep track of additions to my Web 2.0 virtual villages on themes of Black History Month, African Canadian History, and the Positive Presence of Absence.
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. A Timeline of Show Boat, Pinky and Other Tales of Miscegenation. Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded February 17th, 2007.
— . 2007. “Review of the DVD Pinky (1949).” Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded February 16th, 2007.
— . 2007. “Memory Work, Memory Palace and a Homage to Sarah Harvie.” Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded February 10th, 2007
— . 2007. “John Beverley Robinson and the Abolition of Slavery in Upper Canada. Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded February 9th, 2007.
— . 2007. “Flicktion in a Flickr of an Eye: 19.” ocean.flynn @ Flickr. Uploaded January 10, 2007.
— . “Positive Presence of Absence: A History of the African Canadian Community through Works in the Permanent Collection of the National Gallery of Canada“. Papergirls @ worpdress. Uploaded January 2nd, 2007.
— . “Jennifer Hodge da Silva (c.1963-1989) African Canadian filmmaker”. Papergirls @ worpdress. Uploaded January 2nd, 2007.
— .”The Gallery as Memory Palace: M. C. Escher, Gainsborough, Tommy Simmons and Ignatius Sancho.” ocean.flynn @ Flickr. Uploaded January 1, 2007.
— . 2006. “Atypical colonialist Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza 1852-1905 stoned in RPCongo”. Papergirls @ worpdress. Uploaded November 30th, 2006.
— . 2006. “Sinking Neptune: some background reading for memory work praxis”. Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded November 16th, 2006.
— . 2006. “Anna Packwood, Dr. Carrie Best, Tommy Simmons.” Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded November 16th, 2006.
— . 2006. “Chronology of Show Boat: Some Memory Work for Neptune.” Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded November 16th, 2006.
— . 2006. “Neptune Sinks in 17th attitudes: what to do with distorted histories?” Papergirls @ worpdress. Uploaded November 15th, 2006.
— . 2006. “Anna Packwoods100th Birthday guests”. ocean.flynn @ Flickr. Uploaded November 15th, 2006.
—. 2006. “Bateke Mask“. ocean.flynn @ Flickr. Uploaded November 14th, 2006.
— . 2006. “Black Pupil as Mirror, the Other-Eye.” ocean.flynn @ Flickr. Uploaded October 13th, 2006.
©© Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “For Jinny and her PEI students Black History Month 2007.” Speechless @ wordpress. Uploaded February 17th, 2007. Creative Commons License 2.5 BY-NC-SA.
February 10, 2007
I situated Janelle walking past one of CBC’s heritage moments paintings in the room devoted to members and Presidents of the first Royal Canadian Academy. The water court is visible behind her with Orson Wheeler’s bronze larger-than-life, portrait bust of the African Canadian sleeping car porter and community activist, Tommy Simmons, highlighted by natural sunlight beaming through three floors of Moshe Safdie’s glass and pink granite open architecture.
Robert Harris, RCA (Wales, 1849 – Quebec, 1919) was part of the first Royal Canadian Academy painters formed in 1880. In this painting entitled The Meeting of the School Trustees (1885) he immortalizing Kate Henderson’s1 confrontation with self-righteous Victorian values of rural Prince Edward Island. Kate came to represent progressive thought. One of the “women fighting invisibly at her side” (Williamson 1970) was Sarah Harvie.
In the Bog, on Rochford Street, was an integrated school for the underprivileged. On Prince Edward Island in the 19th century, the gulf between the rich and the lower classes was enormous. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the Bog area of Charlottetown where many Black Islanders lived. For over fifty years in the Bog School (1848 – 1903) Sarah Harvie, trained more than two thousand children. Sarah, who was African Canadian, was highly respected for the positive influence she exerted on the locality (Hornby 1991). One can imagine the 1860 meeting in Charlottetown similar to the one portrayed here. Some protested the fact that children of “respectable parents” were sending their children to Sarah Harvie to benefit from her progressive teaching (Hornby 1991).
On the same street as the Bog School was Robert Harris’ family church, St. Peter’s. Harris who returned often to his Island home, was very attached to this Church. His brother was the architect of St. Peter’s Chapel and Harris contributed numerous paintings to decorate the interior. It is from here that Harris was buried in 1919. In the 1880’s Church meetings must have been heated when, against the wishes of more conservative members, St. Peter’s Chapel became a Chapel of Ease for the poor people of the Bog2.
The Bog was razed in a redevelopment project shortly after the school’s closing in 1903. With the local community scattered many black Islanders became part of an exodus. Within ten years the Island lost most of its African Canadians. The majority went to Boston, joining thousands of African Canadians moving south in search of community and opportunity (Hornby 1991).
In the 1950s when I was growing up in Charlottetown the Bog and its residents were forgotten. The Harris brothers were remembered in architecture, paintings and exhibitions. The fine Victorian mansion called Beaconsfield was the work of Harris the architect. The Harris connection to Charlottetown was revitalized in the Confederation Centre (1967). So it is to them that I link Sarah’s story in my memory palace, the National Gallery of Canada.
1. The name of the one-room school teacher is on the book visible in on the scribbler on the desk in the foreground.
2. In the 1870’s Harris did sketches of “urchins” from the Bog. In 1904 he sketched Sam Martin’s bridge. Martin, a former slave of a Loyalist was the founder of Charlottetown’s black in the early 1800’s. Harris himself had little sympathy with the impoverished.
Selected Webliography and Bibliography
Harris, Robert, RCA. 1885. A Meeting of the School Trustees 1885 Robert Harris RCA (Wales, 1849 – Quebec, 1919)
Hornby, Jim. 1991. Black Islander: Prince Edward Island’s Historical Black Community. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Institute of Island Studies. no.3.
Tuck, R.C. 1988. “St.Peter’s Basilica” The Island Magazine. My information was based on a telephone call with Canon Tuck March, 1997.
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 1997. “Memory Work, Memory Palace and a Homage to Sarah Harvie.” The Positive Presence of Absence: a History of the African Canadian Community through Works in the Permanent Collection of the National Gallery of Canada. Creative Commons License 2.5
Editors please note. This is authored using Google Docs technologies which allows for editorial collaboration. For questions, comments, corrections and concerns see Speechless.
February 9, 2007
He died on this day over a century ago and his obituary appeared again in the weekend Globe and Mail in 2007 reminding all Canadians that Attorney General John Beverley Robinson was part of our shared heritage. He was the attorney general of Upper Canada and a staunch defender of the the power elite called the Family Compact (Globe and Mail 2007: S8). But more importantly for me he was the Attorney General of Upper Canada in 1819 who declared that Blacks residing in Canada were free and protected by British law. (See Act Against Slavery) and (“Black History Canada.” In the southern United States slavery was not legally abolished until 1865 with the end of the Civil War.
I spent a lot of time walking slowly through the National Gallery of Canada notepad in hand examining details in each painting and its label looking for clues that would unravel parallel histories hidden by our desire to honour our Victorian heritage as Anglo-Canadians. I’m not sure when it was not enough for me. Perhaps it happened before I began to work here in this privileged place, the physical repository of our material culture, a shared communal archives, shared communal memory. It was a slow and difficult shift from thinking from a place of cognitive certitude to one of critical revisiting distorted histories. It wasn’t popular with docents or staff. But I had no choice. Perhaps I was already in a process of undermining my own job at the gallery from the moment I began asking inconvenient questions.
It’s why I stood for a long time in front of this small, well-crafted painting of John Beverley Robinson1 (1791-1863) in Room 104 of the Canadian collection.
This c. 1846 portrait of Attorney General John Beverley Robinson by George T. Berthon hung in the National Gallery of Canada’s Room A104. When I was researching for the Positive Presence of Absence: a History of the African Canadian Community through Works in the Permanent Collection of the National Gallery of Canada, I included this painting. In 1819 Attorney General John Beverley Robinson in Upper Canada declared:
“Since freedom of the person (is) the most important civil right protected by the law of England … the negroes (are) entitled to freedom through residence in (Canada) and any attempt to infringe their right (will) be resisted in the courts.”
It loosely covered the early 1800s with paintings by Robert Whale’s View of Hamilton and St. Thomas Railway, , the unattributed painting entitled View of Halifax, Paul Peel’s oil paintings based on his cross country tour with Governor Simpson and his painting of Amherstberg. There is also the Croscup room, a painting of a ship in a storm, a folk artist’s detailed painting of Miq’maq, portraits of Lt. Prevost Wallace, and of course the portrait of Robinson.
I was offered the possibility in 1997 of writing a 1500 word brochure touching on highlights of my research. The project was never realized and in a way I am glad for the power of the research was in its sources and the nonlinearity of its telling. Fifteen hundred words were never enough to make an ocean-liner-institution change its course. Web 2.0 is not limited by time and space.
So when I saw this obituary almost ten years later it reminded me of my memory palace, the NGC and of Black History Month. To be continued . . .
A selected webliography and bibliography
2007. “John Beverley Robinson.” Obituaries. Died this day. Globe and Mail. January 31. S8.
Berthon, George T. c.1846. “Sir John Beverley Robinson.” Gallery A104. National Gallery of Canada. cybermuse.
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 1995-2007. “Sir John Beverley Robinson.” Positive Presence of Absence: a History of the African Canadian Community through Works of the National Gallery of Canada.
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. My personalized cybermuse.
The Ontario Black History Society. 1981. Black History in Early Ontario. The Book Society of Canada. 1981:20.