In 1965, Africville, the largest and oldest black community in Canada was bulldozed into memory. What was lost to the politicians of Halifax was an inconvenience, an eyesore. But what was lost to the people whose roots ran deep through the once-vibrant community was an entire way of life. The hamlet’s roots went back to the 1830s, when it began to be settled by descendants of the Black Loyalists, the Black Pioneers and others who fled the horrors of slavery in America for the relative freedom of Canada. Africville flourished for generations as a tight-knit agricultural settlement, and its people had every right to expect the public services available to all other citizens of the Halifax peninsula. Homeowners in Africville paid city taxes, but after years of being unfairly and ruthlessly denied even the most basic of modern conveniences, including electricity, running water, and a proper sewage system, which were readily available to all of the rest of the citizens of Halifax, the decision by city officials to locate the municipal dump a stone’s throw from Africville created a rat-infested, slum-like environment for the already beleaguered neighbourhood. Condemned as unsanitary, its residents were told to sell their homes if they could, before finally being evicted without compensation as the bulldozers moved in. The final injustice was that part of Africville was demolished to make way for an off-leash dog park; the rest of the land was used to build the approaches to the A. Murray MacKay Bridge.
In Consecrated Ground, Nova Scotian playwright George Boyd retells the struggle of Africville’s residents to save their homes and their dignity. With tremendous wit and gravity, George Boyd takes us back to Africville on the verge of extinction, making us a gift of characters believable in their vulnerabilities, their courage and their outrage.