An Artistic Testament to Beauty and Meaning

Africville by Shauntay Grant

In this vibrantly illustrated children’s book, a young girl returns to Africville for its reunion festival. In author’s notes, readers learn that Africville was established in the 1800s on the shores of the Bedford Basin in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The community, which could trace its roots back to Black Loyalists and Black Refugees, had once flourished despite discrimination; though the people had paid taxes, they didn’t receive basic services like running water, paved roads and sewers. In the 1960s, city of Halifax officials committed a heinous act when they ordered the community be razed to the ground. Many of the residents were moved into public housing. Yet the spirit of community prevailed. In 1983, former residents returned to the Bedford Basin and hosted the first Africville reunion festival where they celebrated all that was good about the life they had lost. The festival has become an annual event.

Nothing of the sadness of discrimination and injustice is conveyed in Shautay Grant’s stirring, poetic narrative and Eva Campbell’s vibrant, joyful illustrations. Picture what the young girl sees when she returns for the reunion and recalls stories she’s heard from her parents and grandparents: houses which “lay out like a rainbow;” purple-blue blueberries clustering on the hillside, ready to be picked; brightly dressed, vivacious children at play on a field and maneuvering a raft on a pond; the sky that turns “purple and rose in the morning;” and “a bonfire burning red like the going-down-sun.” 

Africville is an artistic testament to the power of oppressed people to prevail and to pass on to their children all that is beautiful and meaningful from their past. 

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