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African Nova Scotian Culture

The story of Black Nova Scotians is a rich tapestry. It’s a story of many diverse groups – Loyalists, Maroons, Caribbeans, Refugees and others – sewn together through a common African ancestry and the search for a better life in Nova Scotia. 

African Nova Scotian History

African Nova Scotians have called Nova Scotia home for centuries. 

Africville Museum, Halifax, Nova ScotiaThe first to arrive was explorer and translator for Samuel de Champlain, Mathieu de Costa, who helped build relationships with Mi’kmaq in the early 1600s. In the years that followed, Black settlers from both French and English backgrounds settled in towns like Annapolis Royal. Others were also transported to Louisbourg to work as slaves. 

More than a century later, over 3,500 Black Loyalists fled to Nova Scotia to escape the aftermath of the American War of Independence. In the decades that followed, they were joined by the Maroons – a group of freed slaves deported from Jamaica – and refugees from the American Civil War escaping slavery through the Underground Railroad.

Many African Nova Scotians made a home in the community of Africville, on the edge of the Halifax Harbour. The thriving community stood for over a century, until it was displaced to make room for Halifax’s industrial expansion in the 1960s. Although the physical community no longer stands, its spirit – and the story of all Blacks who called Nova Scotia home – lives on. 

The African Nova Scotian Experience

The spirit of African Nova Scotia is shared in communities across our province – why not take a road trip to discover it!  

Black Loyalist Heritage Site, Birchtown, Nova Scotia

Opening in May 2015, the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown, on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, takes visitors into the journey of early Black settlers in Nova Scotia. Featuring new multimedia stations and programming, the centre lets visitors become part of the story by tracing their heritage through the Book of Negroes – a document with the names of all Blacks who escaped to Canada after the American War of Independence.

The centre will also feature costumes from the BET and CBC-produced Book of Negroes miniseries, which was partly filmed in nearby Shelburne. 

Visitors can also discover more about historic and modern-day African Nova Scotia at places like the Africville Museum in Halifax, which tells a universal story of resiliency and spirit, and the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, located in Cherry Brook, near Dartmouth. Through exhibits and presentations, visitors can discover the challenges and celebrate the triumphs of our proud African Nova Scotian communities. 

To learn more about Nova Scotia's African founding culture, visit the African Nova Scotian Affairs (ANSA) website. You can also check out our festivals and events page for more on what’s happening in African Nova Scotian communities throughout our province.