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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 3,000 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 Book of Negroes' Nova Scotian Connection

Based on the award-winning novel by Lawrence Hill, The Book of Negroes tells the story of Aminata Diallo, from her abduction in Africa as a child and trans-Atlantic journey into the slave trade in America, to her escape to freedom in Nova Scotia, and onto her final journey back to her homeland of Africa. The book’s title, The Book of Negroes, is the name of the historic British military ledger that registered 3,000 Black Loyalists who sailed from New York City to Nova Scotia in 1783.

The six-part miniseries, filmed in various locations in South Africa and in Nova Scotia, including the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site and the historic town of Shelburne, premiered in early 2015 in Canada on CBC and in the United States on BET.

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The African Nova Scotian Experience

The spirit of African Nova Scotia is shared in communities across our province and there are many ways in which you can experience it, including a road trip

Black Loyalist Heritage Site, Birchtown, Nova Scotia

Opening in Spring 2015, the new Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, will take 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.

The centre will also feature costumes from the BET and CBC-produced The Book of Negroes miniseries, which was filmed in locations in Africa and Nova Scotia in 2014, including Shelburne, Lunenburg, Cole Harbour/Dartmouth, and the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site.

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.