IN SEARCH OF EQUALITY
From the early days of Nova Scotia when slavery was accepted practice, the struggle for racial equality has gone on. It has been a grieviously slow process in which whole generations have sometimes made no apparent progress. But albeit slow, there have been victories which continue to fuel the fires of optimism. Social inequality from the days of the Black Loyalists was nurtured by the white Nova Scotians who dominated the economic, political, educational and spiritual lives of the citizenry.
For over one hundred years following the Loyalists landing at Birchtown, education for Blacks was not considered a priority. Indeed, when Blacks did attend school during the 1800's and much later, both the attitudes of teachers and the curriculum itself reinforced racial stereotypes which hindered the educational advance of Blacks for a long while. For the most part, this was no different in Pictou County. However, there were no segregated schools in the county. Over the years, particularly since the turn of the century, there have been many local teachers who understood the situation and helped. Many successful Black citizens of today were inspired, in some measure, by these teachers who encouraged them.
Racial discrimination manifested itself in many forms in everyday life. Blacks were not encouraged to become property owners or business people. For various reasons and excuses, restaurants and public services were often refused to people of colour. And for many years, jobs in local businesses and stores were just not offered. The CNR did provide steady work for those who were fortunate enough to be hired.
After the Second World War, growing demands for equality were heard. Much of the expression of these feelings were revealed between 1946 and 1956 through the publication of Nova Scotia's first Black newspaper, "The Clarion". It began as a church bulletin but soon expanded to a four page bi-monthly newspaper under the direction of its originator and editor, Dr. Carrie Best. "The Clarion" featured coverage of local news, sports and social activities. It also featured articles on important social issues faced by Blacks in Nova Scotia, Canada and the United States. For a time, "The Clarion" became known as "The Negro Citizen" with a national circulation. For many years since the last issue was published, it has been a symbol of the struggle for equality and the legitimacy of the Black community itself.
In his book, This is Nova Scotia, well known author Will R. Bird wrote in 1950:-
"The town (New Glasgow) has a daily and weekly newspaper, but the publication that creates the most talk on the street is "The Clarion", that has grown from a church bulletin to the most powerful Negro newspaper in Canada today"
The famous Viola Desmond discrimination case of the 1940's was a landmark. Long before the upheaval of the Donald Marshall case, it was gratifying to see that many Nova Scotian's were willing to take a stand for equality. The first cash donation made to help pay for the Desmond defence came from local pharmacist Donald R. MacLeod.
The late1960's was a watershed period for the Black community in New Glasgow and throughout the province. Under the inspiration of the Black United Front and the Human Rights Commission (which themselves were initiated by the struggle of Blacks for racial justice), local organizations such as The Pursuers Society emerged and focused its attention on the improvement of housing, education and employment for Blacks. There is more to do. But with improving education opportunities, government support and a more enlightened society, the search for equality has stepped up its pace.