History of Blacks in Antigonish by Hugh Clarke

It is estimated that Blacks have lived in Antigonish since the late 1700ís. They migrated from Virginia USA, Jamaica and Sierra Leone. By the late 1930ís there were approximately fifteen Black families living in Antigonish, namely:: Pellys, Phees, Jacksons, Skinners, Williams and Bordens. The current population is approximately two hundred people. With the influx of Black students and Professors, it has increased. In recent years there has been a considerable increase of outside Blacks moving into the town and county, either for employment reasons or to further their education. Antigonish does not have a totally Black community, rather the Blacks and Whites are community integrated, though it is true to say that most of the Blacks live in the County or on the outskirts of town. It has been only in the past twenty years that Blacks have been pursuing a higher education. Schools have been integrated since 1954, but with schools staffed with all white teachers, Black students were not encouraged or expected to excel. These teachers were not sensitive to the needs of Black students. This, coupled with very little acceptance by fellow students left them with little pride in themselves, consequently very few went on to higher education or even graduated from high school. This is slowly changing. During the early years of Blacksí existence in Antigonish, the only means of employment was domestic work for the women and menial work for the men. One old gentleman could be seen sweeping the streets early in the morning back in 1940 to the 1950ís. Today Blacks are marginally employed in most sectors of the town, namely Banks, Stores, Hospital, Nursing Home, University, Garages and factory[Leather Shop]. A few are self employed in small scale trucking, hair care, dress making and crafts. The local hospital graduated itís first local Black nurse in 1963 and St. F.X. graduated itís first Black in 1970. In the 1970ís Antigonish had itís first and only Black male councilor. This was during a period of racial unrest among Black and White youths in the town. During that period the Town Council and Black and White parents organized meetings to deal with the problem and to attempt a solution. The end result was a formation of the Affirmative Action Committee.


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