Tag Archives: Canadian History

Viola Desmond's "story"

“Viola Desmond was one brave woman!”

Ok, so I said i wouldn’t make a habit of featuring colouring books.  This isn’t a colouring book, but it is a book aimed at the younger ones in your life (the published says Ages 5-9).

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner and illustrated by Richard Rudnicki.  Groundwood Books, 2010.

Viola Desmond and her court battle against discrimination are becoming more well known as a part of Canadian history.  But there’s still significant debate over what Viola Desmond’s story means.  She, certainly, showed fortitude and determination in fighting the segregation she encountered at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow N.S.  But her struggle didn’t start a larger movement, nor did it have a positive ending.  Now, finally,  Viola Desmond has been posthumously pardoned by the N.S. government and that Province is deciding on a Viola Desmond Day to honour her.

“But the judges…didn’t want to talk about racial segregation.”

Written by former York University librarian Jody Nyasha Warner, and illustrated by Richard Rudnicki, this book offers a clear picture of Canadian History and reminds us all to say thank you to Viola Desmond.  We don’t need to pretend that she succeeded in her fight to recognize the courage and leadership that she showed.   Nor do we ever need to call her Canada’s Rosa Parks.  So think about getting the book (amazon.ca link), giving the book, and if you have kids in Primary school, asking the school librarian if they have the book.  I really think it’s something special.

Want to learn more?

Viola Desmond’s own words are available in Sister to Courage, written by her sister.  From the publisher:

Noted storyteller Wanda Robson is a sister of Viola Desmond, a major figure in Nova Scotia’s civil rights history. Viola was also a pioneering businesswoman who never got to tell her own story of family and the roots of her courage and ambition. In Sister to Courage, Wanda Robson takes us inside the world she shared with Viola and thirteen other brothers and sisters. She shares the principles and daily good fun of their household. Through touching and often hilarious stories, the dignity and compassion in the daily life of her family in Halifax shines through, as well as the historic racist event in the Roseland movie theatre in November 1946-the event that gave Viola a night in the New Glasgow jail for refusing to sit in the blacks-only section. Sister to Courage is a work of art-a generous batch of terrific stories that keep important history alive. Wanda Robson helps answer vital questions: Where did Viola Desmond come from? What gave her the courage and determination to become a successful female entrepreneur and a creative instructor in the arts of Black beauty care, and to play a role in the struggle for women’s and Black equality? These tender and often passionate chapters of life’s day-to-day struggle illuminate both a remarkable sister and the thoroughly entertaining Wanda Robson.

Read about Carrie Best, another African Canadian woman in Nova Scotia who, before Viola Desmond, had also challenged the New Glasgow theatre’s racial segregation policy (click here for an article from Ottawa Law Professor and Law Society Bencher Constance Backhouse).