In 1946, Viola Desmond was wrongfully arrested for sitting in a whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. In 2010, the Nova Scotia Government recognized this gross miscarriage of justice and posthumously granted her a free pardon.
Most Canadians are aware of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a racially segregated bus in Alabama, but Viola Desmond’s act of resistance occurred nine years earlier. However, many Canadians are still unaware of Desmond’s story or that racial segregation existed throughout many parts of Canada during most of the twentieth century. On the subject of race, Canadians seem to exhibit a form of collective amnesia. Viola Desmond’s Canada is a groundbreaking book that provides a concise overview of the narrative of the Black experience in Canada. Reynolds traces this narrative from slavery under French and British rule in the eighteenth century to the practice of racial segregation and the fight for racial equality in the twentieth century. Included are personal recollections by Wanda Robson, Viola Desmond’s youngest sister, together with important but previously unpublished documents and other primary sources in the history of Blacks in Canada.
“Reynolds’ book is a significant and timely contribution to the burgeoning field of African Canadian history and social justice studies. I thank him for writing this book.”
— Afua Cooper, James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies, Dalhousie University
“An impressive book that tackles much more than the experience of Viola Desmond. Reynolds’ work is a wide-ranging discussion of the broad themes of slavery, race, segregation and historical memory.”
— Harvey Amani Whitfield, University of Vermont