Lost but not Forgotten — Black Communities Across Canadian History

“I think we should have a chance to redevelop our own property as well as anybody else,” said Joe Skinner, railway porter and resident of Africville, Nova Scotia, in an interview with the CBC. “When you are in this country and you own a piece of property, you’re not a second-class citizen. […] But when your land is being taken away from you, and you ain't offered nothing, then you become a peasant — in any man’s country.”

Skinner made this comment in 1964, after the City of Halifax approved a plan to remove Africville’s 400 residents from their homes and bulldoze their community. Though a thriving Black community, Africville was deemed a slum and demolished in what many consider an act of racism. A similar fate befell a distinct and predominantly Black community called Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver’s East Side.

To commemorate  these places and celebrate Black History in Canada, Canada Post has issued two commemorative stamps. Both feature photographs of residents poised above illustrations of the neighbourhoods they called home. Canada Post considers these designs an attempt to bridge physical legacy (photos) and memory (washed, water-colour renderings).

If we’re to begin to remember it’s important to have a sense of what was, which is why we’ve assembled archival photographs of Africville and Hogan’s Alley — to breathe life to the past. As Randy Clark, former resident of Hogan’s Alley recalls, “People had to make the choice to move away from a comfortable community — and it was truly a community. […] All of the people who lived there, they were family.”