Jon Tattrie paints a bleak picture of the destruction of Africville through the eyes of a lifelong protestor, Eddie Carvery. Carvery grew up in Africville, a black community in the northern section of Halifax. In the 1960s he watched the city force residents from their homes and raze the properties, often without permission or knowledge of the homeowners. Many left their home with only what they could carry. Africville was erased from the map.
Through Eddy Carvery we learn of the disruptions to the community, to the homes and the businesses, throughout his lifetime. Africville was settled by escaped or freed slaves, maroons and Black refugees, as far back as the early 1800s. As Halifax grew, Africville was ignored. Taxes were collected but the residents were denied running water, sewer services and no paved roads, no public transportation, no recreational facilities, no garbage collection and inadequate police protection. It was blamed, and perhaps rightfully so, on the racist views of the municipality.
As early as 1854, houses were destroyed for a railway line, many people were never compensated. More land was expropriated in 1915 and in the 1940s for the railways. Trains roared through the community at all hours posing great danger. The city regarded Africville and an industrial area, building undesirable properties within the community; a slaughterhouse, night -soil deposit pits (human waste), a prison, a fertilizer plant, and a center for Infectious Diseases and in 1950, the city dump.
Only one man stood up to the wrongdoing. Eddy Carvery. Watching the destruction of his home, his community, the loss of friends led him to a life of addiction but Carvery never left Africville. For over forty years he stayed, near the roots of his original home. He slept rough, in tents, campers, whatever he could find, even in the winter. Harassed, tormented and threatened, it didn’t matter, he stayed, he spoke out, he protested.
Forty years would pass before the Halifax Regional Municipality would issue an apology. The reconstruction of the Seaview United Baptist Church was rebuilt in 2012, forty-three years after the original was razed in the middle of the night.
Tattrie brings this odd character to life for us. Some of the escapades of Eddy Carvery are hard to imagine, and yet one must consider the sacrifice placed upon him, by himself, to tell the world what happened to Africville was wrong. This is an eye-opening read.
It may be best said by Mr. Doudou Diene, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism;
“After 150 years of collusion between the provincial government and the business community, including through abuse of power, neglect, encroachment and invasion of hazardous industrial materials, in 1970 all of the community was forcefully removed without proper compensation”
Everyone, except Eddy Carvery.
About the Author: Jon Tattrie is an award-winning author and journalist. His previous books include Redemption Songs: How Bob Marley”s Nova Scotia Song Lights the Way Past Racism, Cornwallis: The Violent Birth of Halifax, and The Hermit of Africville.
- The Hermit of Africville by Jon Tattrie
- Paperback: 206 pages
- ISBN-13: 978-1897426180
- Publisher: Pottersfield Press (2020 edition)