Last Days in Africville

Last Days in Africville is a work of juvenile fiction by Dorothy Perkyns. I have long been interested in Africville, and although the community was razed in 1970, I wanted to visit the site during my first visit to Halifax seven years ago. Perkyns has written a novel that chronicles the life of a sixth-grader named Selina who must deal with the forced eviction of her family and of the only community she has ever known. Selina is bused to a school in Halifax where she cannot escape the troubles looming over her community since she must face prejudice and bullying by the white girls and their racist parents. Her greatest comforts are her beloved grandmother Hannah and her best friend Molly.

Selina eventually becomes friends with her white classmates and even gets invited out to parties at their homes. This provides little comfort to her as the eviction could happen anytime. Neighbours and friends disappear overnight as well as their homes: they are demolished as soon as they are abandoned. The stress of not knowing what the community of Africville would be like from day to day causes the premature death by heart failure of Selina’s grandmother.

After many tears between Selina and Molly, Selina relocates to an apartment with her family and she is happy to have an indoor bathroom with running water–and hot water at that. For although Africville was part of a major Canadian city, it was shut out of municipal services. People of the community had to go to the local pump or have a well, and then they had to boil the water before using it.

During my visit to Halifax in 2010 I visited the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, where there is an extensive Africville exhibit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *