Canadian Viola Desmond was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada and taught black students in the racially-segregated school system there before starting a hairdressing business called Vi’s Studio of Beauty Culture.
Viola Desmond later launched an academy for black beauticians who were barred from whites-only beauty schools in Nova Scotia, before expanding her business to other parts of the province. Viola was the pioneer of the black Canadian hair care industry.
In 1946 Viola Desmond challenged racial segregation at a cinema in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia by refusing to leave a whites-only area of the Roseland Theatre. For this, she was convicted of a minor tax violation for the one-cent tax difference between the seat she had paid for and the seat she used, which was more expensive. Viola Desmond’s case is one of the most publicized incidents of racial discrimination in Canadian history and helped start the modern civil rights movement in Canada.
Viola Desmond was honoured for her activism toward justice and equality for all people. She is the first Black person, male or female, featured on a Canadian Banknote and also the first in North America. Viola Desmond was a Canadian civil rights activist and business woman of Black Nova Scotian descent.
Viola Davis’s sister, Wanda Robson, fought long and hard to bring justice to her sister’s legacy. Wanda was instrumental in getting her sister’s grave site marked with signs and Viola’s portrait showcased on the government house walls.
Ironically enough it was a black woman, who was born in the same year in which Viola stood up for her right as a Canadian citizen, named Mayann Francis (Former Lieutenant Governor of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia) who decades later pardoned Viola Desmond in writing.
Mini Bio: This video is an interview and recount with Viola Desmond’s sister Wanda Robson regarding the event which took place in a Nova Scotia theatre in 1946 and changed history forever.
Pioneer of The Canadian Black Hair Care Industry: As a child Viola Desmond grew up with dreams of being a hairstylist and also saw the need for Black hair care products. Much like Madam CJ Walker, her passion for hair was fueled by racism and segregation which sparked her journey as an entrepreneur. This video narrated by Joseph Ward, takes you through her journey.
2018 Banknote Of The Year: The Canadian $10 note featuring Viola Desmond won top prize in the 2018 international banknote competition. The note was chosen over 15 others to win the International Banknote Society Award. The back of the $10 note depicts the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Viola Desmond Documentary: Here is a more detailed video regarding Viola Desmond’s life and experience and why she left Nova Scotia, moved to Montreal and eventually New York.
Reflection: Viola Davis was actually the first black woman to peacefully protest segregation in a public place nine years before Rosa Parks. The fact that many more Canadians know about Rosa Parks more so than Viola Desmond is an example of how overlooked African Canadians have been in the history books.
I as an American Canadian never knew the impact Viola Desmond had on Black Canadian culture. Not only was Viola Desmond honoured by being put on the $10 Canadian Banknote, the government officially apologized to her sister Wanda and acknowledged the wrongness of that specific occurrence and the attitude of the country during that era.
Originally Harriet Tubman was to be featured on the American $20 bill, however, the 45th President postponed the honour. Let’s hope Harriet Tubman is honoured soon just as Viola Desmond has been honoured in Canada.
Respects to Viola Desmond, a true social justice pioneer.
Albert Earl Jr.
Enjoy the video’s and please share… Thank you!!!