Many Canadians know that Viola Desmond is the first Black, non-royal woman to be featured on Canadian currency. But fewer know the details of Viola Desmond’s life and legacy. In 1946, Desmond was arrested for refusing to give up her seat in a whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Her singular act of courage was a catalyst in the struggle for racial equality that eventually ended segregation in Nova Scotia.
Authors Graham Reynolds and Wanda Robson (Viola’s sister) look beyond the theatre incident and provide new insights into her life. They detail not only her act of courage in resisting the practice of racial segregation in Canada, but also her extraordinary achievement as a pioneer African Canadian businesswoman. In spite of the widespread racial barriers that existed in Canada during most of the twentieth century, Viola Desmond became the pre-eminent Black beauty culturist in Canada, establishing the first Black beauty studio in Halifax and the Desmond School of Beauty Culture. She also created her own line of beauty products.
Accessible, concise and timely, this book tells the incredible, important story of Viola Desmond, considered by many to be Canada’s Rosa Parks.
“Reynolds and Robson have forged a remarkable partnership to bring us a fascinating account of Viola Desmond’s life. This wonderful book is filled with new information and insight, riveting reading about an extraordinary woman’s contribution to Canada’s history.”
— Constance Backhouse, Professor of Law, University of Ottawa
Table of Contents:
Prologue: A Story of Two Sisters
Canada’s Rosa Parks
Family Ties and Life in Halifax’s North End
A Lady of Her Time: Viola Desmond and Black Beauty Culture in Canada
Memories of My Sister and the Roseland Theatre Incident (Wanda Robson
A Symbol of Courage in the Struggle for Civil Rights
Epilogue: Toward a New Direction
About the Authors:
Graham Reynolds is a professor emeritus and the Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice at Cape Breton University.He is the author (with Wanda Robson) of Viola Desmond’s Canada: A History of Blacks and Racial Segregation in the Promised Land, winner of the 2017 Robbie Robertson Atlantic Book Award for Non-Fiction.
Wanda Robson is well known local community educator, author, and the youngest sister of the Canadian civil rights icon Viola Desmond. She is longtime resident of North Sydney, Nova Scotia, where she resides with her husband Joe. In 2004, at the age of 77, she fulfilled her lifelong dream of completing a university education when she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cape Breton University. Following graduation, Wanda began a campaign to raise public awareness about her sister Viola and the struggle for racial equality in Canada. In 2010, she published Sister to Courage: Stories from the World of Viola Desmond, Canada’s Rosa Parks. She has given numerous public and school presentations and has been interviewed many times by local and national media.