Black History: Student's Stories on African-Canadian Visionaries


By Kalista M. , Westview C.S.S Student. Encouraging Teacher, Ms. B. Ferracane

Canada has a history of having unique black Canadians who have taken social justice matters into their own hands to make a difference. Viola Desmond is a Black Canadian woman who was courageous and inspirational. Black women and men were segregated after slavery; consequently, they fought for their human rights.  Everyone, both people of colour and whites, were exasperated by the violence and many resisted change.

The story of this iconic Black Canadian figure starts in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1914 when Viola Desmond was 15-years old and being raised by parents in a Black community. Her legacy was fighting for equality for the black boys and girls who didn't have a voice to stand up for themselves because they were scared of getting arrested or, even worse, killed by the police.  Viola Desmond, by her one response to injustice, when she stood up to the usher who kicked her out of the theatre because she was black and sitting in the front, changed the course of history for all Black men, women and children.

Many things have changed since then.  A Black woman, namely Ms. Desmond, is now featured on a Canadian bill. For Viola Desmond's monumental challenge to the injustices against Black people of her time, we now immortalize her by placing her image on the $10 bill.  MANY WOMEN should aspire to be like her by challenging the world to be a better place for everyone.

By Iyana A. , Westview C.S.S Student. Encouraging Teacher, Ms. B. Ferracane

Viola Desmond was born on July 6th, 1914, in Halifax, is a descendant of Nova Scotia. She originally wanted to become a beautician, but got turned down because of her race; she was forced to study out of her town, at Bloomfield high school. Eventually, through perseverance and hard work, she became a Canadian businesswoman. By 1946, Ms. Desmond had experienced racism, and had had enough; so, when she walked into a cinema in new Glasgow, she was ready to challenge racial segregation. She sat in the theatre seats that were strictly for white people only. While she watched the movie, a man told her to go sit in the back with the black people. When Viola Desmond refused, she was  arrested. They told her she was under arrest because she didn’t pay the theatre tax, but really she was being targeted because of her race. Viola Desmond was found guilty in court, but in 2010, the government finally pardoned her because they recognized the injustice her and all black people had endured. She had taken a stand against segregation. For her courage, Viola Desmond has become the first Canadian black woman to have her face on the $10 bill. Viola Desmond opened up a beauty store and hair salon and a Canadian business woman who stood up for her civil rights and tried to help end segregation.

By Ricki T. , J.C McGuigan C.S.S , Student. Encouraging Teacher, Ms. K. Gulej


Viola Desmond was a Canadian business woman who was born July 6th, 1914. She was laid to rest on February 7th, 1965. Viola Desmond was of Black Nova- Scotian descent. She was one of 10 born to James Albert and Gwendolin Irene Davis. Viola Desmond grew up with her parents, who were very active in the black community back in Halifax, Nova-Scotia. Viola’s mother was white and her father was black. Back then this was unusual because of all the racism and separation between white and black. Viola Desmond was very determined to end racism. She pushed really hard and sacrificed many things to get her opinions across. She was a very strong and independent being. Viola Desmond died in February because of Gastrointestinal bleeding.

Viola Takes Action

Viola joined her husband in a partnership in a barber shop. Meanwhile, she was expanding her hairdressing business across the province. Viola left her husband and went to Glasgow in 1946. Viola Desmond challenged racial discrimination when she refused to leave the segregated Whites-Only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. In New Glasgow Viola developed car issues and she decided to go to the movies. She bought a ticket and entered not knowing that the seats she paid for are for White people and the balcony seats are for the African Canadians. When the theatre staff noticed her, they demanded she go to a balcony seat. She later refused, since she can see better on the main floor. The police were later summoned and she was thrown in prison. Charges were pressed and she unable to drop them. Viola Desmond’s courageous refusal to accept an act of racial discrimination provided inspiration to later generations of Black persons in Nova Scotia as well as the rest of Canada.

$10 dollar bill significance

On March 8th, 2018 Viola became the first woman born in Canada to appear on one of the Canadian bank notes. She is the face of the 10 dollar bill that was presented to Canadians by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank Governor Stephen Poloz. Viola was also looked at as a National Historic Person in 2018. This 10 dollar bill is also significant because, for the first time in history, Canadians are celebrating the first woman ever to have her face on her country’s currency. This distinction is a chance for people to understand who she is and her story.


Viola was often compared to Rosa Parks because they both challenged racism in very similar ways. They both took seats in a White designated area, and both contributed to the Civil Rights Movement.

By KAMAL R. , Africentric Alternative School , Student.

If you do not know

Okay so if you did not know who Viola Desmond is she was basically a black female Canadian businesswoman. She challenged racial segregation and is one of the most prominent members of Black History month.She is also the face of the new Canadian 10 dollar bill.


This is Viola Desmond's sister holding her 10 dollar bill

About Viola Desmond

Viola Desmond was born July 6, 1914, in Halifax Nova Scotia with 9 other siblings growing up with her. Viola Desmond's parents were very active in the black community. Despite Viola being biracial, which was unusual at that time, in 1946 she decided to challenge racial segregation at a cinema in new Glasgow when she was told to leave the whites-only area of the theatre.  

My Thoughts

I think that what happened at that time was vulgar and disgusting. I do not think that it should've happened but I can't change history so there is not much more to say, Also I do not think she should have been escorted out of the movie theatre, because it was a whites-only area. As Viola was biracial , that she was expelled from a whites-only area, just boggles my mind when I think about this situation.

By JAMAL R. , Africentric Alternative School , Student.

Hello everybody my name is Jamal. Today I will be talking to you about Viola Desmond

Viola Irene Desmond born on July 6 1914 and died on February 7 1965 from Gastrointestinal bleeding in New York. She was an African Canadian businesswoman  from Nova Scotia. In 1946 she challenged racial segregation at a cinema in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia by refusing to leave a whites-only area of the Roseland Theatre. For taking the courageous act of challenging racial segregation the Canadian government has placed her portrait on a recently published new $10 bill.  

By Liliyah. , Africentric Alternative School , Student.


Viola Irene Desmond is of black Nova Scotian descent and as black Canadian woman she trained to become a teacher but then joined her husband Jack Desmond to run their salon and barber shop on Gottingen Street.

In 1946 she was going to travel to Sydney and sell her products, but her car broke down.

She decided to go ahead and watch a movie in the Roseland theatre. Viola purchased a ticket and sat in the whites only area. One of the staff told her to leave. Viola challenged racial segregation at this cinema in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia by refusing to leave a whites-only area.

Long story short she was dragged out of the theatre after many attempts to move her to the balcony.  

The next day she awoke in a cell and was taken to court.

It was an unfair trial because no one told her she could call a lawyer. She argued for herself and was found guilty. Viola took the case back to court, but she lost again.

Her case inspired people to come together and fight for equal rights in Nova Scotia!


Finally in 1954 Nova Scotia got rid of the law of white people treating black people like dogs.

And she inspired people so much that now she has a 10 dollar bill with her face on it.

My thoughts

To me Viola Desmond had showed us, especially black women, to fight for what's right and never give up, no matter what the challenge may be !

Citing the sources

Viola Desmond, her picture

Viola Desmond by Hantsheroes is in the public domain.

Beauty salon

Barber Invite by FaceGuard is in the public domain.