Viola Desmond was a pillar of the black community in Halifax, Nova Scotia during the 1940′s. She was a fantastic role model for young black women, as she was educated, ran successful businesses all the while maintaining a stylish presence. Despite the rampant prejudice at the time, she found a way to achieve the goals she set for herself. There were no schools in Halifax she could attend to become a beautician, so she travelled to Montreal and New York city and studied under some of the best. Upon returning to Halifax, she opened her own beauty parlour as well as opening a beauty school for black women. The beauty industry was one of the few occupations that allowed black women to create a degree of financial empowerment.
In 1946, Viola Desmond was arrested for refusing to sit in the black, balcony section of a theatre. She was not notified of her rights, tried without counsel, fined and convicted of tax evasion, to an amount of one penny. Despite numerous appeals, the decision was never overturned and until recently was never even acknowledged as systemic racial discrimination. It wasn’t until 2010 that the government acknowledged the wrong doing and extended an apology and a posthumous pardon to Viola Desmond and her family. In 2012, her legacy was further preserved by a stamp issued by Canada Post.
I encourage you to learn more about Viola and her story, and you can do so through the following links:
- Black Cultural Centre For Nova Scotia: Viola Desmond
- Black History Canada: Viola Desmond
- The Chronicle Herald: Stamp ‘wonderful tribute’ to Desmond