Archives

Do You Know?

Can YOU answer the following questions by circling “Y” for “yes” or “N” for “no.”  A study found that people who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges. It appeared that more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

1. Do you know how your parents met?Y N
2. Do you know where your mother grew up?Y N
3. Do you know where your father grew up?Y N
4. Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up?Y N
5. Do you know where some of your grandparents met?Y N
6. Do you know where your parents were married?Y N
7. Do you know what went on when you were being born?Y N
8. Do you know the source of your name?Y N
9. Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born?Y N
10. Do you know which person in your family you look most like?Y N
11. Do you know which person in the family you act most like?Y N
12. Do you know some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger?Y N
13. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?Y N
14. Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school?Y N
15. Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc)?Y N
16. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?Y N
17. Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young?Y N
18. Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to?Y N
19. Do you know the names of the schools that your dad went to?Y N
20. Do you know about a relative whose face “froze” in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough?Y N

Read the original article The Stories That Bind Us.

From Seafaring to Railroading

For black porters and their families, the uncertainties of railroading lay more with discriminatory labour practices than with accidents and absences. In March 1898, for example, a major controversy occurred over the employment policies of the Intercolonial Railway. The perceived redundancy of sleeping car porters on the Maritime express, operating between Halifax and Montreal during the slack season, resulted in the dismissal or demotion of seven black porters, six of whom, including James Daniels, were domiciled in Halifax. Their duties were added to those of the white conductors. Two other Halifax men, employed as assistant cooks, one of whom was Charles Pinheiro, were also affected. All eight Halifax men were freemasons. While the Tory press used the incident as part of a continuing attack on federal Liberal railway patronage, the exposé also revealed the tenuous features of black working-class life and the impact of the introduction of the colour line in a government institution. Porters Thomas Arthur, Joseph H. Berry, James McN. Daniels and Charles T. Dixon had been receiving wages of $35 a month. Since they were regular employees of the ICR, they were offered positions in the dining car service as lunch counter operators at wages of $20 plus board.
Dixon soon threw up this inferior employment and successfully sought employment with the CPR, while the others continued to run with the ICR. As the opposition Herald asserted, “The cold facts are that six poor men have been summarily deprived of their means of livelihood, and that three others have been given temporary employment at one-half their former salaries”. The black community reacted to the discrimination with an “indignation” meeting at which they drew up a letter of protest to submit to Halifax’s members of parliament. In early April, the Reverend J. Francis Robinson, the African-American pastor of Cornwallis Street Baptist Church, preached a suitably political sermon on the dismissals, in which he equally deplored racism and capitalism. While he did not advocate radical protest, he endorsed the importance of both civil rights and trade unionism as protest strategies. If whites could use the vote and industrial action to oppose their oppressors, he argued, why not the blacks also:

For 250 years this race served in bondage, suffering the most poignant
sensations of shame, immorality, demoralization and degradation. Its men
have been victimized, and they are still victimized, proscribed against and
imposed upon by the dominant race both in the United States and here in
Canada. They are not only deprived of the privilege of their civil rights,
but in many instances denied the human right to gain an honest livelihood
for themselves and families….the colored voters number about 1,000 and
that was sufficient number to give them the balance of
power….[Moreover,] were the Negro porters and the race as strongly
organized into labor protective unions, etc., like their white brothers, the
LCR. would not have succeeded so well and peaceably in displacing their
colored labor and substituting white in their stead.32

The railwaymen appear not to have shared his militancy. Although some of them were in the forefront of the struggle for racial equality, expressed most forcefully in Halifax in the school de-segregation campaign of the last quarter of the 19th century, they did not take up Robinson’s challenge. They just wanted their jobs back. Most of them remained in or returned to ICR service within a couple of years. One of the side effects of the ICR dismissals was the acceleration of employment with the CPR, as Dixon’s experience illustrates. Like Pullman, the CPR appears to have preferred blacks for the position of sleeping car porter. 33 The ICR, on the other hand, reduced its proportion of black porters in the early 20th century, at least temporarily. Moreover, a policy of not promoting black porters to conductors emerged, which was formally recognized in the ICR regulations of 1913. Perhaps to compensate, wages were improved in 1913 and rooms at lay-over points were provided for sleeping car crews who had previously had to stay cramped up in the cars.
28 Halifax County Marriage Registers, Knight-Joseph, 25 November 1880 (457), PANS; SPC papers,
MG 20, vol. 516, No. 6, 15, 16, 21 December 1885; No. 8, 3, 12 September, 8 October, 10, 22, 23
November 1888, PANS; 1901 nominal census, ward 4, sect. 5, p. 9 and ward 5, sect. 9, p. 10;
Halifax City Directory, 1881/2-1904/5; Acadian Recorder, 16 February 1907; Estate of James
Solomon Knight (6416), Halifax County Probate Court Office; Jane Lewis, “The Working-Class
Wife and Mother and State Intervention, 1870-1918”, in Jane Lewis, ed., Labour and Love:
Women’s Experience of Home and Family, 1850-1940 (Oxford, 1986), p. 108.
29 Halifax City Directory , 1883/4-1918; Minutes of the African Baptist Association of Nova Scotia,
24th Session, 1877, 26th Session, 1879, 27th Session, 1880, 39th Session, 1892, 42nd Session,
1895, 50th Session, 1903.
30 1891 nominal census, ward 5g, p. 19; 1901 nominal census, ward 5, sect. 8, p. 10; Halifax County
Marriage Registers, Daniels-Johnson, 14 April 1894 (118), PANS; Halifax City Directory, 1887/8-
1915.
31 This account is derived from the daily press: Halifax Herald, 25, 28, 29 March, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15
April 1898; Morning Chronicle, 25 March, 13 April 1898. Quotation from Halifax Herald, 29
March 1898.
From Sea to Rail
59

This entry was posted on July 18, 2013, in Influences.

No. 2 Construction Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Forces

Despite having defended Canada with courage and distinction during the American War of Independence, the War of 1812 and the Rebellions of 1837, somehow the true bravery of African Canadians was not well known. Consequently, the efforts of many Black men to enlist when World War I broke out were rebuked. There were no separate Black units and Black individuals could enlist in battalions only at the discretion of commanding officers. They were told it was “a white man’s war.”

As the war entered its third year, Canadian enlistment fell from 30,000 to 6,000 per month. A separate (all black) construction battalion was proposed and supported in order to increase the numbers.

On July 5, 1916, military officials authorized the creation of No. 2 Construction Battalion with headquarters in Pictou, NS, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel D.H. Sutherland. The unit’s officers were White, with the exception of the battalion chaplain, Reverend William Andrew White. African Canadians and Americans enlisted from across the countries. The battalion served with the Canadian Forestry Corps. Their role as a construction unit was to support the front lines, building roads and bridges and defusing land mines so advancing troops could move forward, and bringing out the wounded. No. 2 Construction Battalion was officially disbanded on September 15, 1920.

HISTORY: excerpted from The Black Nova Scotian News Network
Few if any blacks were serving in the Canadian military because of the racial attitudes prevalent at the time. Initially, some blacks attempted to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, but most were rejected. The Department of Militia and Defence’s policy towards recruitment was to defer to the judgement of the individual commanding officer, and since most—if not all—held deeply ingrained beliefs about the inferiority of blacks, very few were accepted. Rejected black recruits were often told that “this is a white man’s war”.

Members of the black community petitioned the military for inclusion in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Several options were entertained, but it was eventually decided that a segregated non-combat unit would be formed. On May 11, 1916, The British War Office informed the Governor General that it approved of the formation of this unit. So on July 5, 1916, No. 2 Construction Battalion was authorized. Its headquarters was initially in Pictou, Nova Scotia, but moved to Truro, Nova Scotia in September 1916.

The original intention was to recruit the unit primarily from the Maritimes, with companies also being raised in Ontario and western Canada. A little over a month after the unit was authorized, however, only 180 recruits had been obtained. By November 1916, the recruiting situation had improved little, leading Lt. Col. Sutherland to propose raising a company in the British West Indies. While nothing came of this, the battalion did manage to obtain about 165 men from the United States. When the men were finally assembled in March 1917 to prepare for departure overseas, the battalion’s overall strength was just over 600 men.

The unit departed from Halifax, Nova Scotia on board the SS Southland on March 28, 1917 and arrived at Liverpool, England ten days later.

In May 1917, the unit was downgraded in status to a company and attached to the Canadian Forestry Corps. By the fall of 1917, the unit was operating in the Jura mountains of France, headquartered at La Joux. It was employed primarily in the production of timber for use by the allied armies and repairing roads. Members of the unit hoped to be able to take part in the action of the trenches but only a few eventually did. Even so, some were injured, and some lost their lives to artillery fire, poison gas, and construction accidents.

The men of No. 2 Construction Battalion returned to Canada in early 1919 and the unit officially disbanded on September 15 of the same year.

Read Canada’s Black Battalion : No. 2 Construction, 1916-1920 by Calvin W Ruck