More than forty years after it was demolished as part of community relocation, a Church will stand again in Africville when the community gathers for its annual reunion in July. The Africville Heritage Trust (AHT) is issuinng a tender call for construction of a replica of the Seaview Baptist Church, which will house exhibits and artefacts telling the story of life in Africville and the destruction of the close-knit community.
“Construction of the Africville Seaview Church Museum is the first step in a permanent memorial to the community and the undying spirit of Africville,” said AHT chair Daurene Lewis. “The story of Africville is part of the history of Halifax, of Nova Scotia, and of North America—it needs to be told and remembered.”
“The AHT has responsibility for the construction and operation of the Church Museum, and later a larger Interpretive Centre, on the site. But it is the spirit of the people of Africville who have told the stories, and kept the connections alive through the generations,” Dr Lewis said.
Completion of the Seaview Church in time for the Africville Reunion weekend in July is symbolic, says Dr Lewis. “The reunion brings the families of Africville home for a few days each year—to share stories, to renew acquaintances, and to pass on the heritage to each new generation.”
The Church was the heart of the community, where the community celebrated and grieved, and the location of many meetings in the lead-up to the relocation of Africville’s 400 residents in the late 1960s. Funding for the construction of the Church replica was part of a settlement reached by the community, represented by the Africville Genealogy Society, with Halifax Regional Municipality in 2010. The settlement also included a formal apology by the Municipality, return of a portion of the land where the community sat, and restoring the name of Africville to the area.
Funding and support have also been provided for the project by both the provincial and federal governments.
Linda Mantley, whose family was removed from Africville when she was a young woman, and who has been involved with the organization of the Reunion Weekend since its beginning in 1983, says “This Project will be a memorial for the people, especially the elders of the Community of Africville, who had their homes, community and Church taken from them. The younger? generation can learn their history, culture, and the lessons to be learned from this project about a community that should have never been demolished and its people uprooted.”
The tender will close on May 12, with a construction start anticipated before the end of the month.