N.S. celebrates 100th anniversary of all-black unit: 'Fighting to fight'

HALIFAX -- Despite making an award-winning docudrama on Canada's only all-black military unit in 2001, director Anthony Sherwood says he's still amazed how little is known nationally about the No.

See Full Article

2 Construction Battalion.

Sherwood will present a special screening of his film Honour Before Glory, at the new Halifax Central Library on Tuesday as part of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the formation of the battalion in 1916.

"Nova Scotia is one of the provinces where the story has flourished and has been told several times," said Sherwood. "But I'm amazed that there is still a lot of people who don't know this story."

The military unit formed during the First World War was the only predominantly African-Canadian battalion since Confederation. The segregated battalion allowed black men who had previously been turned away by recruiters to enlist in the military.

Sherwood said the unique story of the battalion is an important piece of Canadian history because it shows that there were black Canadians who served their country during the first great global conflict.

"I think that participation and that service should be recognized," said Sherwood.

Sherwood, a Halifax native, said he came to be interested in the battalion through the diary of his great uncle, Reverend William White, who served as the unit's chaplain. That diary became the basis for the film, which won a Gemini Award in 2002.

"I strongly believe he wanted somebody to read this (diary) and tell this story," said Sherwood.

Formed on July 5, 1916 in Pictou, N.S., the more than 600-strong unit was mostly comprised of men from Nova Scotia, although volunteers also came from other parts of Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.

After sailing overseas in 1917, the battalion served in various support roles along the Western Front in Europe digging trenches, building railroads, repairing roads and laying barbed wire. All the while its soldiers remained segregated from their white counterparts, living and sleeping in separate quarters.

The unit's perseverance and service was recently recognized with a commemorative stamp issued by Canada Post and it was also the focal point for February's Black Heritage Month celebrations in Nova Scotia.

That kind of recognition is welcomed by Sylvia Parris, whose father Joseph enlisted in the battalion when he was only 17-years-old.

Parris said her father, who died in 1972 at the age of 73, never spoke about his war experiences.

She said it's only been in recent years that she came to realize the significant role men like her father played in Canada's history.

"It wasn't in the public school system," said Parris. "It's really now that we are looking back and reflecting and asking questions."

Russell Grosse, executive director of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, said the battalion which once was at risk of becoming a "footnote in history," has become a source of pride to the African Nova Scotian community.

Grosse said the black soldiers of 100 years ago made an important statement that Canada was their home too.

"They wanted to serve their country and were told they couldn't," said Grosse. "It was remarkable that they had to go through that legacy of fighting to fight."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Jealous folksinger assassinates hubby, playmates [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    Gio Gambino was concerned about his wife. Crystal Leah Gambino was described by family members as “moderately crazy” and her hubby was worried about her deteriorating mental state. “Everybody liked Gio,” her cousin Bob Hager told the Charlotte Observer. Source
  • Explosions hit near major soccer stadium in Istanbul, wounding 20

    World News CBC News
    Two explosions hit Saturday night near a major soccer stadium in Istanbul, and Turkish authorities say about 20 police have been wounded. Witnesses said police were deployed and had cordoned off the area as smoke rose from the newly built Besiktas Stadium. Source
  • Two explosions heard near Istanbul soccer stadium; 20 wounded

    World News CTV News
    ISTANBUL -- Two explosions hit Saturday night outside a major soccer stadium in Istanbul, and Turkish authorities say about 20 police officers have been wounded. Police cordoned off the area as smoke rose from the newly built Besiktas Stadium. Source
  • Non-OPEC oil producers to cut output 558,000 barrels a day

    World News CBC News
    OPEC has persuaded 11 non-members to cut oil production, a move aimed at draining a worldwide oil glut and boosting low prices that have squeezed government finances in Russia and Saudi Arabia. Officials said Saturday that non-members agreed to cut 558,000 barrels per day for six months starting Jan. Source
  • Bill to simplify border crossing passes U.S. Congress

    World News CBC News
    A bill with potentially sweeping consequences for the Canada-U.S. border has just been adopted by the American Congress, allowing new projects aimed at speeding up travel through the international boundary. The so-called preclearance bill has now been adopted by both U.S. Source
  • Death toll hits 45 in Yemen suicide bombing

    World News CTV News
    SANAA, Yemen -- A suicide bomber on Saturday blew himself up inside an army base in the southern city of Aden, killing 45 soldiers and wounding another 50, security officials said. They said the bomber detonated a belt of explosives he was wearing amid hundreds of soldiers lining up to collect their salaries in the city's Solban army base. Source
  • Venezuela seizes nearly 4M toys, will give them to poor kids

    World News CTV News
    BOGOTA -- Venezuela's socialist government has seized nearly 4 million toys from a private company and says it will hand them out as Christmas gifts to poor children this holiday season. The country's fair pricing authority seized the toys Friday from three warehouses run by Kreisel, Venezuela's largest toy distributor. Source
  • White supremacists? Not exactly, KKK and other groups claim

    World News CTV News
    PELHAM, N.C. -- In today's racially charged environment, there's a label that even the KKK disavows: white supremacy. Standing on a muddy dirt road in the dead of night near the North Carolina-Virginia border, masked Ku Klux Klan members claimed Donald Trump's election as president proves whites are taking back America from blacks, immigrants, Jews and other groups they describe as criminals and freeloaders. Source
  • ISIS re-enters Syria's historic Palmyra

    World News CBC News
    Syrian activists say the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group (ISIS) has re-entered the historic city of Palmyra in central Syria, nine months after they were expelled by Syrian and Russian forces in a highly publicized campaign. Source
  • 'I'm sorry, I'm so nervous': Patti Smith forgets Bob Dylan lines during Nobel Prize performance

    World News CBC News
    Even well-known musicians who have been performing for decades get nervous and Patti Smith is no exception. The Because the Night singer-songwriter attended the Nobel Prize presentation ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on Saturday to perform in place of Bob Dylan, who was awarded the literature prize but couldn't attend. Source