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

  • Blast in Kabul kills 14, Afghanistan's returning VP escapes unharmed

    World News CBC News
    Afghanistan's first vice-president, a former Uzbek warlord, escaped unharmed, but 14 people were killed in an explosion near the airport as he returned home on Sunday after living in Turkey for over a year, according to security officials. Source
  • Trump says redacted documents on wiretapping of ex-adviser Carter Page 'misled the courts'

    World News CBC News
    President Donald Trump asserted without evidence Sunday that newly released documents relating to the wiretapping of his onetime campaign adviser Carter Page "confirm with little doubt" that intelligence agencies misled the court that approved the warrant. Source
  • U.K. police think boy, 3, was attacked with acid at store

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- A 3-year-old boy suffered severe burns on his face and arm during a suspected acid attack in England that investigators think was deliberate, police said Sunday. West Mercia police Chief Superintendent Mark Travis said police were working to identify the substance that burned the child Saturday at a discount store in Worcester. Source
  • Who are the White Helmets? Explaining the Syrian 'do-gooders'

    World News CTV News
    The volunteer group spirited out of Syria under cover of night has been the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary and was once considered a front-runner for the Nobel Peace Prize. The White Helmets and their families were rescued by the Israeli military and brought to Jordan, where they will be resettled in Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom. Source
  • Three people dead, one injured in crash near Belledune, New Brunswick

    Canada News CTV News
    BELLEDUNE, N.B. -- Police are investigating after a two-vehicle crash in northeastern New Brunswick claimed the lives of three people and sent one other to hospital. Northeast District RCMP say Bathurst officers responded to the collision on Highway 11 near Belledune, N.B. Source
  • As Okanagan fires stabilize, officials warn of coming heat in B.C.

    Canada News CBC News
    Though many of the fires burning through B.C.'s Okanagan stabilized on Saturday thanks to cooler conditions, officials are expecting they could ramp up again as temperatures rise. "The situation is definitely stabilized from where we were at, say, 72 hours ago," said fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek. Source
  • Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau's nanny

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA - The nanny caring for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's kids has been given a full-time salary and a slight pay increase compared with the reported hourly rate she was paid shortly after Trudeau took office in 2015. Source
  • Minimum wage increases bite into funding boost for Canada Summer Jobs program

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Rising provincial minimum wages have cut into the reach of the Liberal government's oft-touted increase to summer jobs spending by reducing the number of weekly hours being funded this year. The Liberals have doubled spending on the politically popular program to approximately $220 million in order to boost the number of available jobs to 70,000 from about 35,000. Source
  • Crews from other provinces, U.S., Mexico helping Ontario fight forest fires

    Canada News CBC News
    Crews fighting forest fires in northern Ontario are receiving help from other provinces, the U.S. and Mexico as they try to contain several blazes after days of hot and humid weather. Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said in a release that, as of Saturday night, 64 forest fires were burning in the northern and northeastern half of the province, with 29 of them out of control. Source
  • With 29 fires out of control, Ontario gets help from U.S., Mexico, other provinces

    Canada News CBC News
    Crews fighting forest fires in northern Ontario are receiving help from other provinces, the U.S. and Mexico as they try to contain several blazes after days of hot and humid weather. Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said in a release that, as of Saturday night, 64 forest fires were burning in the northern and northeastern half of the province, with 29 of them out of control. Source