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

  • Police charge Red Lake, Ont. man in alleged sex assault from 44 years ago

    Canada News CTV News
    RED LAKE, Ont. -- A 69-year-old man is facing charges in alleged sex assaults believed to have taken place more than 40 years ago. Provincial police say the incidents took place in 1973 and 1974 in Red Lake, Ont. Source
  • Review of devastating New Brunswick ice storm makes 51 recommendations

    Canada News CTV News
    FREDERICTON -- A review of a devastating ice storm in New Brunswick that left two people dead and more than 130,000 people without power says the provincial government should increase funding for emergency services and better educate the public on emergency preparedness. Source
  • New Brunswick man charged with production of child pornography in U.S.

    Canada News CTV News
    A 49-year-old New Brunswick man who allegedly travelled to Ohio to meet a teenage girl is facing a charge of production of child pornography in the United States. Joseph Haggerty of St. Stephen, N.B. Source
  • Turkish leader urges Turks in Germany to vote against Angela Merkel

    World News CBC News
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said German Chancellor Angela Merkel was an enemy of Turkey and called on Turks in Germany to vote against her and other major parties in next month's elections. The comments are some of Erdogan's harshest yet against Merkel and her Christian Democrats, illustrating the widening divide between the NATO allies and major trade partners. Source
  • Barcelona's victims: A snapshot of the world

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- The dead and injured in Barcelona were a snapshot of the world -- men, women and children from nearly three dozen nations -- testifying to the huge global appeal of the sun-kissed city. Source
  • Canadian eyewitnesses describe terror of Barcelona attack

    Canada News CTV News
    The deadly vehicle attack in Barcelona sent a wave of panic though the busy Las Ramblas promenade where scores of tourists had gathered for a day of leisure in the warm Spanish sun. A white van drove onto the sidewalk and began swerving into the crowd on Thursday afternoon. Source
  • Canada on list of countries with citizens killed or injured in Barcelona

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    OTTAWA — Spanish authorities say Canada is among 34 countries with citizens killed or injured in the terrorist attack in Barcelona. Global Affairs says Canadians have been affected by the attacks, but did not provide further details, citing privacy reasons. Source
  • Far-right, anti-racist groups plan duelling protests Sunday in Quebec City

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- An anti-fascist group is organizing a counter-protest against a demonstration in Quebec City on Sunday that is being planned by a far-right group. Montreal Antifasciste says in a statement it's calling on anti-fascist and anti-racist groups to head to the provincial capital to oppose La Meute's demonstration. Source
  • Crown wants 9-year sentence for man convicted of attempting to leave to join ISIS

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The Crown is seeking a nine-year prison sentence for a man convicted of attempting to leave Canada to join the Islamic State. The defence has countered with a recommendation of six-and-a-half years for Ismael Habib. Source
  • Finnish police shoot man after several people were stabbed in Turku

    World News Toronto Sun
    COPENHAGEN — A man stabbed several people in Finland's western city of Turku before police shot him in a leg and detained him Friday, police said, adding that authorities were looking for more potential suspects. Finnish broadcaster YLE says several people were seen lying on the ground in Puutori square in central Turku. Source