Sarah Harvie, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Aerial views of Charlottetown Prince Edward Island showing area once known as the Bog, home to the African Canadian community of the nineteenth century. The Bog School was near Beaconsfield, designed by Robert Harris’ brother, the architect. Robert Harris decorated the interior of the Chapel of Ease, the church attended by the residents of the Bog.

Robert Harris. 1885. Meeting of the School Trustees

Robert Harris. (Wales, 1849 – Quebec, 1919). 1885. A Meeting of the School Trustees.

When Robert Harris painted this scene immortalizing Kate Henderson’s confrontation with self-righteous Victorian values of rural Prince Edward Island he may not have intended such a universal message. Kate came to represent progressive thought. One of the “women fighting invisibly at her side (Williamson 1970)” was Sarah Harvie.

On Prince Edward Island in the 19th century, the gulf between the rich and the lower classes was enormous. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the Bog area of Charlottetown where many Black Islanders lived.

In the Bog, on Rochford Street, was an integrated school for the underprivileged. For over fifty years in the Bog School (1848 – 1903) Sarah Harvie, trained more than two thousand children. Sarah, who was African Canadian, was highly respected for the positive influence she exerted on the locality. (Hornby 1991) One can imagine the 1860 meeting in Charlottetown similar to the one portrayed here. Some protested the fact that children of “respectable parents” were sending their children to Sarah Harvie to benefit from her progressive teaching.

On the same street as the Bog School was Robert Harris’ family church, St. Peter’s. Harris who returned often to his Island home, was very attached to this Church. His brother was the architect of St. Peter’s Chapel and Harris contributed numerous paintings to decorate the interior. It is from here that Harris was buried in 1919. In the 1880’s Church meetings must have been heated when, against the wishes of more conservative members, St. Peter’s Chapel became a Chapel of Ease for the poor people of the Bog. (Tuck 1997)

The Bog was razed in a redevelopment project shortly after the school’s closing in 1903. With the local community scattered many black Islanders became part of an exodus. Within ten years the Island lost most of its African Canadians. The majority went to Boston, joining thousands of African Canadians moving south in search of community and opportunity. (Hornby 1991)

Williamson, Moncrieff, Robert Harris (1849 – 1919) An Unconventional Biography, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1970. (Williamson 1970)

Hornby, Jim, Black Islander: Prince Edward Island’s Historical Black Community, Institute of Island Studies, no.3, Charlottetown: University of Prince Edward Island, 1991. (Hornby 1991)

Tuck, R.C., “St.Peter’s Cathedral”, The Island Magazine, 1988. My information on this is based on a telephone call with Canon Tuck March, 1997. I have ordered at this at NAC. Changes may have to be made when I get the published article. (Tuck 1997)

In the 1870’s Harris did sketches of “urchins” from the Bog. In 1904 he sketched Sam Martin’s bridge. Martin, a former slave of a Loyalist was the founder of Charlottetown’s black in the early 1800’s.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 1999. Homage to Sarah Harvie, acrylic on canvas. Linkletter, Charlottetown, PEI

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 1999. Homage to Sarah HarvieSarah Harvie was a progressive teacher of the Bog’s School for fifty years. I asked Janelle Thomas, a student working at the gallery for the summer, to pose for this painting. I see Janelle as part of an energized generation capable to teaching others how to listen.

“1946 Carrie Best, of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, starts publishing a newspaper called The Clarion. Later its name changes to The Negro Citizen. It continues publication for 1 0 years. As a publisher and writer, Carrie Best shows that Blacks are often not treated fairly in Nova Scotia. She shows how they are not served on restaurants, and kept out of theatres. Best helps to get rid of those practices, making Nova Scotia – and Canada a better place to live.” Source

“This personal biography of Dr. Carrie Best includes details of the lives of the underprivileged in the Maritimes. Dr. Best who is well-known as poet, journalist, writer, broadcaster, civil rights worker, and community advocate was appointed as Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of her humanitarian activities. In 1946 she started “The Clarion”, the first Black newspaper in Nova Scotia, created to promote “inter-racial understanding and goodwill.” She traveled throughout Nova Scotia to confirm and then publish allegations of racism in service areas such as restaurants.”

Anne Packwood:

Anne Packwood celebrated her 100th birthday last summer, 1998, in Ottawa with almost a hundred friends from across the continent, as well as those who came from Bermuda. As part of the celebration a group came to the National Gallery of Canada for short slide presentation and a visit to the sculpture of Tommy Simmons. It was one of the most memorable moments for me at the NGC. Among the visitors was Carrie Best, respected activist and author of Long Lonesome Road. Since then Anne Packwood had a serious fall in December ?1998 while in the nursing home on Bruyere Street. Her family is constantly with her. Her daughter Lucille spends many hours at her side.

Orson Wheeler presented the sculpture of Lucille Vaughan as a young girl in 1955 as his diploma piece for the jury of the Royal Canadian Academy. This work represents a style and an ideological stand during the 1930’s.

The model for Orson Wheeler’s sculpture is Lucille Vaughan Quevas. Lucille comes from a family of activists in the African Canadian community of Montreal. Her mother Anne Packwood was honoured at the Museum of Civilisation’s opening of Many Rivers to Cross with the Wazee award for her many years of outstanding service to the African Canadian community.

Anne Packwood’s father George De Shield, was in Wolfcove?, Nova Scotia. His father and uncles were seamen, whalers and probably travelled often between Newfoundland, the Maritimes and Bermuda. Their ancestors on the paternal side were freemen. There were never slaves on the father’s side. Their name was their own – De Shield. It did not derive from a white master’s name as many did. There were three French-speaking brothers , from Martinique. They were well-known. One was a wood-carver who made a beautiful pulpit in Bermuda. The three De Shield brothers were very gentle people. Her grandfather helped found the Black Union United Church in the early 1900’s. Her father’s first wife, Anne’s mother, died in Bermuda and Anne stayed there until she was old enough to travel to Canada to join her father and his new wife. In 1905, when she was about 7 years old she made the journey by boat from Bermuda to Montreal. (Lucille, 02/10/1996, MFB) On the way through Boston, then Halifax and Saint John a whale followed her ship. She remembered this vividly even into her later years. Her father travelled right across the country but there is no proof that he was working for the railway. (Lucille) However in the Many Rivers to Cross documentation, he was described as a nation-builder who helped build the transcontinental railway. About 1900 a number of people of African Canadian descent arrived to work on the new transcontinental railways and settled primarily in Montreal and Toronto. Others were recruited through government schemes to provide cheap labour in N.S. for Sydney’s steel plants and the coal mines of Glace Bay. (Hume, 1991)

Even though they were not rich, Anne found a way to return to Bermuda every second year. She was widowed young, when she was only in her thirties.

She remembers the impact of Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) on the Montreal Black community of the 1920’s. She herself would become the secretary of the UNIA Literary Club. She was a kindergarten teacher; she organised special tutoring classes; she assisted in programs for the needy through the YMCA and received numerous awards for her community work in Montreal. In an interview with Janice? Anne Packwood described Garvey as being a “Moses come to lead his people through the wilderness. … You learned how to be proud of your blackness. You marched to a drum of a different beat (Kennedy, 1992).”

In Quebec at that time it was hard to be a woman let alone a widow. Anne had to be very strong. In 1940 when Quebec women won the right to vote, Anne Packwood was there ready with her ballot. Because her skin was so light and her ballot was for a Negro, the ballot scrutineers had her arrested. Rather than use her one call for a lawyer, she called the neighbour to make sure someone would take care of her children. She spent the night in jail (Kennedy 1992). She had three children: Mairuth, Suzie and Lucille. Over the years she had about 20 foster children, the “minority orphans”, those difficult to adopt. Packwood reminds the Black community to remember those who built the bridges for this succeeding generations.

Although they were part of a marginalized society, Lucille remarks that things were tough but not only for Blacks. Her mother earned $8 and $11 at her two jobs yet they never felt deprived. Her mother brought them toMount Royal often and she feels this painting by Louis Muhlstok was well-chosen. Lucille remembers a happy childhood.

Packwood always loved poetry, particularly the poetry of Black American poet, Langston Hughes, such as My People. She instilled that love of poetry and the power of words in her children. Her daughter Lucille Vaughn (Cuevas) read Hughes’ I’ve Known Rivers during the week of the festivities surrounding the opening of the exhibition Many Rivers to Cross. (J. Kennedy The Citizen, 1992) Lucille, who is retired now, was a librarian for many years.

Jennifer Hodge da SilvaWhen Lucille Vaughan worked as librarian for the Protestant School Board in Montreal from 1965-1987, Jennifer Hodge da Silva interviewed her as part of her documentary, “Myself, Yourself“. Jennifer filmed Lucille talking about how she had worked to get books that were culturally sensitive into the library. When she first went to work in the library she studied the section on aboriginal peoples looking for books that presented the First Peoples sensitively. She tried to interest students in all of the library, the history. She asked difficult questions long before 1992, “How can you discover a country that has already been inhabited for time immemorial?,” asked Jameson, a Mohawk woman interviewed by Jennifer for the film.

Through this bronze sculpture three generations of African Canadian history can be linked. The model is Lucille Vaughan, known for her work as librarian who encouraged the use of culturally sensitive material in school libraries. Her niece, Jennifer Hodge da Silva, included Lucille Vaughan’s story in her film “Myself Yourself”. She was at Sir George Williams where Orson Wheeler was teaching. The intelligent face of the young girl appears to be listening intently. The hours passed quickly for the 22-year-old model. As he worked artist Orson Wheeler shared his vast general knowledge, introducing young Lucille Vaughan to the historical contributions of the Moors and reciting poetry evoking King Solomon. (It was Solomon who brought together the nations of Israel and Ethiopia out of love for the beautiful and powerful Ethiopian Queen Makeda, the Queen of Sheba.) Poetry was already an important part of Lucille Vaughan’s life. Her mother Anne Packwood knew the power of the word and encouraged all her children, three daughters to … Lucille’s sister, Mairuth Hodge Sarsfield, well-known for her work with the CBC and the United Nations has just completed a book called The Crystal Staircase.

(Solomon’s life was changed when the North African Queen of Sheba (Makeda) made her brief but epic journey from her Kingdom in Ethiopia to visit him in Israel. Makeda became one of Solomon’s wives and adopted Judaism. It was Makeda with King Solomon who founded the royal family of Ethiopia that lasted for 3000 years, until the 1970’s. Through them Ethiopia became a rich nation.

Elizabeth Wynn Wood. 1926. Head of a Negress. Bronze

“While the subject of Wyn’s Wood’s portrait remains unidentified, Orson Wheeler’s Head of Girl represents a rare moment when some of the artistic conception are known. Wheeler’s portrait represented Lucille Vaughan. Wheeler was an art professor at Concordia University in Montreal when he asked Lucille, then a student, to sit for a portrait. The exact nature of their relationship and interaction has not been thoroughly documented. Such specific information would shed light on the processes of creation which resulted in this individualized study of a young woman with a distant and introspective countenance. (Nelson 1998:25)”

Suzie, Mairuth and Lucille were doing a theatral production, Emperor Jones, with the Negro Theatre Guild featuring the well-known actor, Victor Phillips. MR asked several well-known Montreal artists to come to dress rehearsal to do sketches of the play which could be used to promote the play and later to raise funds. Fred Taylor did her mother, Anne Packwood, as an old woman. Louis Muhlstok did a portrait of three people at the time. (This is owned by Lucille’s friend Sylvia.)

Mairuth Hodge Sarsfield

The National Gallery already has a sculpture by Wheeler which he presented in 1955 as his diploma piece for the jury of the Royal Canadian Academy. The model is Lucille Vaughan as a young girl. This work represents a style and an ideological stand during the 1930’s.

Lucille’s mother, Anne Packwood, had three daughters, Lucille, Mairuth (Hodge Sarsfield) and Susan (Emily Mault). Over the years Anne Packwood had about twenty foster children, the “minority orphans”, those difficult to adopt. Anne Packwood taught her children to remember those who built the bridges for succeeding generations.

Last year when the United Nations celebrated its 50th anniversary, 50 Canadians were honoured with medals for their contributions to Canada, United Nations environment work. Mairuth was one of the fifty Canadians chosen. The award was for her environmental work, with the highly successful and renowned project, For Every Child a Tree. Again she used the arts to advantage and had artists creating posters for this campaign, material that is still being used over a dozen years later. In Nebraska she had already received an award for her environmental work. In 1984, the year she left the United Nations, she was in Nebraska, her host hadn’t realized she was black, they expected a “Canadian”. They kept looking for her at the plane and could not find her. They had a child there to meet her with a bouquet of roses. Later they asked her to speak to the Nebraska House of Representatives. Nebraska had conquered the desertification. She told them that they should send their sons-the sons of farmers-to Africa so they could teach them how they too can succeed and overcome desertification. The House gave her a standing ovation. It was in 1984 as well that Mae Ruth Sarsfield became the first black woman to serve on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mairuth Hodge Sarsfield has been involved as researcher, interviewer, on-camera hostess or producer of over 30 film, television and public affairs items. She wrote and directed The Aware Game for Alatalia Airlines about the slave castles on the coast of Ghana to earn money for her M.A. in Communications. In 1989 she retired to work on a book and film bequeathed to her by her daughter, Jennifer, called No Crystal Stair.

Notes from conversations with Lucille:

Lucille’s sister, Mairuth, had and has an interesting face for portraiture, and she was asked to model for a number of Montreal artists. They knew many of the Montreal artists of that time including Arthur Lismer, who was involved in his celebrated art classes at the Art Gallery. He was a highly respected art educator and was always educating people. Lucille appreciated people like Lismer who would share their knowledge. That’s why she liked Orson Wheeler. Wheeler knew about Islam and the Moors. His conversations were always interesting and he was interested in learning. He noticed that Lucille loved poetry . They would recite poetry together. He recited a verse a particular poem about the aging King Solomon who wanted to keep warm. He was interested in Thoreau when she had just discovered poets. She would go sit for a half hour at a time. He used calipers to measure. It was an education to be with him.

Muhlstock was another Montreal artist of this time who did quite a few portraits of Negro women. He was not looking for the exotic. Genuinely interested in people, in types. He was not exploitative. He shared his knowledge. He was from Galicia, Poland. They would go to Muhlstock’s home-studio. Suzie, Mairuth and Lucille were doing a theatral production, Emperor Jones, with the Negro Theatre Guild featuring the well-known actor, Victor Phillips. Mairuth asked several well-known Montreal artists to come to dress rehearsal to do sketches of the play which could be used to promote the play and later to raise funds. Fred Taylor did her mother, Anne Packwood, as an old woman. Louis Muhlstok did a portrait of three people at the time. (This is owned by Lucille’s friend Sylvia.)

As youth they would go to His Majesty’s Theatre by hiding in dressing room number 13 and they going to seats just before the show began. They went to often that Paul Robeson and Miss Hagan knew them well. (Did Paraskeva Clarke do a portrait of Paul Robeson? They would go every night and learn the plays. They would often go with Camilla Neilson, their Danish friend from New Denmark in the Maritimes. (Danish were perceived as being Germans during the war so they suffered during the war in Canada). Camilla was active in civil rights. She was ahead of her time and was a great influence on Lucille. The 40’s were wonderful in Montreal. Lucille met people from the CBC who would talk. Lucille also knew members of the Montreal Baha’i community.

Canadian Blacks were very Canadian. West Indian community were used to having doctors, lawyers, There a number of white students who did not feel they were being well treated. Some contend students did not set the fire.

Orson Wheeler

Like Muhlstok Wheeler studied life drawing under Edmond Dyonnet, RCA. in Montreal. Starting in the 1930’s he taught sculpture and later architecture at Sir George Williams In 1934 he joiined the Independent Art Assoication of Montreal. (In 1935 his photo was in the Montreal newspaper beside one of his modelled heads called “Negro Head” . In 1936 he made a model of a cathedral out of cardboard. it was so popular he continued to make models all his life. By the age of 69 years he had completed 150 scale models of Montreal buildings. In 1939 he was a member of the RCA. In 1941 he was a member of the Sculptors Society of Canada. HIs lectures in the 1940’s were often concerned with sculptural techniques and materials, in Greek art, ancient and the modern. He was accepted in the RCA in 1954 with this head of Lucille Vaughan? He died in 1990.

“Louis Muhlstock’s Evelyn Pleasant, St. Famille Street, Montreal marks a synthesis of his interest in Black subjects and issues of poverty, unemployment, marginalization and social oppression. The face of the young Black girl is both pensive and sorrowful. Although Muhlstock obscures the interior beyond his subject, the marked and dirty window frame evokes an image of desolation and want (Nelson 1998:33).”

Louis Muhlstok (born 1904 Galicia, Poland)

Muhlstok was the son of poor Jewish-Polish immigrants who came to Canada in 1911. He grew up in a small basement apartment on Saint Dominique Street in Montreal. It was a mixed ethnic group: Jewish, Italian, Polish, Ukranian, French-Canadian. Although today the neighbourhood is rundown, at that time it was a tiny, lively place to live. They later moved to Upper Dominique between Napoleon and Duluth. He took painting classes as a teenager while working as a bookeeper for a fruit importing firm. In the 1920’s when social realism was being felt, he went with a friend to the Caughnawauga Reserve where he saw real poverty. He went to France to study from 1928-1931 but returned to Canada when his mother fell ill. In France he studied at L’academie Louis-Francois Biloul, a painter of female nudes. In France he stayed in the Maison Canadienne where Borduas was staying. In 1935 he moved to Ste. Famille Street in Montreal and established his studio. Although he moved to another building he still has a residence on that street. He has another residence in Val David in the Laurentians. During the 1930’s and 1940’s he was a member of the Contemporary Art Society along with Maurice Cullen and John Lyman. Although devoted to nature, he chose not to paint like the influential Group of Seven. His subjects would be the WWII workers in shipyards, the ill, the working class, the unemployed of Fletcher’s Fields, (including the haunting 1930’s portrait of William O’Brien) and the lush shapes of Mont Royal. As in this painting he chose to paint the humble details of the vegetation on Mont Royal instead of the panorama view. This was done at the same time that Orson Wheeler was doing the sculpture bust of Lucille Vaughan. She and her family visited Muhlstok at his studio on Ste. Famille and may well have seen him on Mont Royal when their picnics coincided with his sketching trips. Muhlstok also painted many portraits of Black people in Montreal. One of a Black woman was described : “Une femme noire, aux yeux de madone… Il dessine et peint le quotidienne avec delicatesse et respect.”

When Mairuth Hodge Sarsfield with her two sisters were preparing a theatrical performance of Emperor …., she asked Muhlstok and other well-known Montreal artists to come to the dress rehearsals and do sketches which he did. These drawings were used to promote the play and later as fund-raisers. His first solo exhibition was in 1935. It was censored because of the nudes. Muhlstok knew Norman Bethune who had founded a children’s art centre. Bethune believed in the creative spirit that is the soul of man”. Bethune believed that a medical operation was a work of art. (Bethune was in Spain during the Civil War. He was also a very intimate friend of Paraskeva Clark, whose self-portrait is displayed here.) Over the winter 1938-9 Muhlstok drew one large charcoal nude a day. That year he had a major exhibition. In 1962 5/16 female nudes were censored. He was a Jewish artist and would compare some of his images to Auschwitz. In 1988 he had an exhibition in the Edmonton Art Gallery. He paintings in the period from 1980-1989 were “inscapes”, surrealist-like images of details of the Laurentians. In 1991 he presented an exhibition of figure drawings which had always been one of his strong areas. In 1991 he received the Order of Canada.

Orson Wheeler presented the sculpture of Lucille Vaughan as a young girl in 1955 as his diploma piece for the jury of the Royal Canadian Academy. This work represents a style and an ideological stand during the 1930’s.

The model Lucille Vaughan Quevas comes from a family of activists in the African Canadian community of Montreal. Her mother Anne Packwood was honoured at the Museum of Civilisation’s opening of Many Rivers to Cross with the Wazee award for her many years of outstanding service to the African Canadian community.

Negro (Tommy Simmons), 1933 Orson Wheeler (Canadian 1902 – 1990)

In the 1920’s awareness of black culture spread from Harlem in New York across the continent and the ocean. During this Renaissance African American arts and literature reached new pinnacles of celebrity. (Called both a golden legend and a new epoch in American literature. Visiting royalty and celebrities came to Harlem. In 1927 alone 39 African Americans encouraged by the words of W.E.B. Du Bois continued on to get their doctorates.)

Marcus Garvey, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong inspired Canadians. Visual artists in Canada attempted to reverse negative stereotypes of black subjects. This sculpture of Tommy Simmons, which celebrates both his blackness and his individuality, gave the emerging artist Orson Wheeler a sense of accomplishment. ( In the 1930’s many Canadian artists used black models: Prudence Heward, Elizabeth Wynn Wood, Edwin Holgate, Louis Muhlstock and Mme. McCarney.)

Simmons was a Montreal sleeping car porter for forty-three years. ( Oscar Peterson, who is in the front rank of the jazz pianists in the world, was the son of a sleeping car porter. His father taught himself then his family to play the piano.) Work conditions were difficult. The transcontinental trips meant days away from home. Severe employment limitations were placed on black workers. Many, including those with higher education, even doctors and lawyers, were obliged to become porters. Sleeping car porters became the economic elite and catalysts of change in African Canadian communities. (It was William Van Horne who began to hire black porters in Canada for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 19th century. When Montreal became the CPR’s employment centre its black population increased.[Winks, p.332])

Tommy Simmons was a dedicated coach of winning teams. His integrated baseball teams which included girls of African, French and Italian descent, were unprecedented in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Because he was bilingual he entered tournaments in French and English communities from Chicoutimi, Québec to St. John, N.B. [Interviews with Carl Simmons and B. Jones, 1995]

HOMEPAGE BIBLIOGRAPHY William Notman Africville – Black Court Robert Scott Duncanson Ignatius Sancho CHRONOLOGY WHO’S WHO

© Maureen Flynn-Burhoe 2002.
1992 Maureen Flynn-Burhoe Creative Commons Copyright BY-NC-SA

The above was last updated January 2007. In process. DRAFT: Do not copy.


I just received a message from a Baha’i friend in the Ottawa/Gatineau area about someone who worked at the NGC when I was there… I responded…The name is very familiar but I am having trouble remembering the details. I worked at the NGC from 1990 – 2000. I loved it. I met so many lovely people there who were originally from the Caribbean and from the African continent. They were often people who had education and professional experience elsewhere but were often working as security guards at the NGC. I so treasured those conversations over the years as I had just returned to Canada after spending seven years in RP Congo with the amazing Baha’i community there. We lived in Aylmer c. 1995-1996. There was one memorable conversation in the early 1990s and I don’t know if it was with Emile. We were looking at a sculpture of Tommy Simmons but at that time it was only called Head of a Negro… I remember the conversation so clearly because he questioned the title but also the way the gallery was organized. It was a thoughtful intelligent response to it all. It began a 10-year journey for me to find answers to his questions. Somewhere along the line I not only found Tommy Simmons name, I was also able to be part of a few small changes at the NGC. I worked closely with Lucille Vaughan and her sister Mairuth Sarsfield to curate a tour of the permanent collection that was offered during Black History Month for several years. It became one of the highlights of the ten years I spent there. The crowds were so big that it made security guards nervous. I posted some of the content online a few years later and this is part of that process. The 100th birthday of Anna Packwood, organized by her daughters Mairuth and Lucille, was held at the NGC with a slide show and this tour as part of the celebrations. As we stood in front of the Tommy Simmons sculpture and I told his story. People spoke up explaining how they had babysat his children… stories about him I didn’t know. They had come from Montreal, from the Caribbean to honour Anna Packwood. Maybe it wasn’t Emile. But that conversation in the early 1990s resulted in this…. November 14, 2017

Notes from April 9, 2020

The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) has a lot of its work online now and I am looking for a way to reconstruct my own memory palace of these works, that were such an intimate and delightful part of my ten-years there in the 1990s.

Every minute of every day in this crisis-filled moment of our lives, archives are being shared, historical events, places, people are taking on revisited narratives, turning the writing of history into a dynamic picture book, that in a minute way, echoes the idea of Hogwarts’ animated portraits, but with an infinite depth and breadth.

Mr. and Mrs. William Croscup’s Painted Room c. 1846-1848 is in the National Gallery of Canada‘s permanent exhibition. The room was a prized possession of Hannah Amelia Croscup, who lived with her husband, who was a shipbuilder, and six children in a “modest home in Karsdale, Nova Scotia, on the shore of the Annapolis Basin, according to Cora Greenaway’s article “Decorated Walls and Ceilings in Nova Scotia.”

Greenaway said,

“[P]robably in 1848, the walls of the west parlour of their home were decorated by an anonymous artist, who, according to family history, was a British sailor who had jumped ship.4 He covered the walls with scenes depicting Micmacs, the launching of a ship (William Croscup was a shipbuilder), London’s Trafalgar Square with the newly constructed National Gallery and St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, as well as a scene showing St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Above the mantle Queen Victoria presided in a grand drawing-room (the Croscups were of Loyalist stock).”

I included this room and the surrounding rooms, on the 1990s February tours “Positive Presence of Absence: A History of the African Canadian Community through Works in the Permanent Collection of the National Gallery of Canada” that I developed and presented for several years when I worked there as contract art educator. The room was part of a Gallery devoted to the early 1800s and included other pre-Confederation paintings I was able to link to the missing archives of African Canadian history.

As you can see here, there are two African Canadian men, or more likely London, England residents, portrayed in the foreground of what is a collage of a cityscape with buildings resembling well-known European architecture of the time. I believe I referred to the painting of these two men as a way of introducing the first wave of African Canadians, the Black loyalists, who had arrived in Nova Scotia from New York from 1775 to 1784 after the American Revolution ended. By the mid-nineteenth century, there would have been quite a few descendants of the Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia.

After writing this I had a flood of memories of some of the other paintings I had referenced in the “Positive Presence of Absence” tours.

One of them was a large painting of Halifax harbour which hung just on the outside wall of the Croscup painted room. It was a large oil painting of panoramic view of the city of Halifax c. 1850 by an unknown artist. There wasn’t much left of Halifax Citadel by 1850, time but I used this to describe how the Trelawney Maroons, who arrived in Halifax in late June 1796 to this painting, and had helped build the Halifax Citadel.

At some point in doing my research in the 1990s on the “Positive Presence of Absence”, I took a road trip with a friend. She was collected oral histories of elderly Baha’is for her PhD across Canada and she was headed east. I stayed in Halifax and took a long bus ride to the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, 10 Cherry Brook Road, Cherry Brook, Nova Scotia.

Sorry, a tsunami of memories here…

In his 1999 article, “The deportation of the Maroons of Trelawny town to Nova Scotia then back to Africa“, published in the Journal of Black Studies, James D. Lockett, described how Maroon societies had existed wherever there were slave systems in both North and South America. They were “slave masters’ worst nightmare”, as they “devised methods of subsistence, military strategies, systems of shared authority, and shared languages.” This “determined group of freedom fighters” had been fighting for their independence from the British since the 1650s. In 1795 the Jamaican administration put removed the Maroons from the Island sending them in three ships with 543 men, women and children to Halifax. to be continued


Black History Month on Prince Edward Island February 2007:

Hi Jinny, Here are some supplemental resources that I have been developing and/or uploading using Web 2.0 technologies since the fall of 2006. I am touched when PEI students are able to use some of my teaching, learning and research resources. I have made my home on other islands and even another continent, but I am deeply grateful that my childhood and youth unfolded in Charlottetown and Rocky Point and my family’s story is rooted in Prince Edward Island.

I will use this page to keep track of additions to my Web 2.0 virtual villages on themes of Black History Month, African Canadian History, and the Positive Presence of Absence.

— . 2007. “Memory Work, Memory Palace and a Homage to Sarah Harvie.” Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded February 10th, 2007

— . 2007. “John Beverley Robinson and the Abolition of Slavery in Upper Canada. Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded February 9th, 2007.

— . 2007. “Flicktion in a Flickr of an Eye: 19.” ocean.flynn @ Flickr. Uploaded January 10, 2007.
— . “Positive Presence of Absence: A History of the African Canadian Community through Works in the Permanent Collection of the National Gallery of Canada“. Papergirls @ worpdress. Uploaded January 2nd, 2007.

— . “Jennifer Hodge da Silva (c.1963-1989) African Canadian filmmaker”. Papergirls @ worpdress. Uploaded January 2nd, 2007.

— .”The Gallery as Memory Palace: M. C. Escher, Gainsborough, Tommy Simmons and Ignatius Sancho.” ocean.flynn @ Flickr. Uploaded January 1, 2007.

— . 2006. “Atypical colonialist Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza 1852-1905 stoned in RPCongo”. Papergirls @ worpdress. Uploaded November 30th, 2006.

— . 2006. “Sinking Neptune: some background reading for memory work praxis”. Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded November 16th, 2006.

— . 2006. “Anna Packwood, Dr. Carrie Best, Tommy Simmons.” Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded November 16th, 2006.

— . 2006. “Chronology of Show Boat: Some Memory Work for Neptune.” Speechless @ worpdress. Uploaded November 16th, 2006.

— . 2006. “Neptune Sinks in 17th attitudes: what to do with distorted histories?” Papergirls @ worpdress. Uploaded November 15th, 2006.

— . 2006. “Anna Packwoods100th Birthday guests”. ocean.flynn @ Flickr. Uploaded November 15th, 2006.

—. 2006. “Bateke Mask“. ocean.flynn @ Flickr. Uploaded November 14th, 2006.
— . 2006. “Black Pupil as Mirror, the Other-Eye.” ocean.flynn @ Flickr. Uploaded October 13th, 2006.

©© Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “For Jinny and her PEI students Black History Month 2007.” Speechless @ wordpress. Uploaded February 17th, 2007. Creative Commons License 2.5 BY-NC-SA.

One Response to “Positive Presence of Absence: A History of the African Canadian Community through Works in the Permanent Collection of the National Gallery of Canada”

  1. Caroll Mcjunkins Says:

    here i go once more, invariably finding mundane topics to read about. though this one was a somewhat ton of attention-grabbing than what I’m normally used to

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