A look back
The history of African Nova Scotians reaches back to the early founding years of the province. Many of today’s communities can trace their origins to centuries ago, when Nova Scotia held the promise of a better life for immigrants of African descent.
Explorer Mathieu Da Costa is credited with being the first to arrive as part of an expedition that founded Port Royal in 1605. In the 1700s, small populations of French and English Black settlers were part of colonial towns such as Louisbourg and early Halifax.
The first large group of immigrants were the Black Loyalists who came as refugees after the American Revolution between 1782 and 1785. About 3,500 people settled throughout Nova Scotia in communities such as Annapolis Royal, Clements, Granville, Birchtown, Brindleytown, Preston, Little Tracadie, Chedabucto and Halifax. A group of 600 exiled Jamaican Maroons followed in 1796, settling in Preston Township. They helped build Government House, worked on new fortifications at the Halifax Citadel and served in the militia.
The War of 1812 between the United States and Britain resulted in another era of significant migration. Roughly 2000 Black Refugees seeking freedom arrived in Nova Scotia between 1813 and 1816. Many settled in Halifax and Dartmouth, including two large groups in Hammonds Plains and Preston. Others went to smaller communities around the province such as Cobequid Road, Five Mile Plains, Beechville, Porter’s Lake, Fletcher’s Lake, Prospect Road, Beaverbank, Avonport, Pine Woods, Pictou and Mill Village.
The early 1900s saw the last historic group of black settlers arrive in Nova Scotia as hundreds of Caribbean immigrants, known as the “later arrivals”, came to Cape Breton to work in the steel mills and coal mines.
With a history that spans more than 400 years, African Nova Scotians have a rich legacy in the province. Strong communities established long ago continue to this day. The achievements and triumphs of ancestors endure as a great source of pride and inspiration for African Nova Scotians.
African Heritage Timeline - Read about the significant events and people that have shaped African Nova Scotian history.
Black Cultural Centre – Learn more about Black migration and the establishment of African Nova Scotian communities.
African Nova Scotians today
There are 14,620 African Nova Scotians according to 2006 Census Data from Statistics Canada, with slightly more women than men. Demographically, 79.5% are over the age of 14, 20.5% are under 15 and 9.8% are over 64 years.
81.4% of African Nova Scotians were born in the province, while 8.2% were born elsewhere in Canada. 64.8% of the population has lived in Nova Scotia for three generations or more.
8% of African Nova Scotians today are immigrants, coming primarily from West Africa, the Caribbean and Bermuda, East Africa and the United States. Most arrive as adults between the ages of 25 and 44.
The priorities of African Nova Scotian Affairs reflect the realities faced by African Nova Scotians today. In particular, statistics highlight the need to focus on the key areas of employment, income and education. ANSA works with government departments, partners and the community to promote advancement in these areas on behalf of African Nova Scotians.
Employment and income
African Nova Scotians have a higher unemployment rate (11%) than the rest of Nova Scotia (9.1%). The gap is greater amongst males, with a rate of 12.8% for African Nova Scotians compared to 9.3% for Nova Scotians.
The average incomes for African Nova Scotians are $38,838 for males and $30,192 for females. In comparison, Nova Scotian average incomes are higher at $49,465 for males and $35,898 for females.
26.5% of African Nova Scotians are considered low income versus 10% for all Nova Scotians.
African Nova Scotians are less likely to finish high school or attend university. 65% of African Nova Scotians over the age of 15 have a certificate, diploma or degree compared to 73% of all Nova Scotians.
11% of African Nova Scotians have a university degree compared to 16% of all Nova Scotians.
please note: Statistics are based on 2006 Census Data from Statistics Canada.
Every African Nova Scotian community has a story to tell — from its history and heroes of the past to its achievements and people of today. ANSA is seeking to compile and share these stories. Through the Community Voices program, ANSA aims to have a profile created for each African Nova Scotian community.
Learn about how you can get involved and create a profile for your community.
Founded in 1783, Birchtown was settled by people of African ancestry who were loyal to the British during the American Revolution. Known as the Black Loyalists, they were granted freedom and land after the war. At the time, Birchtown was the largest settlement of free Africans in North America.