Viola Desmond's Canada: A presentation and discussion by Graham Reynolds, Professor Emeritus and the Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice, Cape Breton University
Today, most Canadians are familiar with Viola Desmond who courageously stood her ground against racial discrimination in 1946 by refusing to give up her seat in the white's-only section at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow. Her story and recent rise to national prominence are closely connected to Cape Breton University. Wanda Robson, Viola's youngest sister, attended CBU from 200-2004 and, at the age of 77, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Since then, Wanda has been active in raising public awareness about her sister and the struggle for equal rights in Canada. He efforts helped move the provincial government to grant Viola Desmond, posthumously, a free pardon in 2010 and to offer an apology to her family and the Nova Scotia Black community. Following this historic action, former CBU president, John Harker, created the Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice and appointed Graham Reynolds as the first holder of the Chair.
Since his appointment as Chair, Dr. Reynolds has worked closely with Wanda Robson in developing educational and public out-reach initiatives. He has recently published Viola Desmond's Canada: A History of Blacks and Racial Segregation in the Promised Land. The book has been nominated for several awards and has been adopted by the Nova Scotia Department of Education for use in Canadian history and African Canadian Studies courses. Dr. Reynolds will present a brief discussion regarding his book and his current research.