The first day of August is known as Emancipation Day around the world. It is the anniversary of British parliament’s decision to abolish slavery across its empire in 1834.
The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (which took effect in 1834), freed about 800,000 enslaved people of African descent throughout the British colonies.
Between 1749 and 1816, approximately 10,000 people of African descent came to Nova Scotia. This included the Black Loyalists, refugees from the War of 1812, and indentured servants as well as the Trelawny Maroons and enslaved people of African descent who were brought to Nova Scotia against their will. Once the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 took effect, Canada became a free territory for enslaved people of African descent escaping from America.
In 1997, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated 23 August as the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The importance of the day is connected to people of African descent in Haiti and the Dominican Republic fighting for their freedom, which resulted in liberation from their European colonisers in 1791.
Globally, 1 August and 23 August honour emancipation and acknowledge the tragedies of the transatlantic slave trade in which millions of African descended people were enslaved or lost their lives.
In Canada, the House of Commons unanimously passed a vote on 24 March, 2021, to designate 1 August as Emancipation Day in Canada. In April 2021, Nova Scotia introduced legislation to recognize the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.
Download the Emancipation Day Act poster (PDF)
Virtual Emancipation Day
Throughout the month of August, various virtual and in-person community events will take place across Nova Scotia. You can find more information on the Emancipation Day Nova Scotia calendar.
- News release: Legislation Recognizes Emancipation Day in Nova Scotia
- African Nova Scotians in the Age of Slavery and Abolition (Nova Scotia Archives)
- Black History in Nova Scotia (Black Cultural Centre)
- Black Before Columbus Came: The African Discovery of America | Odd Salon DISCOVERY
- Canada's slavery secret: The whitewashing of 200 years of enslavement
Healing the Wounds of Slavery (UNESCO)
- International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition (UNESCO)
- Looking Back, Moving Forward: Documenting the Heritage of African Nova Scotians (Nova Scotia Archives)
- Motion M-36 Emancipation Day (House of Commons Canada)
- The Emancipation Day Act (Nova Scotia Legislature)
- The Atlantic Slave Trade: Crash Course World History #24
- The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you - Anthony Hazard
- Slavery Abolition Act, 1833 (The Canadian Encyclopedia)
- Slavery's long shadow: The impact of 200 years of enslavement in Canada
- Les routes de l'esclavage