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New Glasgow in Pictou County, Nova Scotia — The Atlantic Provinces (North America)
 

Viola Desmond

Educator, Entrepreneur, Human Rights Activist

 
 
Viola Desmond Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, July 19, 2019
1. Viola Desmond Marker
Inscription.  Mrs. Viola Irene (Davis) Desmond was born on July 6, 1914 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to James and Gwendolyn Davis. Viola was one of 15 siblings who grew up in and around the city area. After graduating from Bloomfield High School with excellent marks, she became a teacher and taught school for nearly two years.

Motivated by her families' entrepreneurial success as Halifax barbers and the inspirational leadership of United States black hair products businesswomen Madam C. J. Walker, Viola became a student of Ms. Walker's school in New York and graduated as a beautician and hair culturist.

Viola returned to Halifax where she opened her business "Desmond's Beauty School". Her entrepreneurial spirit blossomed and she became a well known business name throughout the Atlantic provinces.

"Desmond's original class had 15 black female students from all over Atlantic Canada. By all accounts, Desmond was ahead of her time, making inroads not only as a woman but as a black woman. It was in the 40's, she had her own business, she bought a car, was taught to drive, these were things that were foreign to most women."
—The
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On November 8, 1946, while traveling back from a business trip to Sydney, Nova Scotia, Viola incurred some automobile problems and had to stay in New Glasgow overnight. While waiting she decided to go to the local theatre to watch a movie. Not knowing that the theatre operated under segregation seating, she proceeded to sit in the "whites only" section. Advised by the usher that her ticket was for upstairs, Viola offered to pay the difference but was told by the cashier that she was "not permitted to sell tickets to you people."

Viola returned to the whites only section and was eventually forcibly removed by the police and theatre manager, thrown in jail, where she spent a very uncomfortable night.

The next morning Viola appeared in court, was denied her rights and charged with defrauding the Nova Scotia government of one penny and fined $26. Advised to challenge this injustice and sue the theatre manager, Viola fought for almost a year to have the charges eventually quashed by the Supreme Court. The four judges ruled against her because Viola's lawyer missed the time limit for filing the appeal.

Viola's courage and dignity during this incident and in the face of a great social injustice would change the course of history. Viola's action, determination and spirit for social justice would go on to help
Marker detail: Viola Desmond Portrait image. Click for full size.
Photographed By David Macintosh
2. Marker detail: Viola Desmond Portrait
Painting by David Macintosh, New Glasgow on permanent display at Government House.
create awareness of segregation and improve human rights, locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. The Town of New Glasgow salutes and honours Viola Desmond as a leader, social activist and champion of human rights.

Unveiled by New Glasgow Mayor Barrie E. MacMillan,
Her Honor Mayann E. Francis, O.N.S., DHumL, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia;
Councillor Clyde Fraser, Chair, New Glasgow Heritage Committee,
August 16, 2010 in conjunction with the 2010 New Glasgow Black Gala Homecoming
Interpretive Panel Design - Ashton Creative Design, Bridgeville, Pictou County

 
Erected 2010 by New Glasgow Heritage Committee.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Civil RightsEducationIndustry & CommerceWomen. A significant historical date for this entry is July 6, 1914.
 
Location. 45° 35.3′ N, 62° 38.633′ W. Marker is in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, in Pictou County. Marker is on Archimedes Street (Nova Scotia Route 4) (Nova Scotia Route 289) just north of Dalhousie Street, on the right when traveling north. Marker is located beside the walkway on the north side of the New Glasgow Public Library. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 182 Dalhousie Street, New Glasgow NS B2H 5E3, Canada. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker
Marker detail: James and Gwendolyn Davis image. Click for full size.
Photo Courtesy of Effective Publishing
3. Marker detail: James and Gwendolyn Davis
"My sister Viola had drive for learning, at an early age she was an avid reader, poring over school girl books and journals. The foundation of her character came from our Mom and Dad who gave her the ethics of hard work and fairness. She loved giving her clients the care, service and respect they deserved."
—2010 Interview, Mrs. Wanda Robson (Viola's Sister)
. Glasgow Scotland (a few steps from this marker); New Glasgow Heritage (within shouting distance of this marker); New Glasgow Town Bell (within shouting distance of this marker); George Frederick Cameron (about 90 meters away, measured in a direct line); Industrial Centre Lofts (about 120 meters away); Laurie Peace Park (about 120 meters away); New Glasgow D-Day Memorial (about 120 meters away); Bell's Corner (about 120 meters away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New Glasgow.
 
Also see . . .  Viola Desmond. Desmond’s courageous refusal to accept an act of racial discrimination provided inspiration to later generations of Black persons in Nova Scotia and in the rest of Canada. In December 2016, the Bank of Canada announced that Viola Desmond would be the first Canadian woman to be featured by herself on the face of a banknote — the $10 note released on 19 November 2018. Viola Desmond was named a National Historic Person by the Canadian government in 2018. (Submitted on January 24, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
Marker detail: Graduating Class of The Desmond Studio of Beauty Culture, 1947 image. Click for full size.
Courtesy of Effective Publishing
4. Marker detail: Graduating Class of The Desmond Studio of Beauty Culture, 1947
Front Row, left side, Viola Desmond, Instructor.

The Clarion July 2, 1947
Beauty School Graduation
Fifteen Graduate From Beauty School in Colorful Ceremony — The Graduation Exercises of the Desmond School of Beauty Culture were held in Moriarty Hall, Y. M. C. A. Halifax on June 4th. A large gathering watched as the fifteen young women received their Diplomas as Beauticians.

The list of graduates included: Joyce Dean, Dartmouth, N. S. • Verna Skinner, Halifax, N. S. • Rachel Goodridge, Halifax, N. S. • Rose Gannon, Halifax, N. S. • Evelyn Bryan, Halifax, N. S. • Helen Flint, Montreal, P. Q. • Madeline Grosse, Cherrybrook, N. S • Helen Gibson, Springhill, N. S. • Hernadine Hampden, Halifax, N. S. • Vivian Jackson, Halifax, N. S. • Dilma Joseph, Amherst, N. S. • Ruth Jackson, Halifax, N. S. • Enid Parsons, Lucasville, N. S. • Geraldine States, Halifax, N. S. • Elsie Stevens, St. John, N. B.

The Desmond School is operated by Mrs. Viola Desmond who is the instructress and founder. She is a graduate of several American Beauty Schools.
Marker detail: Roseland Theater, New Glasgow image. Click for full size.
5. Marker detail: Roseland Theater, New Glasgow
Marker detail: Posthumous Full Pardon image. Click for full size.
Courtesy Communications Nova Scotia, April 15, 2010
6. Marker detail: Posthumous Full Pardon
”On behalf of the Nova Scotia government I sincerely apologize to Mrs. Viola Desmond's family and to all African- Nova Scotians for the racial discrimination she was subjected to by the justice system in November 1946.”
—Premier Darrell Dexter, April 15, 2010

Left to Right: Wanda Robson, youngest sister of Viola Desmond; Nova Scotia Premier The Honourable Darrell Dexter; The Honourable Percy Paris, Minister, Office of African Nova Scotia Affairs; The Honourable Ross Landry, Nova Scotia Minister of Justice and Her Honour Mayann E. Francis, O.N.S., DHumL, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.
Marker detail: Grant of Free Pardon image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner
7. Marker detail: Grant of Free Pardon
WHEREAS Viola Irene Davis Desmond, born July 6, 1914, was convicted of an offence contrary to s. 8(8) of the Theatres, Cinematographs, and Amusements Act, R.S.N.S., 1923, c. 162 on November 8, 1946;
AND WHEREAS Viola Irene Davis Desmond passed away on February 7, 1965;
AND WHEREAS it is considered desirable that Viola Irene Davis Desmond be posthumously granted a Free Pardon from that offence;
NOW THEREFORE it is hereby ordered by virtue of the powers in me vested in the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy we do hereby grant a FREE PARDON to VIOLA IRENE DAVIS DESMOND from conviction entered on November 8, 1946 for an offence contrary to s. 8(8) of the Theatres, Cinematographs, and Amusements Act, R.S.N.S., 1923, c. 162.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF we have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent and the Great Seal of Nova Scotia to be hereunto affixed.
Her Honour, The Honourable Mayann E Francis
Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia
Viola Desmond Marker • <i>wide view<br>(looking east from Archimedes Street)</i> image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, July 19, 2019
8. Viola Desmond Marker • wide view
(looking east from Archimedes Street)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 24, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 21, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 752 times since then and 114 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on January 23, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on January 24, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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Feb. 27, 2024