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“To Do Our Share”: The African Canadian Experience in World War 1

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Events & Workshop

October 21, 2016 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Date:                     Friday, Oct., 21, 2016, at 6pm and Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 beginning at 8 am.

Registration:, or call 902-585-1296 or 902-495-0815

Cost:                      $45 in advance, $50 at the door.  Students $20/$25.  All meals and refreshments are included.

Contacts:             Claudine Bonner, Assistant Professor, SociologyDepartment,

902-585, 1296

Karolyn Smardz Frost, Visiting Professor, History & Classics Department,,



Please join us for our upcoming symposium at Acadia University.  It is entitled To Do Our Share: The African Canadian Experience in WW1,  and is being held in honour of Reverend William A. White and the No. 2 Construction Battalion.  A special Friday night Friday night event, Our Excluded Past: WW1 and Discriminatory Enlistment is sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada and is also open to the community.

 Reverend William A. White was Acadia’s second Black graduate (1903), and the only African Canadian commissioned officer in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The No. 2 Construction Battalion – the famous “Black Battalion” – was Canada’s only segregated unit in World War 1.  The Canadian military resisted African Canadian enlistment until 1916, when petitions and letters to Members of Parliament were finally successful.  The soldiers of the No. 2 served courageously in England and France, providing essential support services for the war effort.

The symposium will take place at Acadia’s beautiful Fountain Commons.  Our Excluded Past: WW1 and Discriminatory Enlistment begins on Friday evening, Oct. 21, 2016, with registration at 5 pm followed by refreshments.  At 7 pm filmmaker Anthony Sherwood will present his remarkable film Honour Before Glory based on the wartime diaries of his great-uncle, the Reverend William A. White. A discussion will follow, with questions from the audience.

On Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 To Do Our Share”: The African Canadian Experience in World War 1 begins with a light breakfast at 8 am, with a warm welcome starting at 9 am.  There will be three panels entitled “Reverend William A. White: Faith, Courage and Community”; “Black Men and the Great War;” and the “African Canadian Experience in WW1: Commemoration and the Creation of Public Memory.”

Special presentations will include a lunch-time keynote, also sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada, by Dr. James St. George Walker, who is the author of ““Race and Recruitment in World War 1: Enlistment of Visible Minorities in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.”A feature of the symposium will be student posters commemorating the experience of other racial and ethnic groups excluded from the well-known narratives of the First World War.

There will be a gala dinner presentation bypoets George Borden, author of “The Black Soldier’s Lament,” and Dr. Afua Cooper, author of “Negro Cemeteries.”  Book and DVD signings by Anthony Sherwood, Lindsay R. Ruck, and Dr. Walker are planned, and there will be publishers in attendance with volumes and other items of interest to participants.

Descendants of No. 2 Construction Battalion veterans are invited to bring with them letters, documents, medals, parts of uniforms, or other historical items pertaining to their ancestors’ service. The Nova Scotia Museums are sponsoring a “pop-up museum,” where WW 1 artifacts and documents can be scanned or photographed.  The plan is to create a digitized archive to be shared between the Nova Scotia Black Cultural Centre and Acadia University so students, teachers, scholars, members of the community and the public can learn more about Reverend White and the No. 2 Construction Battalion,who served this country so bravely and so well.

These exciting events are sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; the Royal Society of Canada; the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage; Acadia University; the Nova Scotia Black Cultural Centre; and the Wolfville Historical Society.