BY Farida Dawkins, 8:03am March 09, 2018,

Canada is first country in the West to feature a black woman on bank note

UNDATED -- Undated archival handout photo of Viola Desmond. On April 15, 2010, the Nova Scotia legislature will grant a controversial, posthumous pardon to Desmond, whom many consider Canada's Rosa Parks. In 1946 Viola Desmond was arrested and jailed for sitting in the whites-only section of a local cinema. The case ignited the civil rights movement in Canada. MANDATORY CREDIT: HANDOUT PHOTO: Effective Publishing Ltd. For Richard Foot (Canwest) CNS-PARDON

Most banknotes around the world display the image of white males.  Well, Canada has just flipped the script and featured a $10 Canadian dollar emblazoned with the image of Viola Desmond, a civil rights pioneer in Nova Scotia. 

Desmond is the first Canadian woman of African descent and the second woman in Canadian history to have their likeness placed on currency.

Canada is first country in the West to feature a black woman on bank note

150th anniversary of confederation commemorative bill featuring Agnes Macphail

In 2017, there was a release of a commemorative bill celebrating the 150th anniversary of the confederation which showcased Agnes Macphail, the first woman elected to Canadian parliament. She appeared along with three men.

Canada is first country in the West to feature a black woman on bank note

New $10 Canadian bill…YouTube

The new bill is purple in hue and will also be the first banknote in Canada to have a vertical versus a horizontal design.

The inspiration:

Viola Irene Desmond was a Canadian civil rights activist.  She boldly fought racial segregation when she refused to leave the “whites-only” section of the Roseland Film Theatre in New Glasgow; a province of Nova Scotia.  Subsequently, she was convicted of a tax violation for the one-cent difference in where she sat and where she was supposed to sit.

Apart from being an activist, Desmond was also a beautician and developed her own line of beauty products, Vi’s Beauty Products. She was required to receive cosmetology training in Montreal, Atlantic City, and one of Madam C.J. Walker’s schools in New York due to discrimination.  Eventually, she opened up her own school named The Desmond School of Beauty Culture so that future beauticians would not face the same fate she once had faced.

After a trial initiated by the Roseland Film Theatre incident in which she lost the case, Desmond moved to Montreal and enrolled in business college. She then relocated to New York where she died of a gastrointestinal hemmorhage on February 7, 1965. She was buried at Camp Hill Cemetary in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: March 12, 2018


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