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Viola Davis Desmond was one of the most successful Canadian, Black or White, entrepreneurial women of her time. She was born in Halifax’s

North-end on 6 July 1914 to
James Davis and Gwendolyn Johnson Davis. Being born in 1914 meant that Viola survived the Halifax explosion of 1917. During that disaster she was blown from her high chair. The Halifax
Explosion is a main incident in Viola’s eventful life. She was the 5 th child of eleven children. Viola’s maternal grandfather, Henry Johnson was originally from West Virginia and had
graduated theology at the Tuskegee Institute (Reynolds, 2016, 70). Before the turn of the century he had been a minister at the Cornwallis St. Baptist Church in Halifax (Backhouse, 1999,
71). He met his wife, and Viola’s grandmother, Susan Smith, in New Haven, Connecticut, where
he had invested in real estate before moving his family to Halifax. From the 1890’s to the 1930’s..

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This article was written by:

Dr. Afua Cooper


Wade Plaff


Dr. Afua Cooper is an award-winning historian, poet, and multidisciplinary artist. She teaches Black Studies at Dalhousie University

and is the Halifax's Poet Laureate.

Works include:  The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Slavery in Canada, and the Burning of Old Montreal (HarperCollins, and the University of Georgia Press)
La Pendaison d'Angelique (Les Editions de L'Homme)

to: Depts. of History, and Sociology and Social Anthropology, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Gender and Women's Studies at Dalhousie University Halifax; Poet Laureate: Halifax Regional Municipality; President: Black Canadian Studies Association;
Chair: Blue Ribbon Panel on Lord Dalhousie's Relationship to Race and Slavery;
Co-Chair: Dalhousie Black Faculty and Staff Caucus; Honouree: Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission Award for Contributions to Education and,  Honorary Queen Mother: Ga Nation, Ghana

Wade Plaff


Wade was born in Toronto in 1966 shortly after his parents immigrated to Canada from South Africa,
after the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. He has undergraduate degrees in Fashion Arts, Community
Studies, and Anthropology, and has more than thirty years experience as a guitarist, songwriter, and
interior decorator. His most recent project, the history of jazz in the Black communities of Canada,
explores the little-known cultural heroes of the Black Canadian jazz scene between the two world wars (1918-1939).

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