Press Conference and Stamp Unveiling

The Black Cultural Society / Centre of Nova Scotia, the 100th Anniversary Planning Committee, in partnership with Canada Post, will be unveiling a limited edition stamp featuring the No. 2 Construction Battalion. Along with the unveiling, the committee will be sharing details on the many events taking place over the next few months to commemorate and remember the No. 2 Construction Battalion.

Date: Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Where: Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, 10 Cherry Brook Road, Cherry Brook N.S.

Background:

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Black Nova Scotians responded patriotically to the call to arms. Despite being ready and willing to serve overseas, and contrary to official government policy, they were told by most unit commanding officers “this is a white man’s war.” As a result, the vast majority of Black men were turned away to avoid an integrated army.

Determined to serve, Black Canadians rallied for equality. The solution was a segregated battalion. On July 5, 1916, over 600 Black men – about 300 from Nova Scotia and another 300 or so from the rest of Canada, the United States and the British West Indies – formed No. 2 Construction Battalion, C.E.F. The all-Black construction unit, commanded by white officers, was designated to support the front lines on the Western Front in Europe. They assisted four forestry companies in logging, milling and shipping lumber ‒ an essential commodity during the war ‒ dug trenches, built railroads, repaired roads and laid barbed wire to contribute to the combat troops in the achievement of their mission.

Their sweat and tears peppered the fields of France and the unit returned to Canada in January 1919. In September 1920, the Battalion was disbanded, only to fall back into the shadows. Their legacy was not brought to light until decades later by the late Senator Calvin W. Ruck and the Black Cultural Society / Centre.

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of No. 2 Construction Battalion (aka the “Black Battalion”). Canada’s first and only segregated all-Black unit paved the way to a future of diversity, as demonstrated in today’s armed forces. With the simple desire to serve their country, these men forged a remarkable legacy and are an important part of this country’s history.

The purpose of this program is to increase awareness of the history of No. 2 Construction Battalion and provide a greater understanding of the sacrifice and efforts made by these Black Canadian soldiers. The Black Cultural Society / Centre of Nova Scotia and the Centennial Planning Committee will be hosting and taking part in several months of events and activities commemorating No. 2 Construction Battalion. The program will culminate in a large-scale event to be held July 9, 2016 in Pictou, Nova Scotia – the site of the battalion’s official monument.

Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia

The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Black Culture in Nova Scotia (better known as the Black Cultural Society) was incorporated as a charitable organization in 1977. The Society’s Board of Directors is made up of representatives from various Black communities throughout Nova Scotia and one representative of the African United Baptist Association.

The genesis of the Black Cultural Centre lay in a proposal put forward in 1972 by Reverend Dr. William Pearly Oliver for the creation of a Cultural Educational Centre to meet the needs and aspirations of the Black Communities of Nova Scotia.

The sod-turning ceremony took place April 24, 1982. Seventeen months later, on September 17, 1983, the Centre officially opened. Many events have taken place at the Centre, such as cultural portrayals in the form of music, plays, concerts, as well as educational activities in the form of workshops, lectures and guided tours. Programs of the Black Cultural Centre extend beyond its doors to the broader community of Nova Scotia. This outreach is achieved through cultural events across Nova Scotia.

For further information, please contact the Black Cultural Centre: Russell Grosse, Executive Director, Black Cultural Centre Craig M. Smith, President of the Black Cultural Society

Telephone: 902-434-6223 Toll Free: 1-800-465-0767 E-mail: contact@bccns.com

Publicity & Marketing Chair Lindsay Ruck rucklindsay98@gmail.com 902-293-5236

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