Collection chronicling four decades of African Nova Scotian civil rights launched

The Lynn Jones African-Canadian and Disapora Heritage Collection was unveiled at an official community launch at the Halifax North Memorial Library on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Alexa MacLean/Global News

A collection documenting more than 40 years of civil rights, labour and social justice struggles in Nova Scotia and beyond has been officially unveiled to the public.

The Lynn Jones African-Canadian and Diaspora Heritage Collection was formally launched by Saint Mary’s University (SMU) on Thursday evening at the Halifax North Memorial Library, in co-operation with social activist Lynn Jones.

Jones told attendees that her inspiration to start the collection began at her family’s dining room table. She said every week the family would collect newspaper clippings and place them on the table and then clear them off on Sundays to start again. But one day her mother put a picture of Jones herself on the table, inspiring her to start her own collection.

“This provided me with the incentive to start on a journey of collecting, and as part of that collecting… it also led me into further research,” Jones said.

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She said some thought her growing collection wasn’t worthwhile, but she persevered.

“This collection is so extremely important in giving our history,” Jones said. “Memories are being lost; facts are being lost.

“If we don’t use it to continue to seek our liberation, then it just becomes like the books that sit on the shelf, get dusty and eventually they too go in the garbage because it will be said that it wasn’t useful, it wasn’t needed, and nobody was interested in it.”

She added the collection is “also just for people who want to have a look, see what’s going on.”

SMU archivist John Yolkowski said the collection not only sheds light on Jones’s political and community engagement, but also documents African-Canadian communities locally, nationally and internationally. He said the collection includes files with tens of thousands of newspaper clippings, alongside reports about environmental racism, affirmative action, struggles for justice and recognition and many other topics related to the long history of African-Canadians in Nova Scotia and beyond.

“So there really is so much of value to anyone in this collection,” Yolkowski said. “For instance, those interested in the history of Africville, their own families and genealogy, in the media coverage of minorities over the last 60 years…  and/or community action groups, as just a few examples, will find more than they dreamed of in the Lynn Jones Collection.”

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The complete collection will be available at the SMU Archives.

With files from Alexa MacLean, Global News

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