Viola Desmond

Viola Davis Desmond (July 6, 1914 – February 7, 1965) was an African-Nova Scotian who bought her own beauty parlour and beauty college in Halifax. Desmond’s story was one of the most publicized incidents of racial discrimination in Nova Scotian and Canadian history.

On November 8, 1946, Viola Desmond refused to sit in the balcony designated exclusively for blacks in the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow but, instead, she took her seat on the ground floor where only white people were allowed to sit. After being forcibly removed from the theatre and arrested, Desmond was eventually found guilty of not paying the one-cent difference in tax on the balcony ticket from the main floor theatre ticket. She was fined$20 ($251.30 in 2010[1]) and court costs ($6). She paid the fine but decided to fight the charge in court.

While the case received little attention outside of Nova Scotia, it has since gained notoriety as one of many cases fought for civil rights in the mid-20th century. Many of those familiar with Viola Desmond’s courageous stand compare her to famed civil-rights activist,Rosa Parks and her 1955 refusal to vacate a bus seat so that a white passenger could sit down.

On 14 April 2010, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova ScotiaMayann Francis, on the advice of her premier, invoked the Royal Prerogative and granted Desmond a posthumous pardon,[3] the first such to be granted in Canada.[4] The government of Nova Scotia also apologised.[5]

Viola Desmond