Friday, July 23, 2010

The Hermit of Africville: the life of Eddie Carvery , by Jon Tattrie

Journalist Jon Tattrie’s account of the life of Eddie Carvery is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of Halifax or in civil rights in general. The book focuses on Eddie Carvery, a man resolved to right the wrongs of what happened to his community.

Central to the book is Eddie’s life-long protest of the destruction of Africville; a community ruined by the very city it was part of. Although this happened in recent history, many Haligonians have only a passing knowledge of what happened to Africville and its people. Beyond Halifax, people have taken note — the United Nations declared the destruction of Africville to be a human rights violation.

Eddie Carvery has lived in Africville all of his life, including the 40 years since the community was destroyed. Sometimes living in a tent, other times in a trailer, he has weathered the extremities of Nova Scotia’s climate — snow and ice, wind and rain, sun and heat, all in the name of the longest civil rights protest in Canadian history.

The official destruction of Africville began in 1962, when bulldozers from the city of Halifax razed homes, sometimes giving people $500 for their property, sometimes not. I would argue that the destruction of Africville began before that, back when the city dump arrived. Or when Eddie’s childhood swimming pond became polluted from waste pumped in from the Infectious Diseases Hospital that was built just up the hill.

By 1970, no one (and nothing) was left in Africville. No one, that is, except for Eddie Carvery. Since beginning this protest, Eddie has spent many nights alone, sometimes enduring harassment, usually battling the elements, but never wavering from his demands:
1. Individual compensation for the victims of the Africville diaspora
2. A public inquiry
3. A public apology

In February 2010, the Mayor of Halifax apologized to the people of Africville. Eddie was there to hear the apology, but he continues the protest, spending his days and nights in what was once Africville, waiting with an admirable patience and tolerance for his other demands to be met.

Jon Tattrie spent many hours with Eddie to write this book. Jon also did his homework, scouring old newspaper articles and interviewing countless others. (He even credits Halifax Public Libraries’ archived materials about Africville in the book's afterword, we’re glad we could help.) Jon will launch The Hermit of Africville on Saturday, July 24 at 2 p.m. in Africville. Of course, Eddie will be there, too.

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