In the 1940s and 1950s, black people weren’t allowed in certain stores or restaurants in Pictou County, and there was a long-held belief that Pictou had a bylaw banning black people from the town after sundown.
When Lawrence LeBlanc became mayor of the town, he was determined to find that bylaw and have it repealed. His staff searched, but to no avail, and LeBlanc is thankful they weren’t able to find such a hateful bylaw.
One thing is certain, though. Things have changed dramatically in the last 60 years in terms of inclusiveness. On Nov. 8, the anniversary of when Viola Desmond took her stand against segregation in the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow in 1946, LeBlanc was happy to be present at the Construction Engineering Flight in Pictou to see a poster-sized image hung with photos and text detailing the contributions of the No. 2 Construction Battalion which included 17 black men from Pictou County. As a recently retired chair of the community advisory board for the association, he was glad to see this accomplished and believes it’s fitting considering the construction connections.
The No. 2 Construction Battalion, which trained in Pictou, was comprised of a group of black men who struggled to achieve acceptance in the Canadian military. It became the first and last segregated black unit in the Canadian army.
A guest of honour at the event was Annie Reddick, whose father actually served in the No. 2 Construction Battalion and went overseas for both the First and Second World Wars.
“I never ever expected this,” she said following the unveiling, which she took part in.
She said if her father were still alive, “he’d be some glad” to see the way the unit was recognized.