5 Interesting Facts About Viola Desmond

Vishakha Sonawane
The black civil rights activist will be the first Canadian woman to grace the country's $10 bill.

A black civil rights activist, who challenged racial segregation in Canada in the 1940s, will be the first Canadian woman to be featured on the country’s $10 bill, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Thursday. Viola Desmond will grace the banknote in 2018.

In 1946, Desmond was arrested and convicted for sitting in a section reserved only for whites in a movie theater in New Glasgow. She died in 1965 and 45 years after her death she received an official pardon and apology from the governor of Nova Scotia.

Desmond was selected from a list suggested by the public. These suggestions were further narrowed down to 461 eligible candidates.

Following are some facts about Desmond:

  • Desmond’s father was black and her mother’s side was white, which prompted her to identify herself as “mixed race” and as “colored.” Interracial marriage was not a common scene in the country during those days.

  • Born and raised in Halifax, Desmond was a teacher to black students in the racially segregated school system in the city.

  • She became a businesswoman after starting a hairdressing salon called Vi’s Studio of Beauty Culture. Desmond also started an academy for black beauticians who were not allowed in whites-only beauty schools in Nova Scotia.

  • Desmond’s visit to the theater where she arrested was unplanned. Her Dodge sedan broke down when she was on her way to a business meeting in Sydney, Nova Scotia. She decided to go watch the psychological thriller “The Dark Mirror” till the time her car repaired.

  • She was fined $20 and imprisoned for 30 days in jail.

  • Police are reported to have injured Desmond’s hip when they dragged her out of the theater.

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