Historically black church seeks new name to replace 'oppressor' Cornwallis

Historically black church seeks new name to replace 'oppressor' Cornwallis
From CTV - September 17, 2017

HALIFAX -- For 185 years, the white clapboard church in Halifax's north end has been a gathering point for the African-Nova Scotian community, a place of worship, Sunday barbecues and winter coat drives.

It was founded by the son of a slave, and survived the 1917 Halifax Explosion.

But the historic Cornwallis Street Baptist Church is now distancing itself from a controversial part of Halifax's past: The city's founder.

The church has launched a contest inviting members of its congregation to suggest a new name for the pre-Confederation house of worship, originally called the African Baptist Church.

"Even though we are named for our location, it still has that negative connotation for our Mi'kmaq brothers and sisters," pastor Rhonda Britton said in an interview. "We do not want to contribute to people's oppression. We want a new name for the church that reflects who we are and what we stand for."

Shortly after arriving in Chebucto Harbour in 1749, Col. Edward Cornwallis issued a reward of 10 Guineas on Mi'kmaq scalps. The British soldier's violence towards Indigenous locals has prompted calls for his name to be removed from schools, rivers, streets, parks and monuments.

Opponents have argued that striking his name from public places is an attempt to "rewrite" or "erase history" and warn against judging an historical figure by modern standards.

Yet others say there is a difference between teaching history in books and classrooms and honouring people who incited genocide.

"You ca not erase him from history and nor do you want to because it's important for you to know your history and remember your history," Britton said. "But you do not have to erect statues and glorify that ugly history."

While debate in the province over naming monuments and places after people from the past has largely focused on Cornwallis, a move by Montreal to remove the name Amherst from a street has prompted discussion about a small town in northwestern Nova Scotia.

Amherst, N.S., was named for Jeffery Amherst, who supported giving smallpox-laced blankets to Indigenous peoples.


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