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'Remarkable and humble man': Honouring the life and legacy of William Hall

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This year’s Heritage Day honours the life and legacy of African Nova Scotian William Hall, the first black man be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Russell Grosse the executive director of the Nova Scotia Black Cultural Centre says the recognition is long overdue.

“It’s just a remarkable that an African Nova Scotian could have made those attempts and could have been awarded that highest honour,” says Grosse.

Hall’s family escaped slavery in the United States and came to Nova Scotia following the War of 1812. Hall was born in the province.

“Sometimes we think that story is lost, I think it’s lost that people of African descent that have been in Nova Scotia for hundreds of years that we don’t think its home. We do think its home, and I think that is a telling story about William Hall, that he felt the call to come home and be in his home province,” says Grosse.

“I think when you look at the writings and history of William Hall, you see the markings of a remarkable man, but also a humble man.”

William Hall passed away in 1904 and buried without military honours.

His remains were moved years later to a grave near the Hantsport Baptist Church, where a cairn was erected.

“In that community the William Hall’s spirit lives on proudly,” says Grosse.

In 2010, Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp in his honour, and June 2015, the Royal Canadian Navy announced an Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship would be named HMCS William Hall.

Grosse says when Nova Scotia came up with the concept of Heritage Day, he thought it was a well thought out idea.

“The idea of having revolving themes and nominees each year created a base for greater understanding of our history and our shared culture, and I think that its days like today that helps us expose that culture, he says.

“Days like today allow us to look deeper at the man (William Hall), look at his legacy of 24 plus years of service in the navy and the wonderful rank he ended up retiring with as chief petty officer.”

Grosse says the Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia is currently working on a new exhibit that will focus on William Hall and his legacy.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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