SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- A group of nurses from Alabama arrived by cruise ship on the Saint John waterfront today as a part of an expedition a year in the making.

They belong to a Nurse’s Alumni Association, and they are interested in learning about Black history in the Maritimes.

Black historians have put together exhibits and presentations for their arrival, but they say they were a bit surprised to learn there was interest in this topic, coming from so far away.

“They had heard that there was some Black history in the province of New Brunswick they’d like to hear about, and I came alive. I came alive, to think over 60 of them came up for our history,” said David Peters, Black historian.  

The visitors explain that their interest had been peaked by recent books and movies.

“In looking at the movie The Book of Negroes, and the movie Twelve Years a Slave, we knew that there was something here of interest that we needed to come and explore,” said visitor Jacqueline McCarroll.

The nurses are from the community of Tuskegee, Alabama, famous as being the home of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first squadron of black firefighter pilots in the U.S. air force. Their story has also been celebrated in several major films and they are a major source of pride for these visitors.

Organizers say plans are in the works for similar tours to continue connecting visitors with black history from the Maritimes to that in the Deep South.

“This really has opened the doors because they said this will be a sample tour and from that other connections will be made,” said Peters.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron