Jennifer J. Nelson’s “Panthers or Thieves”: Racialized Knowledge and the Regulation of Africville focuses on the stereotypical, one-sided, approach that faced most research studies and publications about Africville in the early to mid- twentieth century. The Black community of Africville was understood to be a poor and racialized slum; ultimately key factors in its demise. The city of Halifax viewed it to be their “dump” where all social services were lacking, social conditions declined and a history of poverty was going to be indicative of how the region would be defined in the years before its destruction (Nelson 121-122). It became known to
Signify many things in the dominant community and for outsiders generally: a slum; a repository for the wastes of society; a site for danger, degeneracy, the lawlessness; a social problem; an object of pity, a site of attempted social reform and rescue; a place of daring escape and transgression (133).
The decision to do away with the long-standing community was reflected in academic studies and city-commissioned planning reports as a means to justify its removal (122). It displaced as well as destroyed a community given the dominance White society should have over Blacks in the time. Only in 2010 did the city government issue a public apology to the Africville residents as partial compensation for their struggle. The apology itself would have been difficult for the Black community to accept given that harm cannot be healed with simple verbal commemoration.
Nelson places most of her focus on the destruction of Africville based on the racism and segregation, which at the time was deeply rooted within Nova Scotian society (124). The nonexistent of aid and positive attention put into Africville to help that region turn around only pushed social conditions into further decline. Those going to Africville to study its community were White professionals who were sent by the City. It was their...