The Black Nova Scotian was an indefatigable activist and defender of the Black community
It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword; the power of communication and outreach is a much more effective tool than resorting to violence. This was a long-held belief of Carrie Best, who after witnessing and experiencing much racism and discrimination during her lifetime, dedicated her life to working as a civil rights activist; advocating for the black community and other marginalized groups in Canada. Best inspired Canadians to take action against intolerance through her intelligent and thought provoking written pieces which appeared in the fittingly titled “Human Rights” column in Nova Scotia’s Pictou Advocate newspaper, her own publication the Clarion, as well as through her radio program which featured prominent black voices from the community.
Carrie Best was born on March 4, 1903 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia during a time of intense racial discrimination. She died July 24, 2001 at the age of 98.
In her early years, Best demonstrated her sharp wit and tenacity in the form of poetry and opinion pieces that were submitted to various publications.
Carrie Best was never one to stay silent; she simply would not accept the constraints that were placed on black Canadians. After hearing of high school girls who had been thrown out of a movie theatre for daring to sit in the “white” section, Best became infuriated. She also went to the Roseland theatre as a symbol of solidarity, and refused to be seated in the “black” section. Unfortunately, she was also physically removed from the building. She bravely took her case to court charging the event as a human rights violation. Though she lost her case, this propelled her to fight even harder for the rights of her people.
The lack of representation for the black community in Nova Scotia concerned her, so with this in mind she and her son launched their own newspaper The Clarion. The paper featured articles relating to black issues and served to bridge the gap between those in the black community and the rest of Nova Scotia. The Clarion became the first Nova Scotian newspaper owned by Black Canadians. This was a feat of historic proportions as it allowed for the issue of racism to be brought to the forefront.
Best continued to support her fellow black Canadians and brought attention to case of Viola Desmond, whose experience was another defining moment in the fight for civil rights in Canada. Best stood united with Desmond and featured her case prominently in the Clarion.
Though Desmond lost her court case, the work done by both women made race relations a topic of conversation all over Canada. In the subsequent years, Best also started her own radio program after finding none that fit her liking. In 1968, Best was hired by the Pictou Advocate to write a human rights column which advocated for Indigenous rights as well as the rights of other marginalized groups. Perhaps one of her most famous columns centered around the discrimination faced by black landowners on Vale Road. These property owners were being overtaxed to ensure that they would sell their property in order to launch new developments in the area. Carrie Best refused to stay silent on this issue, she conducted a thorough investigation and published her findings which were also used in a report to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
Carrie Best is the epitome of courage and determination, she had everything riding against her being a person of colour, as well as a woman. Yet against the odds she started a powerful newspaper publication, her own radio program, and continued to fight against injustices up until her last breath.
Her image appears on the Canadian $100.00 bill and postage stamp.