Black Soldiers

There have been people of African descent volunteering to fight for Canada from the earliest times to the present. Often, due to prejudiced views about Black people, they were not allowed to join units with others. This did not stop those who were passionate about being free; freedom was something that was often at stake and freedom was the idea that Africans, not too far removed from enslavement, wanted to preserve. They petitioned for separate Black units in order to be able to serve the ideals that they held so highly.

Black soldiers fought for (British-controlled) Canada during the America War of Independence, the War of 1812, the Mackenzie Rebellions of 1837 and many later battles. Black soldiers were of African heritage but may have been born in the United States, Europe, the West Indies, or Canada.

During World War I, an all-Black unit was made up of men from all over Canada. Called the No. 2 Construction Battalion, they were not to fight for their country, but to build shelters and trenches. They formed their own brass band. Pictou, Nova Scotia is the area where they trained, and where they departed for the European scene. It is now a National Historic Site.

William Hall, V.C.
An illustrated biography of Canadian war hero William Hall, V.C. From the Nova Scotia Museum website.

Our Roots: William Hall
A biography of William Hall from a digitized copy of Pictorial on black history, Nova Scotia from the Our Roots website.

William Hall
A biography of William Hall from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

Petty Officer William Hall
This page features a photograph of Able Seaman William Hall, recipient of the Victoria Cross. From Library and Archives Canada.

William Hall V.C. Memorial
A photograph and description of the William Hall V.C. Memorial, in Hantsport, Nova Scotia. From the We Will Remember website.

The first black VC recipient commemorated
Listen to a CBC Radio feature about the unveiling of a Canadian Legion memorial to William Hall in Hantsport, Nova Scotia.

Canada's Black Battalion: No. 2 Construction, 1916-1920
Read an online digitized copy of Calvin Ruck’s book Canada's Black Battalion: No. 2 Construction, 1916-1920. From the Our Roots website.

Blacks also fought and died for Canada in Great Wars
An article about Black Canadians who served in the British and Canadian Armed Forces. From the website for share.

To Stand and Fight Together: Richard Pierpoint and the Coloured Corps of Upper Canada
A review of a book that chronicles the participation of Black men who fought for the British during the War of 1812. From the Manitoba Library Association website.

To Stand and Fight Together: Richard Pierpoint and the Coloured Corps of Upper Canada
Click on “Preview this Book” and then scroll down to page 73 for an account of the formation of the “Coloured Corps” in Upper Canada during the War of 1812. From From the Google Books website.

Admiral Cochrane's proclamation
Read a digitized copy of Admiral Cochrane's proclamation which invited Americans to desert to the British side during the War of 1812. A Government of Nova Scotia website.

The Black loyalists: the search for a promised land in Nova Scotia
Scroll down to page 389 for information about the Cochrane Proclamation. From Google Books.

Richard Pierpoint
A biography of Richard Pierpoint, soldier, militiaman, labourer, and farmer. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

Richard Pierpoint
Read the text of "The Petition of Richard Pierpoint" submitted by Richard Pierpoint to Lieutenant Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland following his service to the British during the War of 1812. From the website for Parks Canada.

African Americans at war: War of 1812
Click on “Preview this Book” and then scroll down to page 151 for an overview of the role of Blacks in various military services on the British side in the War of 1812. From Google Books.

Edith Clayton
Scroll down to page 24 to read a profile of renowned basket weaver Edith Clayton, a descendent of “refuge Blacks” who arrived in Nova Scotia aboard British ships during the War of 1812. From the book The Haligonians: 100 Fascinating Lives from the Halifax Region. From Google Books.

No. 2 Construction Battalion
About the No. 2 Construction Battalion, a Black Canadian Expeditionary Force unit in World War I. From the Canadian Military Engineers Association.

No. 2 Construction Battalion Monument
A photo of the No. 2 Construction Battalion Monument in the Town of Pictou, Nova Scotia.

William Hall, VC April 18, 1827 – August 25, 1904
A short biography of William Hall as well as transcripts of related news stories and obituaries. From ancestry.com.

William Hall: Winner of the Victorian Cross
Read a digitized copy of the biography William Hall: Winner of the Victorian Cross. Written for young adults. From the Our Roots website.

Canada And The Victoria Cross
An article about William Edward Hall, Herbert Taylor Reade, and Campbell Mellis Douglas, three Canadian recipients of the Victoria Cross. From the Legion Magazine.

Honour Before Glory
An article about Honour Before Glory, a film devoted to Canada's one and only all-Black military battalion in the First World War, the No. 2 Construction Battalion. By writer, actor, producer and director Anthony Sherwood. From Veterans Affairs Canada.

Lest we forget
This article focuses on the legacy of the No. 2 Construction Battalion. From Sway magazine.

Honour Before Glory
A review of Honour Before Glory, a film based on the diary of Reverend William H. White, Chaplain of the #2 Construction Battalion in World War I. From the Manitoba Library Association website.

William Hall
A brief bio of decorated Canadian war veteran William Hall. From the website for the Ontario Black History Society.

Black History Month
This site is devoted to the annual celebration of Canada’s Black History Month. See profiles of notable Black Canadians and videos that highlight many of the Black community's outstanding contributions to our shared history and heritage. From Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Thomas Peters
A biography of Thomas Peters, Black soldier and courageous opponent of injustice and discrimination. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

10,000 Nova Scotians fought against slavery
An article from shunpiking magazine about Black Canadians who participated in the American Civil War.

The War-Time Elections Act
Look down the page for a brief note about the Canadian government's initial rejection of Blacks who tried to enlist in the military during World War I.

A White Man's War
Scroll down the page to see two letters about Black Canadians who tried to enlist in the military during World War I. From the Canadian Human Rights Commission website.

The Maple Leaf: July 5, 1916
About the hardships endured by Black volunteers during their service in the Canadian military in World War I. From Canada’s Department of National Defence.

The World Wars
Some brief details about the brave actions of Black Canadians who served in the military in World War I and World War II. From the Native Born website.

Captain of Souls: Rev. William White
About Captain Reverend William Andrew White, the only Black chaplain and Black officer in the British Army during World War I. From White Pine Pictures.

William Hall (1829-1904)
A photograph of William Hall, the third Canadian to win the Victoria Cross. From Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management.

William Neilson Hall
A biography of William Neilson Hall, first Black, the first Nova Scotian, and the first Canadian naval recipient of the Victoria Cross. From The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Veterans Affairs Canada: Black History Month
This Veterans Affairs Canada website is dedicated to the Second Construction Battalion, part of the extensive military legacy of Canada's Black community.

No. 2 Construction Battalion
About the No. 2 Construction Battalion, a Black Canadian Expeditionary Force unit in World War I. From the Canadian Military Engineers Association.

No. 2 Construction Battalion Monument
A photo of the No. 2 Construction Battalion Monument in the Town of Pictou, Nova Scotia.

Canadian Review of Materials: Honour Before Glory
A review of Honour Before Glory, a film based on the diary of Reverend William H. White, Chaplain of the #2 Construction Battalion in World War I.

The No. 2 Construction Battalion
A brief description of the Canada’s No. 2 Construction Battalion. From Native Born: A Brief History of the Black Presence in Pictou County.

Charlie Owens
A photograph and brief profile of Charlie Owens, a member of the No. 2 Construction Battalion in World War I. From the Council of Nova Scotia Archives.

War Veterans Arriving Home
A great photograph of Canadian war veterans arriving home. From the Ontario History Quest website.