Viola Desmond was an African Canadian business woman that was fighting discrimination at a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Viola went to Roseland theatre in Sydney, Nova Scotia to pass time while her car was getting repaired. She asked the ticket seller for a seat on the main floor, but instead she got a ticket for the balcony (the balcony seating was usually for non-white people). Viola went to the main floor to sit down because that’s what she requested, but the ticket-taker told her her ticket was for the balcony seats. Viola thought there was a mistake, so she decided to go back to the ticket seller and exchange her ticket for the main floor seating.
The cashier said “I’m sorry but I’m not permitted to sell downstairs tickets to you people.” The theatre manager, Henry MacNeil said that the theatre had a right to “refuse admission to any objectionable person.” Viola said that she was never refused admission and that she was sold the ticket but when she asked to exchange the ticket, the seller refused to exchange it. When she refused to leave her seat, a police officer came and dragged her out of her seat, and got sent to jail. The chief of police and Henry MacNeil came back to Viola in jail with a warrant for her arrest.
Viola was held in the the cell overnight. The next morning, Viola was sent to court and got charged with attempting to defraud the provincial government because she refused to pay a one cent amusement tax. The judge decided fine her $26, and six of the $26 was given to the manager of the Roseland theatre. During the court case the matter of race was never brought up, but it was very clear that the real offence Viola committed was that she sat in the main floor area where the white people sit. When the Roseland theatre manager was asked about the incident, he said there was no official rule that black people couldn’t sit on the main floor, it was “customary” he stated. Viola’s husband Jack wasn’t surprised about the poor treatment as he grew up in New Glasgow, and he said to Viola just let the issue rest. Many other black people were less accepting unlike her husband, and they took a stand.
The Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) raised money to fight her unfair case. Carrie Best, the founder of The Clarion, one of the province’s Black-owned newspaper, took a big interest in Viola’s case. Viola listened to her doctor and decided to get a lawyer to reverse her charge. Viola’s lawyer Frederick Bissett tried to sue the theatre manager for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment, but the suit never made it to trial. Her lawyer tried to apply to the Supreme Court to have the conviction put aside but since the 10-day deadline for filing an appeal passed, the conviction stood. Frederick Bissett didn’t bill Viola so the NSAACP used the funds for legal fees to help with the fight to put an end to segregation in Nova Scotia. The help from The Clarion and the NSAACP brought awareness to Nova Scotia’s black population to not be treated like second class citizens. In 1954, segregation finally ended in Nova Scotia and everybody could be treated equally.
One life lesson I learned from Viola’s journey is that no matter who is against you or who is with you, always fight for what you truly believe is right. Five words that describe viola are: Motivational because she motivated a group, then a province, then a country. Inspirational because she inspired a whole nation to do the right thing.
Powerful because when she got the majority of the black population in Nova Scotia on her side, she convinced a country to do what she wanted. Perseverance because even though she got treated terribly and all the odds were against her, she battled through it and succeeded. Confident because Viola never second guessed or doubted herself, and with everything she did, she showcased great power and confidence. Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong .
– Corinthians 16:13 this quote relates to Viola because she was very dominant with whatever she did and she didn’t let anything bring her down.