Viola Desmond

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Halifax, Nova Scotia
Birth Sign
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Early in the 20th century, a Canadian citizen of mixed race named Viola Desmond led the fight for equal rights for individuals with dark skin. Her mother was Caucasian and her father was black, which was uncommon at the time in Canada. Even though there were no rules in Canada that separated whites from blacks, it was common for blacks to avoid mixing with whites. Her spouse was a barber who was black. Viola fought for black women’s access to beauty parlors and cosmetics that were previously only accessible to white people. After completing her training in beauty, she established her own salon that catered to the needs of black people. She started her own beauty line and established herself as a businesswoman. When she declined to leave a seat in a theater that was designated for white people, she gained notoriety as an activist. Despite the fact that she was charged with tax evasion, the fact that she had been given a ticket for a cheaper, black-only seat gave birth to a movement of black people who fought for equal rights.

Early Youth & Life

Her parents, James Albert Davis and Gwendolin Irene Davis welcomed her into the world as Viola Irene Davis on July 6, 1914, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She came from a big household with ten kids. Her mother was white, and her father, an African stevedore who later opened a barbershop, was of mixed race.

She grew up in a neighborhood where her parents were well-liked and engaged in the black community. Viola accepted a position as a teacher in a school for minority kids. But by introducing beauty products for those with dark skin, she hoped to meet the requirements of the black community.

Viola moved to Montréal, Atlantic City, to begin her training as a beautician at the “Field Beauty Culture School” because people of African descent were not permitted to enroll in beautician training in her hometown. She eventually completed her training at one of Madam CJ Walker’s beauty schools in New York.

She had a sister called Wanda Robson, who subsequently wrote a book titled “Sister to Courage” about the family’s activism and featured Viola’s life.

Viola Desmond’s Career

She returned to Halifax after finishing her training to launch her own hair salon, called “Vi’s Studio of Beauty Culture.” Particularly serving the black community was her boutique. Additionally, she founded the “Desmond School of Beauty Culture,” a teaching facility for beauticians. In order to stop further discrimination against black people in her profession, this was done.

She later launched her own brand of beauty products aimed specifically at serving the requirements of the black community. Up to 15 black women graduated from her school each year, and they went on to found their own businesses that gave the black community more job possibilities.

She joined her husband’s barbershop after they were married, converting it into a barbershop and hair studio. She began taking frequent business trips to promote and market her cosmetics. On one of those trips, she was accused of tax evasion, confronted racial discrimination in a New Glasgow theater, and appeared in court. She quickly made the decision to end her company and relocate to Montréal so she could enroll in a business college.

Recognition & Accomplishments

People recall Viola Desmond as a citizen who supported a cause. In 2012, “Canada Post” issued a special stamp featuring her. She was the first non-royal Canadian lady to appear on a $10 bill when that happened in December 2016.

That year, she also made history as the first lady of color to appear in an “Historica Canada Heritage Minute” short film. She was recognized as a “National Notable Person” by the Canadian government in January 2018.

Viola’s Individual Existence

Jack Desmond, who ran a barbershop on Gottingen Street, was the man she wed. He was used to being mistreated by white folks because he was raised in Glasgow. Viola, however, was a fervent advocate for the black movement calling for equitable rights.

She resisted giving up a spot in a New Glasgow movie theater that was designated for white people in November 1946. She was then forcefully taken away, placed in custody for 12 hours, and given a $20 fine. She sustained a hip injury while spending the night in a confinement. She wasn’t given bail or told that she had a lawful right to representation.

She informed her husband about the incident, and he gave her the advice to put it behind her. She did, however, resolve to pursue her case after receiving the church’s backing. She was charged with tax evasion of one cent, which was the price differential between tickets for whites and blacks because she was given a cheaper ticket for the section designated for blacks. However, her refusal to give up a seat designated for the white population was what led to her arrest, not the price disparity.

To fight a case of racial discrimination, she went to the “Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People” (NSAACP) and engaged a lawyer. The government maintained that tax evasion was taking place, though.
Despite the fact that she was unsuccessful in court, her tenacity inspired the black population in Nova Scotia to stand up for their rights.

The NAACP used the funds that were given by the attorney who represented her in court. She was urged to continue advocating for the cause, but she chose to focus on her business and beauty school. Her marriage was shortly annulled. She then relocated to Montréal before settling in New York, USA. In February 1965, she suffered a gastric hemorrhage and passed away at the age of 50. In Halifax, Nova Scotia’s “Camp Hill Cemetery,” her body was laid to repose.

64 years later, in April 2010, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia used the “Royal Prerogative” to award Viola Desmond a posthumous pardon, admitting that the conviction was incorrect and providing her with all available remedies.

She was honored with the first “Nova Scotia Heritage Day,” which was held in February 2015. Additionally, Halifax, Nova Scotia’s “Government House” now displays her picture.

Estimated Net Worth

Viola is ranked as one of the most well-liked and wealthy civil rights leaders. Our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider revealed that Viola Desmond has a net value of $5 million.


Viola Desmond is frequently compared to Rosa Parks, who started the “Civil Rights Movement” in the US by purposefully occupying a bus spot designated for white people. Although segregation on the basis of race was enforced by legislation in the US at the time, it wasn’t in Canada. However, both white people and black people agreed to maintain their distance from one another in public places.

The National Film Board of Canada published the documentary “Long Road to Justice: The Viola Desmond Story” in 2000. Cape Breton University created a scholarship fund and named a chair in social justice in Viola’s honor.

Both a children’s book called “Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged” by Jody Nyasha Warner and a song called “Viola Desmond” by Canadian social activist and musician Faith Nolan were composed about her. A boat in Halifax Harbor was given her name in July 2016.