Pearleen Oliver – and why she matters now
With the publication of Pearleen Oliver, a new name has surfaced in the story of Black history and the fight for social justice in Canada.
Pearleen Oliver is the woman who forced open the doors in Canada so that Black women could get nurses’ training. A founder of the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, she was spokesperson for Viola Desmond’s appeal of her 1946 conviction for challenging racist customs, and was with her in the courtroom. Pearleen kicked Little Black Sambo out of the public-school readers and insisted that all children should read genuine Black history. She worked alongside her husband, Rev. William Pearly Oliver, developing the Cornwallis United Baptist Church (today’s New Horizon Church in Halifax), mentoring hundreds of young Black women and igniting new life in the adults. A Chatelane magazine “Woman of the Year,” she was a founder of the Black Cultural Centre and the AUBA Women’s Institute.