Today's Articles

People, Locations, Episodes

Sun, 02.11.1912

William Pearly Oliver, Minister, and Activist born

William P. Oliver

*William Pearly Oliver was born on this date in 1912.  He was a Black minister, administrator, and activist.

Born in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, his great-great-grandfather was a Black Loyalist who came to Nova Scotia after the War of 1812. From 1880 to 1934, his grandfather, William Oliver, served as "caretaker of the Ladies Seminary and later College Hall at Acadia University." His parents were Clifford Oliver from Wolfville and Dorothy Moore from Halifax. His father also worked as a caretaker and janitor at the university. Oliver graduated from Wolfville High School in 1930. Oliver was captain of both the football and hockey teams.

He completed his BA in 1934 and his Bachelor of Divinity in 1936 at Acadia University. Oliver was the third black to graduate from university in Nova Scotia. Because of segregation in Nova Scotia, he could not undertake the travel necessary for university sports, so he focused on track and field, winning "most of the five-mile and ten-mile races in the Valley and other parts" of Nova Scotia. In 1937, shortly after graduating with his Divinity Degree, Oliver became a pastor at the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church in Halifax, the first Nova Scotian church owned and operated by the Black community. Reverend Oliver was the youngest minister to serve at the Cornwallis church. He served there from 1937 to 1962.

Oliver married Pearleen Borden Oliver. They had five sons. Reverend Oliver was a Captain in the Canadian armed service, serving as chaplain during World War II for the high concentration of Black troops from the three Canadian army services and the Merchant Navy stationed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was the only Black chaplain and was only allowed to minister to the Black troops in the segregated city of Halifax. Oliver helped establish the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1945. He worked part-time for the Department of Education's Adult Education Program from 1946 to 1962.

In 1949, Oliver visited the United States through the Carnegie grant, searching for new ways of "improving educational opportunities for Black communities at home." Oliver worked full-time with the Department as the Regional Representative of Continuing Education for Halifax-Dartmouth and Halifax County from 1962 until his retirement on February 28, 1977. Against the American Civil Rights Movement in the United States, Oliver and others established the Black United Front (BUF), the Black United Front of Nova Scotia's successor to the NSAACP. The "BUF consulted broadly and presented recommendations to provincial and federal leaders. The BUF asked for support to promote the teaching of African Canadian history and culture in schools and communities; build Black-owned businesses; and improve Black housing, education, and job opportunities."

In 1972, he drew up the original proposal for creating a Cultural Educational Centre and the Society for Protection and Preservation of Black Culture in Nova Scotia, also known as the Black Culture Society. The Olivers supported Viola Desmond's 1976 stand against segregation by refusing to leave her seat in the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. He served on the board of directors for Acadia University, the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, and the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Association.

Oliver served on committees for the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia, the Atlantic Regional Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, the Canadian Association on Adult Education (Nova Scotia Division), Maritime Home for Girls, Halifax-Dartmouth Welfare Council, the Mayor's Committee on Housing for the City of Halifax, the Nova Scotia Civil Liberties Association, Nova Scotia Human Rights and Civil Liberties Federation, the Education Fund for Black Students, Society for Protection and Preservation of Black Culture in Nova Scotia.

In 1985, he received the Order of Canada for advancing African Canadian civil rights. The Reverend Dr. W. P. Oliver Hall of Fame at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia is named in his honor. William Pearly Oliver died on May 26, 1989.

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

Some people think we don't have the right To say it's my country ... THIS IS MY COUNTRY by Curtis Mayfield.
Read More