Black History Mint

Royal Canadian Mint dedicates its first Black History Month coin

to Viola Desmond

Civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond

In celebration of Black History Month, the Royal Canadian Mint is proud to announce that its very first Black History Month coin pays tribute to Canadian civil rights pioneer, Viola Desmond.  In 1946 Ms. Desmond was arrested and later tried after refusing to sit in a segregated area of a New Glasgow, Nova Scotia movie theatre. It became a catalyst for equal rights in Canada. Ms. Desmond’s exceptional legacy is now preserved on a 99.99% pure silver coin, to be issued in time for the 105th anniversary of her July 6, 1914 birth.

An early strike of this coin was recently presented to Viola Desmond’s sister, Ms. Wanda Robson, as a gesture of thanks for Ms. Desmond’s special contribution to Canada.  “The engraved details in Viola’s portrait are beautiful, it is so striking. That’s Viola,” said Ms. Robson.

“While diversity and respect for civil rights are widely hailed as defining Canadian values, it is important for us to remember that achieving equality in Canada required courageous acts such as Viola Desmond’s defiance of unfair local segregation customs in 1946,” said Jennifer Camelon, Interim President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint.  “Sharing the honest and compelling story of Viola Desmond on our very first coin honoring Black History Month is an excellent way to celebrate an extraordinary Canadian who helped our nation become admired for our cultural diversity and compassion.”

Working with Wanda Robson and her husband Joe, Mint engravers adapted the famous portrait of Viola Desmond to design the 2019 $20 fine silver coin crafted in her memory.  Her image is accompanied by a double date separated by a stylized heart evoking the pendant she wore in her iconic photograph.  Ms. Desmond’s signature adds yet another personal touch to the design of this coin which is accompanied by a new $10 Viola Desmond banknote.

Ms. Wanda Robson with the Royal Canadian Mint silver collector coin honoring her sister, Canadian civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond (Halifax, NS, January 24, 2019) (CNW Group/Royal Canadian Mint)

The origins of Black History Month are traced to Harvard-educated African American historian Carter G. Woodson who, in 1926, proposed setting aside a period of time to honour the accomplishments of African Americans and raise awareness of Black history.  A similar observance soon followed in Canada.  After the unanimous approval of a motion proposed by Senator Donald Oliver in February 2008, the month of February was officially declared Black History Month in Canada.

Limited to a mintage of 8,000 the Viola Desmond fine silver coin and bank note set retails for $149.95 and will be available for purchase in late June 2019.

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