Old News is Good News

Black history is being taught in a whole new way in Nova Scotia’s schools, thanks to a very old medium. 

Written by Nelle Oosterom

February 5, 2018

In an age when cyberspace is the go-to place for student research, school officials have fallen back on ink and newsprint. Students in Grade 11 pore over an old-style “newspaper” — The Times of African Nova Scotians — as they learn about Nova Scotia’s rich legacy of black history.

With headlines such as “A new era of race consciousness” and “Slaves in Île Royale, 1713–1758,” the paper treats historical events as if they were happening today, complete with black and white pictures from the period and old-fashioned typefaces.

The stories, however, are not written by “ink-stained wretches” straining to meet a deadline. They are thoughtfully written by experts and are peer-reviewed.

Why teach history through the pages of a newspaper?

Canadian history became a compulsory subject for Grade 11 students in Nova Scotia in 2001, with options to specialize in particular cultural themes, including African Canadian and Mi’kmaq. But not all of the curriculum materials had been developed. Along came Tony Colaiacovo, who had an idea.

As a result, 32,000 copies of this unique historical newspaper were published in 2008. Requests have been coming in to make them available to other grades, as well as to universities and colleges, says Colaiacovo.

“It’s a cutting-edge idea, although the format is an old format,” says Colaiacovo, who believes his newspapers are popular with students “because they can hold it, they can go back and forth and examine the pictures. It’s portable. And it’s not as intimidating as a textbook.”

To acquire copies of The Times of African Nova Scotians, as well as other resources in Africentric education, visit the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute.

This article originally appeared in the October-November 2008 issue of The Beaver magazine. 

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