A Winnipeg high school student who put pen to paper to tell the story of Viola Desmond’s struggle for justice after being arrested for sitting in the whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre has earned a Governor General’s History Award for her work.
Elly Hooker, 15, is one of two young Canadians heading to Ottawa this week to be honoured with the Kayak Kids’ Illustrated History Challenge, a prize meant to foster the artistic talents and historic knowledge of students between the ages of seven and 14.
Hooker, who is now in Grade 10 at Linden Christian School, told Desmond’s story through an eight-page comic she wrote and illustrated for a social studies project last year.
“I think she’s got guts — she was a black woman and she was a really successful business woman which was not common in that time period — so I think she’s a really cool figure in history because she had all these accomplishments but they treated her so horribly just because she was black,” said Hooker, who says she first learned about Desmond through an exhibit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. “I wanted to learn more about what her story was all about — especially because she’s going to be on the 10 dollar bill soon.”
Sparking a movement
Desmond, who found success running a beauty school and marketing a line of beauty products catered especially to women with darker skin tones, helped to start the modern civil rights movement in Canada after refusing to leave her seat in a racially segregated New Glasgow, N.S. movie theatre in November 1946.
Only white people were allowed to sit on the main floor, but Desmond refused to sit in the balcony section and was forcibly removed from the theatre, arrested, and kept in jail overnight.
She was convicted of tax evasion for not paying the…