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Pearleen Oliver Education Fund of the Black Cultural Centre

This special education fund supports programs and activities at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia in memory of a community leader and trailblazer Pearleen Oliver.

Dr. A. Pearleen Oliver

Althea “Pearleen” Borden, born in Cooks Cove, Nova Scotia June 22, 1917, was the first Black graduate of New Glasgow High School. She married Rev. W. P. Oliver in 1936 and they worked together improving opportunities for African Nova Scotians. The Olivers raised five sons: William Jr., Philip, Leslie, Jules, and Steven.

Pearleen Oliver prepared herself fully for every task she undertook. She learned secretarial skills to manage church and community affairs. She learned music, piano and organ to lead choirs and develop church music. She studied history so that she could present logical analysis of social problems and propose possible solutions. During the 1940s and 1950s she learned effective public communication so she could reveal society’s racial injustices to a wide public audience of service clubs, government bodies, churches, educators, women’s groups, youth organizations in person, on radio, in newspapers and magazines.

Pearleen Oliver actively fought racial discrimination in education and employment. In the 1940s her efforts replaced the Little Black Sambo book in Nova Scotian schools with real stories of Black achievements. Her fight to open Nursing schools to Black women resulted in two Black women nursing graduates in 1948 – the first in Canada. In 1949, Oliver, brought the NSAACP into the legal battle challenging Mrs Viola Desmond’s unjust conviction. Throughout her life, Oliver led youth groups, camps, women’s groups, choirs, continuing education and music classes in Black communities.

Dr. Oliver elevated the role of women in organized religion. Her desire to help women succeed led her to serve on civic, provincial and regional boards. In 1953 she began the Women’s Institute in the African United Baptist Association (AUBA) and in 1976 was the first female Moderator of the AUBA.

Pearleen Oliver researched and authored African Nova Scotian historical works including: Song of the Spirit (1994), From Generation to Generation (1985), A Root and a Name (1977) and A Brief History Of the Coloured Baptists of Nova Scotia 1782 – 1953 (1953). She generated pride and honour in generations of Nova Scotians as she talked and wrote broadly of the accomplished African Nova Scotian heritage of former slaves, Black Loyalists, Maroons, and the Black Refugees during the War of 1812.

Dr. Pearleen Oliver received community recognition of her accomplishments, including: Honourary Doctor of Letters (Saint Mary’s University, 1990); Honourary Doctor of Humane Letters (Mount Saint Vincent University, 1993); the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Medal (2002). At both St. Mary’s and Mount Saint Vincent Universities, Pearleen Oliver was the first African Nova Scotian woman to deliver a convocation address.She was twice recipient of the YWCA Woman of the Year Award in 1981 and 1991.

Dr. A. Pearleen Oliver passed away in July of 2008 at the age of 91. She is remembered as a human rights activist, historian, youth leader, and mentor within the community. Her spirit lives on in the lives of the people she inspired to persevere in pursuit of their dreams.

Donations can be made in the following ways:

In person at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia:
10 Cherry Brook Road, Cherry Brook, NS
Tel: 902-434-6223

By Mail:
Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia
Pearleen Oliver Education Fund
10 Cherry Brook Road, Cherry Brook, Nova Scotia – B2Z 1A8

Online: See form below.

All Canadian Donations over $15.00 will receive an official tax receipt.