Known to many as Canada’s Rosa Parks, businesswoman Viola Desmond fought steadfastly for equal rights for Black Canadians. She was arrested in 1945 at the Roseland movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia after sitting in the “whites-only” section without paying the one-cent tax allotted to those seats. She spent a night in jail and was later tried without counsel, which resulted in a conviction of defrauding the provincial government. After paying her $20 fine, Desmond went on to fight her case in higher levels of court, but remained unsuccessful in winning what was essentially a case of racial discrimination. In 2010, she was granted a posthumous pardon.
A strong and flattering portrait of Viola Desmond gives a central focus to the stamp while a photograph and silhouette of movie seats provide the context of the theatre. Details such as theatre tickets, an image of the Roseland with the an accurate display of the current film, and a rose as the cancellation stamp are design elements used on the collection of materials to tie back to Desmond’s story.