Righting Historical Wrongs, Small French Town Will Honor Black WWI Soldiers

When it comes to acknowledging incidents of racism and discrimination in its history, France tends to take its time. But sometimes, a little late is better than never.

This September, the small French town of Supt will unveil a memorial celebrating Canada’s only all-black military unit during World War I, the No. 2 Construction Battalion from Nova Scotia. The battalion was stationed in Supt when the town was a thriving Canadian military base, and the black soldiers faced brutal racism while working alongside their white brothers and working to help France win the war.

“When this town recognizes these individuals on the same plaque [as white Canadian soldiers], that’s an honor they weren’t getting when they were living,” Nova Scotian lawyer Douglas Ruck says of the memorial, which will honor several of the 600 men who died on French soil. It may not mean much to those long passed, but it does point to the hope of a greater historical dialogue in France.