Dr. Pearleen (Borden) Oliver

(Died: July 24, 2008)

Activist / Historian / Community Leader, Nova Scotia. Born: Cooks Cove, NS.

Dr. Pearleen (Borden) Oliver was a significant figure in Nova Scotia for providing over 60 years of active leadership and community involvement as a religious and human rights leader, researcher, author, youth leader, choir director, historian and noted public speaker. She was the first Black graduate of the New Glasgow High School in Nova Scotia; was married to the renowned Rev. Dr. William Pearly Oliver, minister, social activist and educator [minister of Cornwallis Street Baptist Church (1937-1962), then the Beechville Baptist Church (until 1989); Founding Member, Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NS AACP), Black United Front (BUF), and Black Cultural Centre (BCC)], from 1936 until his death in 1989.

Community: As an activist, Dr. Pearline Oliver fought hard to remove barriers of discrimination which restricted education and employment opportunities for Blacks and other minorities in the 1940s and 1950s. She is a founder of the NS AACP and in 1947, crusaded successfully for the admission of Black women to nursing schools in Canada. She organized youth training groups, summer camps and women’s groups and was responsible for obtaining continuing education and music classes for several Black communities. She served on civic and regional youth Boards such as the Maritime Religious Education Council and the Nova Scotia Training School for Girls; mentored hundreds of girls in the process, helping them to choose and work towards achieving goals for a fulfilling life. In her lifelong involvement with the Baptist Church, Dr. Oliver has held many positions and served in many roles. In 1976, she became the first woman Moderator of the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia.

Other: As a historian, Dr. Oliver wrote and published the history of Blacks in Nova Scotia.

Honours: Several including Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2002); Honourary Doctor of Humane Letters, Mount Saint Vincent University (1993); Honourary Doctor of Letters, Saint Mary’s University (1990); Woman of the Year Award, YWCA (1981 – first recipient and 1991).

Works: Song of the Spirit (1994); From Generation to Generation (1985); A Root and a Name (1977); A Brief History of the Coloured Baptists of Nova Scotia, 1782- 1953 (1953).

Reviewed in: Journey: African Canadian History (2000); Millennium Minds (2000).