Viola Desmond is the first Canadian woman ever to be featured on a regular bank note. Her outstanding contribution to Canada was her defiance in the face of racism, an act of courage that still inspires efforts to right the wrongs of racial inequality and advance human rights.

Through photographs, video and never-before-seen artifacts, this exhibition explores both the life of Viola Desmond and the imagery of the bank note she appears on.

Viola Desmond dreamed of opening her own beauty salon. However, the 1930s was not a time when a woman, and especially a Black woman, had much opportunity to succeed in business. Nova Scotia beauty schools wouldn’t accept Black women, so Viola trained in Montréal and the United States, opening Vi’s Studio of Beauty Culture in Halifax in 1937. That was just the beginning.

Viola later established a beauty school and created a line of cosmetics she marketed across Nova Scotia. It was during her 10th year of business, however, when something happened that would disrupt this life—she went to a movie.