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The fonds consists of a daily diary written by Reverend William Andrew White, who served as the chaplain for the No.2 Construction Company a unit of Black Canadian and American volunteers that served in France during the First World War. The diary consists of two small annual agendas that White purchased in France. There are a very few, mostly illegible, entries before 3 October 1917 at which point White began making daily entries. These continued until 11 November 1918 after which there are a few short entries. The entries are generally very brief and consist of general observations about the unit, individuals, and White's correspondence with his family.
Reverend William Andrew White was born in Williamsburg, Virginia on 16 June 1874 to former slaves. He attended school in the Washington DC area where a Canadian missionary suggested that he might want to settle in Nova Scotia. White entered Acadia University in 1899. He competed in several sports and was active with the YMCA. He graduated in 1903 with a Bachelor of Arts in Theology; only the second black man to receive a degree from Acadia. White was then ordained as a minister with the African (United) Baptist Association and spent several years as a missionary in Nova Scotia. He married Izie Dora White in 1906, with whom he had thirteen children. By 1914 he was the minister at the Zion Baptist Church in Truro, Nova Scotia. He attested in Truro on 1 February 1917 and as a chaplain was given the honorary rank of captain, becoming the only black commissioned officer in the British and Dominion forces during the First World War.
White was chaplain to the No. 2 Construction Company, a unit composed of black volunteers from across Canada and the United States. The unit arrived in France in May 1917 and served with the Canadian Forestry Corps, mainly in the Jura Mountains. White settled in Halifax after the war where he served as minister of the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church until his death on 9 September 1936. Shortly before his death, Reverend White was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity by Acadia University.
Reverend White was always known to friends, family and colleagues by his middle name, Andrew.
See also: George Elliott Clarke, 'First black officer in British Army blazed trail but dreams were thwarted,' Globe and Mail, 1 August 2014.
Calvin W. Ruck, Canada's Black Battalion: No. 2 Construction 1916-1920, Halifax: Society for the Protection and Preservation of Black Culture in Nova Scotia, 1986.
White, William Andrew, 1874-1936 : William Andrew White was born in Virginia in 1874, the son of former Black slaves. He went to school in Baltimore and in 1898 went to study divinity at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. White graduated in 1903 with an Art's degree in Theology, was ordained a minister, and spent the next two years as a travelling missionary for the African Baptist Churches of Nova Scotia. From 1905 to 1915, Reverend White preached in Truro, NS. In 1906, he married Izie Dora White of Mill Village, NS, and together they raised a family of thirteen children.
During the First World War, Reverend White served as Chaplain to No. 2 Construction Battalion. Mobilized at Truro, NS, No. 2 Construction Battalion was recruited from amongst Blacks across Canada. Part of the Forestry Corps, the Battalion served in France from May 1917. As its Chaplain, White was made a Captain; the only Black officer in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.
After the war, Reverend White assumed the pastorship of Cornwallis Street Baptist Church in Halifax. In addition, he later provided a monthly radio broadcast of his sermons, heard across Canada and the northern United States. Reverend White was widely recognized as the spiritual leader of Nova Scotia's Black population. In June 1936, Acadia University honoured him with a Doctorate in Theology. He died in September 1936 of cancer. In 1941, memorial windows were unveiled in his Church to his memory. His life has been the subject of two films, Captain of Souls: Rev. William White (1999), and Honour Before Glory (2001).