News release

Heritage Day Honours William Hall

African Nova Scotian Affairs
Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage
Heritage Day honouree William Hall (contributed)

William Hall, a 19th-century Victoria Cross recipient, is being honoured on Heritage Day in Nova Scotia, Monday, February 19. (Contributed)

African Nova Scotian William Hall, a 19th-century Victoria Cross recipient, will be honoured on Heritage Day, Monday, February 19.

“Today, we remember William Hall and his unique place in Canadian history: the first Nova Scotian and first individual of African descent to be awarded the Victoria Cross,” said Lt.-Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc. “Throughout his distinguished career with the Royal Navy, Mr. Hall epitomized gallantry and perseverance. His example has inspired generations of Nova Scotians, and his legacy continues to influence traditions of the Royal Canadian Navy.”

The Victoria Cross is the British Empire's highest award for bravery. Mr. Hall was a member of the Royal Navy and served in the Crimean War and the First War of Indian Independence.

“We pay tribute to William Hall, a man whose resilience and bravery stand as a beacon for all Nova Scotians, from our ancestors to the present generation,” said Twila Grosse, Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs. “His story is a powerful reminder of the contributions African Nova Scotians have made to our province's heritage and the ongoing importance of recognizing and celebrating these contributions.”

William Hall was born in 1827, the son of African Americans who fled enslavement in Maryland during the War of 1812 and settled in Nova Scotia. He enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1852, retiring as a petty officer first class in 1876. He died in 1904, and in 1947, a memorial was built in Hantsport, Hants County, to honour him.

Several events are being held to recognize William Hall, including a community celebration this evening, February 15, at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook. On Heritage Day, an event celebrating the life and legacy of Mr. Hall will be held at Admiralty House Navy Museum in Halifax.


“We recognize William Hall on Heritage Day for his heroism and resilience during his service with the Royal Navy. He became an inspiration for the military and a source of pride for Canadians and persons of African descent everywhere. I encourage Nova Scotians to learn more about the achievements and contributions of Nova Scotians and our cultural heritage.”
— Allan MacMaster, Minister of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage

“William Hall received the country’s highest award for his valour and bravery. He was a shipbuilder, an able sailor and a naval hero who accomplished these things at a time when diversity and equality were not part of the common language. As a Canadian and a Black Nova Scotian, I am proud and humbled to serve as ship sponsor for HMCS William Hall.”
— Craig Gibson, HMCS William Hall ship sponsor

Quick Facts:

  • HMCS William Hall is the fourth Harry DeWolf-class Arctic and offshore patrol ship for the Royal Canadian Navy
  • in naval tradition, a ship sponsor is chosen to be part of the official naming ceremony for a ship; Mr. Gibson, a retired RCMP chief superintendent, had a prominent role in the naming ceremony for HMCS William Hall in April 2023
  • in 2010, Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp and Parks Canada designated William Hall a person of historical significance
  • launched in 2015, Heritage Day is an annual statutory holiday that honours the remarkable people and places that have contributed to Nova Scotia’s history

Additional Resources:

More information on Nova Scotia Heritage Day 2024 honouree William Hall and this year’s celebrations is available at:

February Holiday Act:

Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage: