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George Dixon's plaque is unveiled at the Africville Museum. (Photo by Joe Thomson).

African Nova Scotian boxer honoured with national historic plaque

By Joe Thomson Jun 12, 2023 | 2:16 PM

An African Nova Scotian legend was honoured today at the Africville Museum in Nova Scotia.

George Dixon was a boxer in the late 19th and early 20th century. He became the first Canadian to hold a world title in boxing and the first black athlete to become a world champion of any sport. On top of that he was also the first boxer to ever win world titles in different weight classes, as well as the first fighter to have multiple reigns as a world champion.

Dixon was born in Africville, Nova Scotia, in 1870 and battled racism and discrimination to become one of the great boxers the sport has seen. Today he was recognized with a plaque officially honouring him a figure of national historical significance.

Member of Parliament for Halifax, Andy Fillmore, was on hand for the ceremony and said that Dixon’s story is one of triumph in the face of great adversity.

“Long before there was Joe Louis, long before there was Muhammad Ali, or Mike Tyson, there was George Dixon. He made his way through this adversity to become a role model and inspiration,” said Fillmore.

A mural dedicated to Dixon can be seen outside of the Africville Museum. It was painted in 2020 to commemorate what would have been his 150th birthday. (Photo by Joe Thomson).

In addition to being a world-class athlete, Fillmore says Dixon will be remembered also for his selflessness.

“The man died penniless at the age of 38, after having given away any money that he had to charity to help others. He was absolutely selfless,” said Fillmore.

Member of the African Nova Scotian community were on hand to celebrate the unveiling of the plaque, some of them distant relatives of Dixon’s.

Aaliyah Arab-Smith is one of those distant relatives. She says her great grandfather was a Dixon and seeing her ancestor honoured in this way was inspiring.

“We’re getting recognition for the stuff that we have been doing for so many years and continue to do. Already in our hearts we know that we have that recognition within, but then having it put on a plaque is more powerful for people to come here to Africville and see the great things that we have done,” said Arab-Smith.

The process to get George Dixon recognized as a figure of national historic significance has been a long one. It first began in 2020 when a Toronto women nominated Dixon for the recognition.

Nadine Williams says she nominated Dixon as soon as she learned about who he was and his history as a boxing legend. Once she heard he was finally being recognized, she dropped everything she was doing to attend the ceremony.

“As soon as I got the invitation, I dropped everything and I’m like, ‘I’m going to Nova Scotia,’” said Williams.

Williams says that she is always looking for people or things to nominate for recognition as a figure or moment of national historic significance. She says it’s a way for her to celebrate the greatness of Black Canadians.

Because oftentimes in our Black Canadian history, there’s a lot of trauma and gloom and sadness. So, any chance to celebrate, I’m always there,” said Williams.


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