George Elroy Boyd, pioneering Black playwright and journalist, dies at 68

HALIFAX — Pioneering Black Nova Scotian playwright and journalist George Elroy Boyd has died at age 68.

Boyd, who was born in Halifax, passed away peacefully at a hospice in Montreal on July 7, according to an obituary in The Chronicle Herald this weekend.

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After working as a journalist and radio broadcaster, he became Canada's first Black national television news anchor in 1992 as a co-host of "CBC Morning Newsworld".

But he eventually "left broadcasting to pursue his first love of writing," his obituary states — and his work as a playwright was widely acclaimed.

Boyd's "Consecrated Ground" was nominated for a Governor General Literary Award for Drama in 2000.

The play tells the story of the residents of Halifax's Africville, the oldest Black community in Canada, which was bulldozed in the 1960s.

"With tremendous wit and gravity, George Boyd takes us back to Africville on the verge of extinction, making us a gift of characters believable in their vulnerabilities, their courage and their outrage," publisher Talonbooks says in a blurb describing the work.

Boyd was also the first African Nova Scotian to have a play professionally produced on the main stage of Halifax's Neptune Theatre in 1988 with "Shine Boy", according to his obituary.

His other works include "Wade in the Water", "Gideon's Blues", and "Le Code Noir", which told the story of Joseph Boulogne, an 18th century composer and musician in France who was known as Black Mozart.

"Wade in the Water" and "Le Code Noir" had their world premieres in Montreal productions put on by the Black Theatre Workshop theatre company founded in the 1970s.

Quincy Armorer, artistic director of the Black Theatre Workshop, said Boyd was a "very giving and very open" person who enjoyed collaborating with other writers, directors and actors.

"I remember watching him engage with emerging writers and just sharing his craft, his skill, his passion with them, and it was a beautiful thing to watch," Armorer said in an interview on Sunday.

Boyd's work often examined the stories of historical Black figures and communities, said Armorer, and the playwright was working on a piece about African-American slavery abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

But Armorer said he especially liked Boyd's play "Consecrated Ground" and had always hoped to bring it to the stage in Montreal.

"Sadly, now that I know that Geroge is gone I'm thinking a little bit more about the play and how beautiful it is," he said.

On Saturday, Halifax radio station Q104 also paid its condolences to Boyd, who wrote and read the news there in the late 1980s.

"George was a talented, smart, funny guy and will be missed," the station's music director, Anna Zee, wrote on Twitter.

A graveside service for Boyd will be held on Monday in Lower Sackville, N.S., his obituary said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2020.

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