Province invests in scholarship to honour Portia White

The province is investing $50,000 to support a scholarship honouring internationally acclaimed singer Portia White.

“Portia White achieved international fame for her exceptional musical talent. Her accomplishments are a source of pride for Canadians and a reminder of the importance of recognizing the contributions of African Nova Scotians,” said Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Suzanne Lohnes-Croft. “This funding will help Bravura Nova Scotia award an annual scholarship to a promising student of the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts. What could be more fitting than a scholarship in Portia’s name to the conservatory where she received her musical education.”

Portia White, who was born in Truro, was a contralto who achieved fame as a classical concert and gospel singer in the 1940s and 1950s, touring Europe, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. She became the first Black Canadian concert singer to win approval across North America, despite difficulties obtaining bookings because of her race.

“Portia White is a celebrated example of excellence for her artistry and for ground-breaking achievements,” said African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince. “A scholarship in her name helps honour her important legacy.”

The Bravura Nova Scotia-Portia White Scholarship will provide $2,000 in tuition annually for one senior voice student who shows exceptional promise for a professional career in music. Bravura Nova Scotia, which supports performing arts education, is establishing the scholarship to celebrate its centennial anniversary.


It is the hope of Bravura Nova Scotia that the new scholarship in Portia White’s name will both inspire the next generation of Nova Scotia singers and support them as they work to achieve their musical goals. We invite members of the public to join us in expanding the endowment that will support this award. – Edith Hancock, president, Bravura Nova Scotia

Quick Facts:

  • Portia White (1911-1968) was one of 13 children of the Rev. Dr. William Andrew White, an American who came to Acadia University to study theology, and his wife Izie, a descendant of Black Loyalists
  • in addition to studying at the then-Halifax Conservatory of Music (now Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts), Ms. White also trained as a teacher at Dalhousie University. She taught school in Africville and Lucasville
  • in 1995, the Government of Canada declared Portia White “a person of national historic significance”
  • one of the pillars of Count Us In: Nova Scotia’s Action Plan in Response to the International Decade for People of African Descent calls for the recognition of African Nova Scotian achievements
  • Bravura Nova Scotia plans to fundraise $100,000 for an endowment to support the annual scholarship, with the province providing half that goal