Viola Desmond: Exercise 2 - Reading Comprehension
Answer the questions about the story.
The Story of Viola Desmond
1 Viola Desmond was an African Canadian woman from Nova Scotia. She lived in a time when black women were expected to be servants in houses, and black men were expected to be servants on trains. From a young age, Viola dreamed of having her own business. By 1946, she was making her dreams come true. Viola was only 32, yet she had her own beauty salon. She had set up a school to train other black women to work in the beauty business. She also had her own line of beauty products.
2 One day, she was driving across Nova Scotia to make a delivery. But then her car broke down in New Glasgow. She decided to go see a movie while she waited for her car to be fixed. She went to the Roseland Theatre. It was a brick building with a big sign that lit up at night. She paid for a ticket and went inside. The theatre had a main floor and a balcony. Viola sat on the main floor because her eyesight was poor and she needed to be close to the screen.
3 Just as the movie started to play, she felt a tap on her shoulder. A staff person told her she could not sit there. Her ticket was for the balcony. Viola went back to the ticket booth. She asked for a ticket for the main floor. The ticket seller said, “We don’t sell tickets on the main floor to you people.” That’s when she realized that the balcony was for black people. The main floor was for white people. Viola said that she could not see from the balcony. She put the extra money for a main floor ticket on the counter. The ticket seller would not take it, but she went back to her seat anyway.
4 That’s when the manager came in. He told her to move to the balcony, or he would call the police. Viola told him to go ahead. She wasn’t moving. She was doing nothing wrong. Sure enough, the police came. They asked her one more time to move. Viola said no. So the police grabbed her by the arms and took her from the theatre. They had to drag her. “I just sort of went limp,” Viola said. “I wasn’t going to make it easy for them.”
5 The police took Viola to prison. She sat up awake the whole night. The next day, she was taken to court. Nobody had told her she could call a lawyer, so she had to argue for herself. She didn’t know how courtrooms worked, and she was found guilty.
6 Her husband begged her to forget about what had happened and move on. But Viola bravely took the case back to court. Sadly, she lost once more. But Viola’s case brought many people together to fight for equal rights in Nova Scotia. They kept up the battle and in 1954, the province finally got rid of the laws that made it legal to treat black people differently from white people.
7 People of colour are now equal under the laws of Canada. However, racism is alive in many Canadians’ hearts and minds. Viola’s story invites us to ask: What can we do to make sure that history does not repeat itself?
Story by Shantel Ivits at BC Open Textbooks
Adapted under Creative Commons license
Adaptations and exercises by Richard Carrington, English Language Centre
Photo (edited): Viola Desmond by Hantsheroes is in the public domain
Audio version performed by Peter Polgar, English Language Centre
- Choose the best completion for this sentence. Viola Desmond ____________
- was born in Africa, but immigrated to Canada.
- was born in Nova Scotia, but emigrated to Africa.
- worked as a servant in Nova Scotia.
- was born in Canada.
- Which statement is true?
- Viola Desmond was a student at a beauty school for black women.
- Viola Desmond was born in 1946.
- Viola Desmond's car needed repairs when she was making a delivery in Glasgow, Scotland.
- Viola Desmond's car needed repairs when she was making a delivery in Nova Scotia.
- Which statement is not true?
- While her car was being repaired, Viola went to the Roseland Theatre to see a movie.
- The Roseland Theatre was a brick building.
- New Glasgow is near Nova Scotia.
- The Roseland Theatre had a large lighted sign at night.
- Choose the best completion for this sentence. Viola wanted to sit on the main floor of the theatre because ____________
- tickets for the balcony were too expensive,
- she couldn't see properly from the balcony.
- she wanted to sit with other black women.
- tickets for the balcony were all sold out.
- Choose the best completion for this sentence. Viola was taken to prison because ____________
- she refused to pay extra money for a seat on the main floor of the theatre.
- she fought with the police when they tried to remove her from the theatre.
- she refused to leave an area where black people were allowed to sit.
- she refused to leave an area where only white people were allowed to sit.
- Choose the best completion for this sentence. Viola spoke on her own behalf in court because ____________
- she didn't know that she could call a lawyer to defend her.
- she didn't have enough money to pay a lawyer to defend her.
- her husband said she didn't need a lawyer.
- no lawyer would take her case.
- Which event happened first?
- Viola paid extra money for a theatre ticket.
- Viola understood that black people were allowed to sit in the balcony.
- Someone tapped Viola on the shoulder.
- The theatre manager talked to Viola.
- Which event happened last?
- Viola went to court.
- Viola went to prison.
- The judge said Viola was guilty.
- Viola spoke for herself in court.
- Which event happened first?
- Viola started selling her own beauty products.
- Viola became 32 years old.
- Viola was arrested by the police.
- Nova Scotia made new laws treating black and white people equally.
- Which event happened last?
- Viola was found guilty a second time.
- Many people started fighting for equal rights in Nova Scotia.
- Viola's husband asked her to forget about her arrest.
- Viola went back to court.