BC Black History Awareness Society (BCBHAS)

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” - Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr.

EDUCATION

It was the stated desire of the first Black settlers to avoid school segregation and this was achieved in British Columbia in direct contrast to the experiences of Blacks in other parts of Canada.  As Winks (op.cit. p. 386) notes, it was not until September 1965 that “the last segregated school in Ontario closed its doors.”  The last segregated school in Canada, which was in Lincolnville, Nova Scotia, closed in 1984.  This section contains information about the schools and integration, Black teachers and Black School Board members in B.C.

Table of Contents

General Information

Schools and Integration

Teachers

School Board Members


 

A. GENERAL INFORMATION

Books and Articles

Davis, M & Krauter, J.  The Other Canadians.  , op.cit. p. 46.

The authors note that less than half a dozen Canadian Blacks graduate from the University of British Columbia in all the years up to 1966.

Kilian, C. Go Do Some Great Thing (1st edition). , op.cit. pp. 156, 166; 2nd edition p.137

Kilian notes that Wealtha Alexander, a Black student, attended Victoria High School in the early 1900s.  He also notes the findings of the 1971 BCAACP survey describing the distribution of a sample of Black students throughout various levels of the school system.

Manuscripts

Black Community Survey, op.cit. pp. 16, 17.

It is reported in this 1971 survey that out of a sample of 148 children, 33 were pre-schoolers, 71 were in elementary school, 35 were in secondary school, 1 in vocational training and 8 were in colleges, universities or other forms of post-secondary education.  It is also noted that “there were no complaints about the quality of education our children were receiving except for the very strong feeling that both Black children and other children in the schools would be better equipped to understand themselves and each other if non-white peoples and their stories were presented in the schools.”

B. SCHOOLS AND INTEGRATION

Books and Articles

Brown, R.  The Negroes, op.cit.., p. 238.

Brown states that the first Black settlers desired “the deliberate abandonment of distinct institutions which they had been forced to develop in the United States.”  A separate school system was one of these institutions which they did not want.

Kilian, C. Go Do Some Great Thing (1st edition). , op.cit. pp. 79. 80.

Kilian cited information contained in Lady Franklin Visits the Pacific Northwest that there had been some pressure to segregate Church schools in the early 1860s but concludes, “Though American whites periodically agitated for school segregation in Victoria, they got nowhere.  Blacks and whites attended classes together, and in general got along well.”

Smith, D.B. (Ed.) Lady Franklin Visits the Pacific Northwest. Op.cit. pp, 10, 34.

It is noted that Americans threatened to withdraw their children from Church schools if Black children remained but Bishop Hills would not comply with their demand for removal of Black children and the threatened withdrawal never took place.  While visiting Victoria, Lady Franklin observed evidence of integrated schools.  She reports that Blacks, including Peter Lester’s daughter, went to Mrs. Wood’s school along with the English and American girls.  At the boys’ school she visited she noted that “there were not more than two or three colored boys and even these were not very dark.”  One of these “coloured boys” was Charles Mitchell, a former slave who was granted his freedom in Victoria.

Manuscripts

Pilton, J. Negro Settlement in British Columbia, 1858-1871. , op.cit. pp. 36, 203.

Pilton mentions that the first Black settlers intended to avoid segregation and that “in the matter of education at least, there appears to have been no segregation in colonial schools.”

Newspapers

Colonist, April 11, 1864.

The article reports that a mass meeting was held to discuss the establishment of public schools free to all classes and creeds.  One man suggested the separation of Blacks and whites but met strong opposition from the audience and the chairman of the meeting.

Aural History Tape

Tape #791: 1-1965.  Interview with Len Bittancourt, aged 72, a Saltspring Island resident of British descent.

Bittancourt states that the Black community was well integrated on the Island.  He mentions that he attended school with Bobby Woods, a Black person.

 

C. TEACHERS

NORMAN E. ALEXANDER

Manuscripts

Black Community Survey, op.cit. pp. 6

Alexander is noted as being an Assistant Master of The British Columbia Institute of Technology at the time of the survey in 1971.

BARBARA HOWARD

Born and raised in Vancouver; Howard graduated from UBC in 1959 attaining a B.Ed. and was the first member of a visible minority hired by the Vancouver School Board. She worked as a Vancouver school teacher until 1984. In her later years, she remained active in the community volunteering as a peer counsellor. 

Newspapers

Sun, February 25, 2017.

“Barbara Howard – Obituary”.

Globe and Mail, March 7, 2017

“Barbara Howard – Obituary”.

These obituaries provide biographical details about her life, accomplishments and family. These articles were published after her death on January 26, 2017.


Digital

UBC News, March 8, 2017.

“Remembering Barbara Howard”.

 

JOHN CRAVEN JONES

John C. Jones, a graduate from Oberlin College in Ohio, is noted as having been the first teacher on Saltspring Island in the early 1860s.  He opened a school in Vesuvius in 1864 and is said to have taught until 1869 without pay.  The settlers were appreciative and are said to have paid him in-kind.  They all signed a petition sent to Governor Kennedy in 1864 requesting that Jones be paid but this was not acted upon until 1869 when after Jones had taught without payment for almost a decade, the Government granted him a salary of $500.00 per annum.  Jones taught from twelve to eighteen students of all races and ages in various parts of the Island and often had to brave the potential dangers of wildlife and attack by Indians while walking to get to his students.

Books and Articles

Flucke, A.F. Early Days on Salt Spring Island, op.cit. pp 175, 188, 194.

Herberg, Ruth. The Teacher of Salt Spring Island.  No date or publisher given – Jones, J.C. File.

Johnson, F. Henry. John Jessop: goldseeker and educator.  Vancouver, Mitchell Press Ltd., 1971. P. 99.

Killian C. Go Do Some Great Thing. op.cit. , 1st edition pp. 109, 113, 114; 2nd edition p. 92.

Pires, B. Saltspring: A Sense of Freedom. , op.ci. , pp. 38-44.

Roberts, E. Saltspring Saga. , op.cit. , pp. 16, 17.

Wilson, E.G.  Saltspring Island. , op.cit. , p. 22.

Winks, R. The Blacks in Canada. , op.cit. , p. 278.

Manuscripts

Irby, C.  Black Settlers on Saltspring Island in the Nineteenth Century.  op.cit. p.10

Pilton, J.  Negro Settlement in British Columbia 1858 – 1871. , op.cit. , p. 135

Wilson, J. Donald & Dahlie, Jorgan.  Negroes, Finns, Sikhs: Education and Community Experience.   University of British Columbia thesis, 1971 p. 6.   (PA)

Newspapers

Colonist, November 18, 1856 “Lovely Island Knew War”.

Province, August 6, 1963, p.4, “Integration Lesson on a B.C. Island”.

Sun, October 26, 1970, p. 38. “Negroes Pioneered Salt Spring Island”.

Colonial Correspondence

J.C. Jones and F.D. Lester to Governor Kennedy, May 18, 1864.

This is a petition signed by Saltspring residents requesting that Jones and Lester be granted a salary.

J.P. Booth, Thomas Griffiths, Abraham Copeland, to P. Hankin, October 26, 1869.

This letter mentions John C. Jones and his teaching qualifications for approval of salary from the Governor.

FREDERICK D LESTER

Several authors note that Lester acted as John Jones’ teaching assistant on Saltspring Island in the 1860’s and that he too taught without pay.

Books and Articles

Flucke, A.F. Early Days on Salt Spring Island, op.cit. p 188.

Killian C. Go Do Some Great Thing. , op.cit. , 1st edition pp. 109; 2nd edition p. 92.

Roberts, E. Saltspring Saga. , op.cit. pp. 16,17.

Winks, R. The Blacks in Canada. , op.cit.  p. 278

 

EMMA STARK

Emma Stark was the 1st Black teacher on Vancouver Island.

Books and Articles

Gould, J. Women of British Columbia. , op.cit.  p. 107.

The author mentions that Emma Stark taught in a one room school log cabin in North Cedar District near Nanaimo in 1874.

Kilian, C. Go Do Some Great Thing. , op.cit. , 1st edition p. 154; 2nd edition p. 133.

Kilian notes that Emma Stark, the oldest daughter of Sylvia and Louis Stark, became a teacher while still a teenager and worked for many years on Vancouver Island in the 1870’s and 1880’s.

Newspapers

Nanaimo Free Press, August 1874.

The article reports that the Cranberry-Cedar School, near Nanaimo River Bridge will be open next Monday with Miss Stark as teacher.

Historic Sites and Monuments

When Emily moved to Nanaimo she owned a home at 331 Wesley Street.  The plaque is located on Wesley Street, at the site of her former home.  The plaque reads:
"In memory of Emily Arabella (Emma) Stark
1856 – 1890

Emma Stark is the eldest daughter of Louis and Sylvia Stark. 

She was appointed the first teacher in the new North Cedar School in 1874, thereby becoming the first black teacher on Vancouver Island.”

 

D. SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS

CHARLES ALEXANDER

Books and Articles

Kilian, C. Go Do Some Great Thing.  , op.cit. , p. 151

Kilian notes that Alexander who helped to build the first school house, served as a school trustee for many years in Saanich.

Newspapers

Colonist, May 13, 1973. p. 4.

“The Alexander Story” by Margaret Belford

 

ABRAHAM COPELAND

Several authors note that Abraham Copeland, a Black man, was elected to the first three-man Board of Trustees on Saltspring Island in 1869.

Books and Articles

Flucke, A.F. Early Days on Salt Spring Island, op.cit. p 194.

Killian C. Go Do Some Great Thing. , op.cit. , pp. 113

Winks, R. The Blacks in Canada.  , op.cit. , p. 278

Manuscripts

Irby, C.  Black Settlers on Saltspring Island in the Nineteenth Century.  op.cit. p.10

Pilton, J.  Negro Settlement in British Columbia 1858 – 1871. , op.cit. , p.135

 

FIELDING SPOTTS

Books and Articles

Kilian, C. Go Do Some Great Thing. , op.cit, p. 151.

Kilian notes that Spotts was a school trustee for many years in Saanich.

Manuscripts

Pilton, J.  Negro Settlement in British Columbia 1858 – 1871. , op.cit.  p. 68

Pilton cites information from the Visitors Journal of the South Saanich Public School that Fielding Spotts was a school board trustee.

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