The First …

Artist, Dentist, Judge, Juror, Policemen, Politician, Teacher, Television Host. In acknowledging these “Firsts”, we can reflect on the advice Gibbs received, before deciding to migrate to Vancouver Island, from Julia Griffith, the English comrade of abolitionist Frederick Douglass: “What! Discouraged? Go do some great thing.”

Here are more “firsts” for Blacks in  British Columbia …

SnapshotWho... some great thing
Charles AlexanderCharles AlexanderCarpenters by trade, Charles Alexander and Fielding Spotts built the first school in South Saanich in 1862 and became school trustees.
emery barnesEmery BarnesElected to the British Columbia Provincial Legislature in 1972, this individual went on to become the first Black Speaker of the House in B.C.
Grafton Tyler BrownGrafton Tyler BrownAfrican American artist who lived in BC for a short time and while there painted landscapes of Gorge, Esquimalt, Victoria and the surrounding area. Many of his works are housed in Victoria. He is considered the first professional Black artist on the Pacific North West
Rosemary Brown Rosemary BrownThe first women of African descent to serve in a provincial legislature in Canada, when she was elected in 1972 and served until 1986. In 1975, she ran for the leadership of the Federal NDP Party
Eleanor Collins Eleanor CollinsThe first Canadian music performer to have a show named after her. She is also the first artist of colour in North America to host her own national television show.
Mifflin Wistar GibbsMifflin Wistar GibbsMifflin Wistar Gibbs was the first Black to be elected and serve on Victoria City Council. He served as a Councillor from 1866 to 1869 representing the James Bay District. While on council Gibbs chaired the council’s ways and means committee and from time-to-time acted as Deputy Mayor.
John Robert GiscomeJohn Robert Giscome and Henry McDame In 1862 Giscome journeyed from Quesnel with his Bahamian partner, Henry McDame to prospect the Peace River Country. They wintered in Fort St. George and in April 1863 went North again up the Fraser River. They had intended to travel up the Salmon River north of Prince George, but upon reaching it, they found it running too high and their First Nations guide suggested an alternate route. They continued up the Fraser to a spot their guide knew, and then walked nine miles to what is now known as Summit Lake. From there, they headed north once more along Crooked River and reached their destination of Fort McLeod. Upon reaching the fort, they were greeted with a salute of about 30 shots in their honour as they were the first non-First Nations to travel this route.
Barabara Howard Barbara HowardFirst black woman athlete to represent Canada in an International competition - 1938 British Empire Games in Australia; and the first person from a visible minority to be hired as an educator by the Vancouver School Board (1948).
Doug HudlinDoug HudlinA founding member and first president of the British Columbia Baseball Umpires Association. He was also a founding member of the British Columbia Black History Awareness Society.
John Craven JonesJohn Craven JonesFirst and only teacher on Salt Spring Island circa 1859 to 1875.
William Allen Jones Class Photo Oberlin College ArchivesWilliam Allen Jones

First dentist (1886) to be granted a licence under the British Columbia Dental Act.
Peter LesterPeter LesterIn February 1860 he was the first black to sit as a juror in B.C.
Justice Selwyn RomillyJustice Selwyn RomillyThe first Black to serve on the British Columbia Supreme Court. Prior to his appointment had had served on the Provincial Court in Terrace and then Burnaby
Fielding Spotts Fielding SpottsCarpenters by trade, Charles Alexander and Fielding Spotts built the first school in South Saanich in 1862 and became school trustees.
Emma Stark Emma StarkFirst female Black teacher on Vancouver Island 1874 at the Cranberry-Cedar School located near Nanaimo.
Victoria Pioneer Rifle CorpVictoria Pioneer Rifles CorpIn the spring of 1860, 40 to 50 black men were enrolled in the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Company. This first corps of all Black men, was officially sworn in on July, 1861.