Black’s in BC History

The majority of the works contained in this section are about British Columbia, or groups or places in the Province.  Most of them are classified in general history.  The information pertaining to Blacks provided in these texts is summarized in this section and is later presented in more detail according to its relevant category in the remaining sections of the catalogue.


Akrigg, G.V.P. & H.B. British Columbia Chronicle 1847-1871: Gold and Colonists Vancouver.  Discovery Press, 1977. Pp. 106-108, 146, 198, 224, 338, 360, 385, 404.   (PA, VPL)

This historical account of British Columbia notes the arrival of the Blacks on the ‘Commodore’, their reasons for emigration from California, the first Black police force, the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps, discrimination in public places and the church segregation issue.  The author recounts the minor role of Isaac Dickson, a Black man, in the series of events which came to be known as “Ned McGowan’s War”.  He relates the case of the freeing of the slave Charles Mitchell and the part played by W.D. Moses, a Black barber, in the Blessing murder case.  Mifflin Gibbs is listed as Saltspring’s delegate to the Yale Convention. Some population statistics on Blacks in B.C. are also provided.

Asante, Nadine. The History of Terrace.  Terrace: Terrace Public Library Association, 1973. p. 53.  (PA)

This book contains a brief outline of the career of Arthur Clore, who was a Black prospector in the region.

Balf, Mary. Kamloops: A History of the District to 1914.  Kamloops: Clow Printing Ltd., 1969, pp. 80, 109, 116, 120.   (PA)

The author provides information about the multi-faceted career of John Freemont Smith, a Black man originally from the West Indies.

Begg, Alexander, History of British Columbia from its Earliest Discovery to the Present Time.  First published in 1894. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 1972, pp. 285, 383.  (VPL)

Begg’s book covers the history of British Columbia from pre-European settlement until about 1894.  He refers to the presence of Blacks on two occasions.  Under the heading “The African Race”, he mentions the issue of integrated seating in Reverend Cridge’s church.  There is a reprint of a large section of Mifflin Gibbs’ letter replying to the American who complained about the presence of Blacks in the church. Later, Gibbs is mentioned as Salt Spring Island’s representative to the Yale Convention.

Bowes, G. (Ed.) Peace River Chronicles.  Vancouver: Prescott Publishing Co., 1963, pp. 71-79, 93-97, 119, 143-145.   (PA)

This book contains a collection of eye-witness accounts of life in the Peace River Country.  Several authors describe Dan Williams, a Black man who was well-known as a miner, trapper and guide.  His disputes with the Hudson’s Bay Company, over the land on which he built his cabin in Fort St. John, are described.

Brown, Rosemary.  The Negroes.  In John Morris (Ed.) Strangers Entertained: A History of the Ethnic Groups of British Columbia. B.C. Centennial ’71 Committee.  Vancouver: Evergreen Press, 1971, pp. 237-242.   (LL, PA)

In five pages Ms. Brown provides an account crammed with information of the experience of Blacks in B.C. from 1858 to the late 1960’s.  She discusses the two major migrations of Blacks to B.C.  The first, involving Blacks from California in the 1860’s, centred in Victoria and the second, involving Blacks from the U.S., the West Indies and other parts of Canada in the twentieth century, centred in Vancouver.  In outlining commercial and civic contributions of Black pioneers to Victoria, she mentions their occupations, the first Victoria police force, Mifflin Gibbs and the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps.  The Black settlers on ‘Salt Spring Island, and the Black miners and workers in the Cariboo are also noted.  The attempts to segregate Blacks in churches, theatres and other public places are reported.  In discussing the Vancouver migration, the author mentions individuals such as Joe Fortes and Matilda Boynton, and organizations such as the 1920s Universal Negro Improvement Association, and the more recent Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the B.C. Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  She concludes that after more than 113 years, Blacks still experience problems in housing and employment and that “invisible social boundaries” still exist.

Cornwallis, Kinahan. The New Eldorado, or British Columbia.  London: Thomas C. Newby, 1858 pp. 259, 383-284.  (PA)

The author states that he observed Blacks “i.e., ‘niggers’” in Victoria and mentions that the police were Black.

Davis, Chuck (Ed.) The Vancouver Book.  North Vancouver: J.J. Douglas Ltd., 1976.  (PA)

Listed in the index are the names of the following Black people: Emery Barnes, John Braithwaite, Rosemary Brown, John Sullivan Deas, Joe Fortes and Arthur Sullivan.  The writer briefly mentions some of their achievements.  On pages 222 and 229, there is a list (it may be out of date) of Black organizations in Vancouver.  There is also mention of the Fountain Chapel Church which was a predominately Black church in Vancouver.

Fawcett, Edgar. Some Reminiscences of Old Victoria.  Toronto: William Biggs, 1912, pp. 215-219.  (PA)

Fawcett, a white militiaman in the 1860’s recounts anecdotes about life in early Victoria.  In a chapter entitled “Some Coloured Pioneers”, he briefly mentions their emigration from California and relates incidents of discrimination which the Blacks encountered in Victoria in the theatre, saloons, churches and fire brigade.  The formation of the volunteer militia is outlined.  The “application for Citizenship” listing the names of 53 “coloured men” is reprinted from the 1860 “Victoria Gazette.”

Foner, Philip S. The Coloured Inhabitants of Vancouver Island. B.C. Studies, Volume 8, 1970-1971, pp. 29-33.  (PA)

This short paper compares the social position of Blacks in southwestern Ontario and Vancouver Island in 1864.  A newspaper article which appeared in the April 15, 1864 edition of a Boston anti-slavery weekly is reprinted.  The author of the article, an anonymous Black traveller who visited Victoria felt that there was as much prejudice in Victoria as in San Francisco.  Although their standard of living was higher in Victoria than in San Francisco, the Blacks were still subject to considerable discrimination.

Flucke, A.P. Early Days on Saltspring Island.  British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Volume XV, July-October 1951, pp. 161-201.   (PA)

This article covers some aspects of Saltspring’s history from 1852 until 1881. Flucke details some of the problems the Blacks encountered with the Native Indian people who “insisted on regarding Blacks as inferior to themselves”, and “robbed Negro houses and crops with compunction.” He mentions the murder of two Black men, William Robinson and Giles Curtis, which was thought to have been committed by the Indians.  He also outlines and incident of racial antagonism on the part of Louis Stark’s white neighbours.  The political careers of John C. Jones and Henry W. Robinson as Councillors on Salt Spring Island’s first Municipal Council are also detailed.

Gallaher, Bill.  A Man Called Moses: The Curious Life of Wellington Delaney Moses, Victoria, B.C. ,  Touchwood Editions, 2011.

In this historical novel, Bill Gallaher describes Moses’s departure from the Caribbean island of his birth, the realities of slavery and working with the Underground Railroad in the United States, and his life as part of the early settlements in Victoria and Barkerville.

Gould, Jan. Women of British Columbia, Saanichton, B.C.: Hancock House Publishers Ltd., 1975, pp. 67-72, 89-91, 107, 126, 200-203.   (PA)

Gould provides a history of B.C. through letters, diaries, photographs and interviews with women.  She includes pictures and a biography of Sylvia Stark.  Her daughter, Emma Stark’s career as a teacher is briefly outlined.  The work of Julia and Mary Hernandez and Josephine Sullivan is mentioned.  There is a brief career sketch of Rosemary Brown and some information about male pioneers including Mifflin Gibbs, Peter Lester, W.D. Moses and Fielding Spotts.

Gregson, Harry.  A History of Victoria 1842-1970. Victoria: Victoria Observer Publishing, 1970 p. 83.   (PA)

The only mention of Blacks in this history of Victoria refers to the formation of the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps.  Gregson presents his interpretation of the motivations of the Blacks in forming the province’s first military unit.

Hamilton, Bea. Salt Spring Island.  Vancouver: Mitchell Press, 1969 pp. 3-27, 59, 67, 71, 73, 171-173.  (PA)

Ms. Hamilton, who grew up on Salt Spring Island, traces some of the history of the Island from its earliest times to the 1950’s.  In her first chapter, “The Negro Colony”, she credits a group of nine Black men as being the first settlers on the Island in August 1957.  There is considerable mention of the Stark Family, John C. Jones and Jim Anderson.

Higgins, D.W. The Mystic Spring and Other Tales of Western Life. Toronto: William Briggs, 1904, pp. 47-55, 121, 201, 343.  (PA)

Higgins was a one-time Speaker of the B.C. Legislature.  He has written two books of “reminiscent stories all founded upon actual occurrences.”  He mentions Willis Bond whom he calls the “Bronze Philosopher” and describes him as “one of the cleverest men, white or black, that I have ever met.”  According to Higgins, George Harrison, Willis Bond’s business partner, shot a young man but escaped from jail in Victoria and was never seen again.  The author recalls an anecdote about a Black barber named “Ikey” and he goes on to relate an adventure he had while staying at the hotel of Ringo, a Black man.

Higgins, D.W. The Passing of a Race and More Tales of Western Life. Toronto: William Briggs, 1905, pp. 163-176, 198-208.   (PA)

In the story entitled “A Miniature Race War”, Higgins recounts some of the experiences of the Black Pioneers including their arrival from California, their short-lived role as police officers in 1858, and their part in the Victoria elections of 1860 and 1862.  He also mentions the Victoria Pioneer Rifles, the theatre riot and the church segregation issue. “The Guardian Angel” is a fictionalized account of the events in the Blessing-Barry murder case and W.D. Moses’ role in the case.

Hills, George.  An Occasional Paper on the Columbia Mission. London: Rivingtons Waterloo Place, 1860 pp. 13, 14.   (PA)

George Hills was the Anglican Bishop of British Columbia from 1859-1872.  In this paper Hills briefly describes the Black pioneers and mentions the role of the Blacks in the 1860 Victoria election.  The Bishop also gives his opinions on the controversy over integrated seating in the Congregational church.

Howard, F.P. & Barnett, G. (Comp.).  The British Columbian and Victoria Guide and Directory 1863.  Victoria. 1863.

This 1863 Directory contains copies of advertisements and lists the name, occupation and address of Victoria residents.  Since there is no reference as to the colour/race of the persons listed, it is necessary to know the names of Blacks before using the Directory.  Some of the Blacks mentioned/listed are: J Barnswell, W. Bond, J. Francis, “J.” W. Gibbs. P. Lester, S. Ringo, F. Spotts and N. Pointer.

Howay, F. W. The Negro Immigration into Vancouver Island in 1858. British Columbia Historical Quarterly. Volume III, April 1939, pp. 101-113.  (PA)

This article provides detailed information on some of the events occurring in California which culminated in Black immigration to Vancouver Island.  Although California was a free state, increasing numbers of repressive anti-Black laws were proposed and/or enacted in the California legislature between 1850 and 1858.  These laws and proposals, plus the famous “fugitive slave” case of Archy Lee, prompted a group of Black delegates to pursue Sir James Douglas’ offer to consider the possibility of Black settlement on Vancouver Island.

Howay, F. W. British Columbia: The Making of a Province.  Toronto: The Ryserson Press, 1928 p. 159.  (PA)

In this historical account of B.C., there is only one reference to the Black population.  In 1864 when Kennedy first became Governor, he was addressed by the Victoria Pioneer Rifles Corps.  In his reply, Kennedy stressed racial equality.  Howey suggest that this was one of the many reasons for Kennedy’s lack of popularity.

Hutchinson, Bruce.  The Fraser.  Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Co., 1950 pp. 60-61.  (VPL)

In this work about the Fraser River, Hutchinson notes that the assault of a Black man by a Yale miner triggered the events known as “Ned McGowan’s War.”

Jones, Ernest &  Scott, Victoria.  Sylvia Stark: A Pioneer.   Seattle, Washington, Open Hand Publishing LLC, 1991. (Van. PL)

This book is a biography that chronicles the life of a woman who was born as a slave in Missouri in 1839, moved with her family to California, and later lived on a small island off the coast of British Columbia until she was 105.

Kilian, Crawford.  Go Do Some Great Thing.  Vancouver: Douglas and MacIntyre, 1978.  (LL)

Kilian, Crawford.  Go Do Some Great Thing:  The Black Pioneers of British Columbia.  Burnaby:  Commodore Books 2008.

The original catalogue states: “In his recently published book, Kilian provides a readable and detailed account of the story of the Black pioneers of British Columbia.  He presents and interprets both the group and individual experiences and contributions of these first Blacks throughout the Province.  The author describes the mixed treatment accorded Blacks in British Columbia which they initially praised as being a “God-sent land for the coloured people”.  There were times of fair and equal treatment but they also met prejudice and discrimination as well.  Beginning with the events in California which led to their immigration to B.C. in 1858, he covers the period until the late 1860’s when many Blacks had already returned to the United States, which after the abolition of slavery, seemed to have the potential for providing a better life than proven possible in B.C.  A brief account of the life of Blacks in the twentieth century in the province is also included in this work. “

Second edition published in 2008.  Kilian writes “This new edition adds vital information gathered by Crawford Kilian over the last thirty years.  It includes material on previously unknown pioneers and important new insights into the lives of major figures like Mifflin Gibbs and Maria Gibbs, John Craven Jones, and the Stark family.  Their courage and ambition helped to shape modern Canada”.

Lozovsky, Nora A Directory of Cultural Group Organizations in British Columbia.  Vancouver: Department of the Secretary of State, 1972.  (PA)

Under the headings of “Black” and “Caribbean” eight organizations are mentioned.  (Membership information and contact names and addresses may be out of date.)

Lyons, C.P.  Milestones on Vancouver Island.  Victoria: Evergreen Press, 1958 pp. 86-86, 101, 152.   (PA)

Lyon’s travel guide to Vancouver Island contains background information on places of interest.  Brief mention is made of the presence of Black settlers on Saltspring, the discovery of a large gold nugget by two Black men in Leechtown, and the discovery of coal on Louis Stark’s land in Extension, and his subsequent suspicious death.

Macfie, Matthew.  Vancouver Island and British Columbia, Toronto: Coles Publishing Company, 1972, pp. 379-381, 388-392.   (PA)

Matthew Macfie was a Congregational minister who resided in Victoria from 1859 to 1864.  His book describes the “History, Resources and Prospects” of the colonies prior to 1865.  In Chapter XV, “Society in Vancouver Island and British Columbia”, he notes the racial diversity of Victoria’s five to six thousand inhabitants as including “Africans, Negroes from the U.S. and West Indies”.  Macfie provides a lengthy commentary on the various racial combinations of inter-marriage occurring at that time.  He outlines the issue of segregation in the church but omits reporting his part in the controversy.  He mentions several incidents of discriminatory treatment accorded Blacks in social situations and commends their organization of a rifle corps and brass band.  He concedes that “as a race, they compare favourably with whites of corresponding social position, in industry and uprightness”.

Mallandaine, Edward.  First Victoria Directory.  Victoria: Edward Mallandaine & Co., 1860, 1868, 1869, 1871, 1874.   (PA)

The directories for the above-mentioned years contain lists of the names and addresses and occupations of people living in Victoria and other districts including Saanich, Nanaimo, Salt Spring Island, Barkerville and Yale.  Official voting lists and newspaper advertisements are reprinted.  Since there is no reference as to the colour/race of the persons listed, it is necessary to know the names of Blacks before using the directory.  Some of the Blacks listed are W. Bond, J.S. Deas, M.W. Gibbs, J. Francis, J.C. Jones, P. Lester and W.D. Moses.

Mayne, Richard. Four Years in B.C. and Vancouver Island. London: John Murray, 1862, pp. 351-352.   (PA)

Lieutenant Mayne visited British Columbia between 1857 and 1861.  He mentions the Black population in Victoria in connection with a theatre riot and the church segregation issue.  In his description of the Blacks he concludes that they are a “little given to familiarity when an opening for it is afforded … but are far steadier, sober, and thrifty set than the whites who they are so much despised.”

Morley, Allan. Vancouver from Milltown to Metropolis.  Vancouver: Mitchell Press, 1961. pp.49, 70, 79, 93, 156-158.  (VPL)

Morley traces the growth of Vancouver from the 1850’s to the late 1960s. He mentions the work of Arthur and Josephine Sullivan.  He notes the arrival of Joe Fortes and provides information about his background and activities until his death in 1922.

Morton, James. In the Sea of the Sterile Mountains: The Chinese in British Columbia. Vancouver: J.J. Douglas Ltd., 1974, pp. 7, 17, 48, 49, 138.   (VPL)

Morton’s book chronicles the Chinese Canadian experience from 1858 (the first Chinese people arrived from San Francisco in June – two months after the “Commodore”) until the early 1970s.  Morton mentions the presence of Blacks in B.C. in general and in Barkerville in particular.   He includes a quotation from the 1875 ‘Colonist’ which compares the Blacks who has the right to vote with the Chinese who ‘shouldn’t’ have this right.  When an anti-Chinese labour motion was put forward at a public meeting in 1886, “William Bond” (it is believed the author is referring to Willis Bond), a Black man, spoke against it.

Norcross, Elizabeth. The Warm Land.  Nanaimo: Evergreen Press Ltd., 1959, pp. 38, 110.  (VPL)

The author traces a century of history of the white pioneers and the Cowichan Indians from 1858.  Norcross mentions that in 1871 the “population of Cowichan consisted of 456 whites, 5 coloured, 25 Chinese”. “Lewis” i.e. Louis Stark and Armstead Buckner, Black men, are listed as settlers in Cowichan in 1869.

Nichol, Eric. Vancouver. Toronto: Doubleday of Canada Ltd., 1970, pp. 41, 42, 65, 85, 111, 129, 200.  (VPL)

In his account of Vancouver from its earliest times to the late 1960s, Nichol briefly mentions Arthur Sullivan and gives information about Joe Fortes.  He also states that in 1947, “the colour bar was removed at the Crystal Pool”.

Ormsby, Margaret A.  British Columbia: A History. Vancouver: The MacMillan Company of Canada Ltd., 1958, pp. 139, 141, 167, 198, 273.  (PA)

In Ms.Ormsby’s work, Blacks are rarely mentioned.  She notes the arrival of the ‘Commodore’ and mentions that Lester & Gibbs mercantile house provided the Hudson’s Bay Company with competition.  She states that the “West Indian and American Negroes” were not segregated and quotes Richard Wayne’s description of the Victoria Blacks.  She refers to the possibility of Sir James Douglas being “mulatto” and notes that during Lord Dufferin’s visit to Victoria in 1876, there were “coloured folk” among the crowds on the street to welcome him.

Pires, Ben. Saltspring: A Sense of Freedom.  Beautiful B.C. Summer 1975, pp. 38-44.  (LL)

This pictorial article retells the story of the Blacks migrating from California.  There is biographical information on the Stark family and John C. Jones, as well as mention of other Black settlers.  Pictures of Salt Spring Island, Sylvia and Willis Stark, murals depicting the early Black pioneers, pictures of modern day pioneer descendants comprise the bulk of the article.

Pethick, Derek.  Vancouver Recalled: A Pictorial History to 1887.  Saanichton, B.C.: Hancock House Publishers, 1974 pp. 43, 52.  (PA)

This book contains pictures as well as brief biographical description of Josephine Sullivan and Joe Fortes.

Pethick, Derek.  Men of British Columbia.  Saanichton, B.C.: Hancock House Publishers, 1975 pp. 80-83.  (PA)

There is a four-page biography of Mifflin Gibbs which concentrates on his achievements during the decade that he lived in B.C.

Ramsay, Bruce. Barkerville: A Guide to the Fabulous Gold Camp.  Vancouver: Mitchell Press, 1961, pp. 25-27, 29, 53, 54, 59.   (PA)

In words and pictures Ramsay recalls the Barkerville of gold rush times.  He mentions the work of W.D. Moses and his role in the Blessing murder case.  There is a photograph of a restored Barkerville scene which depicts “Dentist Jones (a Black man) in Action” Ramsay concludes, that unlike some minorities, the Blacks assimilated well into the community”.

Ramsay, Bruce.  Ghost Towns of British Columbia.  Vancouver: Mitchell Press Ltd., 1963, p. 64.  (PA)

In this book one of the towns described is Barkerville, prior to its demise.  Ramsay describes W.D. Moses, a resident of Barkerville as a “nosey little barber” who kept a diary.

Reid, Robie.  How One Slave Became Free.  British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Volume VI, 1942, PP. 251-256.  (PA)

Reid gives an account of how Charles, a fugitive slave, was granted his freedom by Attorney General Cary in Victoria in 1860.

Roberts, Eric.  Salt Spring Saga.  Ganges B.C.: Driftwood, 1962, pp. 16, 17, 52-55, 57, 61-62.  (PA)

Robert’s book is a chronicle of life on Saltspring Island from 1853 to 1883.  There is considerable mention of the Blacks on the island.  He outlines the teaching careers of John C. Jones and Frederick Lester.  The author relates the incidences of harassment of Black settlers by Indians including the murder of W. Robinson and G. Curtis.  The political role played by John C. Jones and H.W. Robinson in the short-lived municipality of Saltspring is given in detail.

Schoefield, E.O.S. & Howey, F.W. British Columbia from the Earliest Times to the Present.  Vancouver: S.J., Clarke, 1914, Volume II, pp 61-65, 121, 283 and Volume IV, P. 97.   (PA)

The authors note that the assault of a Black man by a white miner began the events known as “Ned McGowan’s War”.  They observe that “the coloured man’s house” is already well-known landmark for miners in the Cariboo in 1862.  Gibbs is listed as a delegate to the Yale Convention.  It is stated that in 1858 Judge Augustus Pemberton appointed in Victoria, a Black police force which lawless miners would not accept.

Skelton, Robin.  The Cariboo Gold Rush Murder: The Blessing-Barry Case.  Sound Heritage.  Volume 5, Number 3, 1976, pp. 28-31.  (PA)

The author outlines the story of the Blessing murder and the role of W.D. Moses, a Black barber, in the case.  In discussing the different versions of the details of the story, Skelton suggests that these aural history variations indicate the rarity of murder during this time period in the Cariboo.

Smith, Dorothy B. (Ed.) Lady Franklin Visits the Pacific Northwest.  Victoria Provincial Archives of B.C., Memoir No, XI, 1974, pp. 6, 10. 11, 18. 22, 26-28, 32-34, 115.  (PA)

This book contains extracts from the letters of Sophia Cracroft while she was visiting Canada with her aunt, Lady Franklin, in 1861 and 1870.  Lady Franklin and her niece lodged at the house of Mr. and Mrs. W.D. Moses.  The controversy over integrated seating in the church is mentioned and it is noted that Black and white students attended the same schools.  While in Victoria, Lady Franklin was visited by several Black people including Lester, Gibbs, members of the Victoria Pioneer Rifles and some of the women of the Black community.

Smith, Dorothy B. (Ed.) The Reminiscences of Doctor John Helmcken.  Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1975, pp. 117, 154, 246, 247, 338.   (PA)

Dr. Helmcken was politically active on all the Victoria councils and assemblies during colonial times.  In his reminiscences he notes the arrival of the ‘Commodore’ and states that a “regular colony of coloured men” landed and prayed.  He also remarks that a “shower of black” emigrants from the United States arrived on the ‘Brother Jonathan’.  Gibbs and his involvement as a delegate to the Yale Convention is also mentioned.

Vancouver’s First Century: A City Album 1860 – 1960.  By the editors of the Urban Reader.  Vancouver: J.J. Douglas Ltd., 1977, pp. 57, 123.  (VPL)

This is a pictorial history with accompanying brief text.  Some information is provided about Joe Fortes.  On page 123, a Black woman appears in the 1945 picture of “women workers at Wallace Shipyards”.

Virgin, Victor.  History of North and South Saanich Pioneers and District.  Victoria: Hebden Printing Co. Ltd., 1959, pp. 32, 33, 43-47, 56.

There are brief biographical sketches of the following Black pioneers: Fielding Spotts, Howard Estes, Loren Lewis and Charles Alexander.

Walter, Margaret Shaw.  Early Days Among the Gulf Islands of British Columbia.  Victoria: Diggon-Hibbon Ltd., 1946, pp. 17, 62-27.  BCBHAS Note: 62-27 is more likely 26-27.    (PA)

Ms. Walter, whose family came to the Gulf Islands in 1877 reminisces about the old days.  She writes almost entirely about the white settlers on the Island except for a brief section entitled “The Group of Coloured People on Saltspring Island”.  This note is a condensation of F.W. Howay’s “The Negro Immigration to Vancouver Island.”  There is also an extract from the ‘Colonist’ about Sylvia Stark.

Wild, Roland.  Amor de Cosmos.  Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1958, pp. 37-39, 44-47, 66, 97-105, 121.  (PA)

In Wild’s biography of Amor de Cosmos, the second premier of British Columbia, there is considerable mention of the Blacks.  The author notes briefly their arrival in 1858, their rejection from the fire brigade and the formation and demise of the all-Black Victoria Pioneer Rifles Corps.  He describes the events of the 1860 Victoria election in which de Cosmos was defeated because Black voters gave their unanimous support to his opponents.  Wild suggests that this defeat “rankled for a long time” and was responsible for de Cosmos generally anti-Black stance.  There are reprints of newspaper articles about Blacks, especially their right to vote, written by de Cosmos as editor of the ‘British Colonist’.

Wilson, E.F. Salt Spring Island B.C.  Victoria: Colonist Press, 1895, pp. 19, 22, 24.  (PA)

In his description of Salt Spring, Reverend Wilson mentions the presence of “coloured settlers” and John C. Jones, the first school teacher on the Island.  His estimate of the Island’s population includes “40 Coloured or Partly Coloured people”.

Woodcock, George.  Amor de Cosmos: Journalist and Reformer.  Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1975, pp. 39, 49, 50, 114.   (PA)

The role of Amor de Cosmos as a journalist and politician in B.C. from 1858 to 1871 is recounted in this book.  Woodstock briefly relates some of the events of the 1860 election in which de Cosmos was a candidate.  Blacks who voted en bloc in this election were responsible for his defeat.  The author outlines the controversy surrounding the legality of the Blacks voting in this election.  Mifflin Gibbs is mentioned as a delegate to the Yale Convention.


Black Community Survey. British Columbia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. Vancouver 1971. (UBC)

In 1971, the British Columbia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People – BCAACP, an autonomous organization (that is not affiliated with the American NAACP or other Canadian AACPs), started in Vancouver in 1958, undertook a survey to determine some characteristics and opinions of Black residents in B.C. The specific objectives of the survey were to determine the following: the geographic location and previous origins of Black residents, the educational, employment and housing picture of the Black community, the physical makeup of the Black population, “our own” concept of racial identity, and how Blacks felt about the quality of Canadian citizenship. The data derived from the survey’s completed questionnaire is reported in text, maps and graphs. There is also a brief historical background of Blacks in B.C. and recommendations of directions and activities which the BCAACP should consider.

Irby, Charles. Black Settlers on Salt Spring Island in the Nineteenth Century. Hayward, California: Paper delivered at the 35th Annual Meeting of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, June 15, 1972. (PA)

Irby traces the pattern of settlement of the Black population on Salt Spring Island from 1859 to 1895. He states that some of the settlers wanted to start an all-Black colony on the Island, but James Douglas, favouring a mixed settlement, advised against it. The Stark, Whims and Harrison families and the political careers of John C. Jones and Henry W. Robinson are mentioned. Because the Black and non-Black settlers faced the same problems and frustrations of pioneer life, there was a great deal of social cohesion and intermarriage. In Irby’s opinion this mixing prevented the development of a distinct Black culture.

Lopez, Sandra. A Report on the History of the BCAACP from 1958 – 1975. Vancouver, 1976. (VBPS)

In November of 1958, the BCAACP was established to combat discrimination and foster understanding among all people. The initial emphasis of the organization was on problems of education and employment of Blacks as well as discrimination in housing, educational material and in public places. It was first necessary to locate Blacks in the Vancouver area and make the public aware of the existence and aims of the organization. Some of the activities included: Black history and cultural programs, activities related to problems of Blacks in other parts of Canada, the U.S., Africa and the West Indies, social events for various age groups, the formation of a Credit Union, publication of the BCAACP ‘Quarterly’ and forming links with other Black groups. These programs and activities as well as the growth and changes which have taken place in the organization are outlined in this report.

Pilton, James W. Early Negro Settlement in Victoria. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Essay, 1949 (PA)

The material in this paper has been incorporated into Pilton’s thesis Negro Settlement in British Columbia 1858 – 1871.

Pilton, James W. Negro Settlement in British Columbia 1858 – 1871. Vancouver: University of British Columbia. Thesis, 1951. (PA)

In his thesis, Pilton describes and analyzes the experiences of the first Black settlers in B.C. It is a well-documented account beginning with a section on slavery and the events in California which led to the migration of Blacks in 1858, and ending in 1871 by which time many Blacks had returned to the United States, hoping for a better life after being disillusioned with the promise of equality in B.C. The participation of the Blacks in commercial, civic, religious and social life of Victoria, Salt Spring Island and the Cariboo goldfields, is presented in detail.

Walden, Frederick E. The Social History of Victoria, British Columbia 1858 – 1871. Vancouver: University of Victoria thesis, 1951, pp. 21-24, 72, 97, 100-101. (PA)

Walden’s thesis presents his analysis of the social development of early Victoria. He mentions that Blacks were one of the many groups comprising Victoria’s cosmopolitan population. He outlines the Black emigration from California, the issue of segregation in church, and discrimination in public places. The influence of the Black voters in the 1860 Victoria election and the formation of the Victoria Pioneer Rifles Corp are also mentioned. According to Walden, Blacks were found throughout the social strata – with a few members being the “monied aristocracy”, more found in the “healthy middle class” and a large proportion of “semi-skilled and unskilled”. He concluded that “Blacks not only benefited themselves, but the society of Victoria as a whole”.

Walhouse, Freda. The Influence of Minority Ethnic Groups on the Cultural Geography of Vancouver. Vancouver: University of British Columbia thesis, 1961, pp. 312-318. (PA)

In the chapter entitled “Negroes of Vancouver” the origins of the Black population are described. Walhouse states that discrimination in employment accounts for the large proportion of Blacks working on the railways. Brief mention is made of the African Methodist Church and the BCAACP. The author concludes that the desire of the Black population to assimilate has encouraged a lack of organization and unification and yet prejudice and discrimination may force them into organizing along racial lines.

Wallace, Maria A. Sylvia Stark’s Story. Photocopy of manuscript written by Sylvia Stark’s daughter (Maria Wallace) and donated to the Provincial Archives by Sylvia Stark’s grand-daughter, Myrtle Holloman. (PA)

Marie Stark, at the age of 92 taught herself to type and wrote this multi-part series that was first published in the Gulf Islands Driftwood in November and January in 1979.

This biography begins with Sylvia Stark’s childhood remembrances of slavery in Clay County, Missouri. Her father, Howard Estes, worked long and hard to buy his family’s freedom. After the purchase of their freedom, the family attempted to farm in Missouri but decided to leave when they were harassed by the Ku Klux Klan. After a dangerous and arduous six month journey across the United States by wagon train the family reached California in 1851. There Sylvia Estes married Louis Stark and in 1860, the Estes and Starks immigrated to B.C. The hardships and dangers of pioneer life on Salt Spring Island and Sylvia Stark’s response to them are described. The biography ends when the Starks move to the Nanaimo district after living on Salt Spring Island for fourteen years.


Racism in B.C. British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF). Vancouver 1977.

The Inter-Cultural Association (ICA) of Victoria has a copy of the Racism in B.C. Kit containing a description of the slides and a script, but the actual slide tape is available at the BCTF Resources Centre, Vancouver).

This presentation consists of 138 slides and a half-hour tape. In conjunction with slides of Joe Fortes, it is stated that Blacks, a small minority in B.C., have met with discrimination from the beginning. The fact that Joe Fortes, a Black lifeguard, could save lives at English Bay where only whites could swim, is mentioned. It is also noted that Crystal Pool, in Vancouver, was for whites only until 1945.