Mifflin Wistar Gibbs named “Person of National Historic Significance”

Designation Date: April 20,2009  “Our government is proud to honor a man who worked tirelessly for the local Black Community as a politician, businessman, and defender of human rights”.

On February 19, 2017, the plaque was presented to the BC Black History Awareness Society and the City of Victoria. On May 4, 2019 the plaque was unveiled at a ceremony at Irving Park, Victoria, B.C. where Gibbs home was situated. A reception followed at the sxʷeŋ’xʷəŋ taŋ’exw James Bay Library Branch. This library branch also houses the “Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Community Room” opened a year earlier in 2018. Dr. Verna Gibbs, great-great grandniece of Gibbs attended the ceremonies dedicating the room and the unveiling of the plaque.

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs 1823-1915
After helping lead the exodus of 800 Black residents from San Francisco in 1858, Gibbs became the recognized leader of their community on Vancouver Island. He strove to make these newcomers a force in colonial politics and, as a member of Victoria City Council; he became the first Black person to hold elected office in British Columbia. This innovative entrepreneur, who invested in mining and trade, also encouraged the integration of Black settlers and advocated for their rights. Though he returned to the United States in 1870, Gibbs remains a revered historical figure in the province’s African-Canadian community.

Image: Shayli Robinson, Photographer; BCBHAS Collection