Mifflin Gibbs was designated as a Person of National Historic Significance on April 20, 2009. On February 19, 2017, Canada presented a plaque to that effect to BC Black History Awareness Society and the City of Victoria. It was unveiled at a ceremony on May 4, 2019 at Irving Park where Gibbs’ home was located. Ceremonies continued at the sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Library Branch, which also houses the “Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Study Room.” Dr. Verna Gibbs, great-great grandniece, 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