Victoria, BC: Black patrons only permitted in theatre gallery seating

Reported incidents of discrimination in Victoria’s theatres date back to 1860.  In all the incidents, the newspapers received numerous letters from readers both supporting and condemning the Black community. The most noted incident occurred on Wednesday evening, September 25, 1861.

  •  Mifflin Gibbs, his wife Maria and family friend Nathan Pointer and Pointer’s daughter attended a hospital benefit at the Victoria Theatre.  Maria was due to give birth to their first child in October. Both families were seated in the dress circle. At the end of the performance they were doused with flour.
  • A melee broke out; charges were filed against all involved but at the trial the judge acquitted the four whites charged in the incident, Gibbs admitted assaulting one man, Ryckman, and was fined five pounds, the charge of assault against Nathan Pointer was dropped for lack of evidence.

Theatres now began publicly stating Black patrons could only be seated in the gallery. Black residents petitioned both Douglas and later Kennedy but no remedy was made.