British Columbia

New online exhibit puts spotlight on B.C.'s Black pioneers

A new online exhibit spotlighting B.C.'s Black pioneers has been created by the B.C. Black History Awareness Society with support from Digital Museums Canada.

Exhibit is a creation by the B.C. Black History Awareness Society with support from Digital Museums Canada

A composite of Black pioneers who arrived in British Columbia in the 1800s. (Beth Cruise/BC Black History Awareness Society)

A new online exhibit spotlighting B.C.'s Black pioneers has been created by the B.C. Black History Awareness Society with support from Digital Museums Canada.

Silvia Mangue, the president of the society, says the exhibit was created in part to help address racism, which she says comes from lack of knowledge.

"We live in a society in which we all are very aware of the problems that we are having with racism," Mangue said. "So when we know history, then we can put things into context."

For example, one of the earliest Black communities in the province was formed in 1858, when nearly a thousand Black Americans moved to B.C. at the invitation of then-Governor James Douglas.

Mifflin Gibbs, who was part of that group, went on to become the first Black person elected to public office when he became a Victoria city councillor.

Many other stories are also now part of the exhibit — including that of Charles and Nancy Alexander. 

The couple were an integral part of their community in Saanich, B.C. — helping build the first school, and participating in the annual Saanich Agricultural Fair

More than 100 descendants  of the Alexander family still live in the area today.

"I would like for people to go and see the exhibit and to learn about the pioneers, you know, and to learn the great things they did here in Canada," said Mangue.

The new exhibit can be seen through communitystories.ca, then clicking on "British Columbia's Black Pioneers: Influencing the Vision of Canada."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

With files from All Points West

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