History of British Columbia's Black pioneers spotlighted in online exhibition

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      For those who are unaware of or have limited knowledge about the history of Black people in British Columbia, there’s an online exhibition that details the numerous historical milestones, developments, and contributions that Black people made during the developing years of the province.

      The B.C. Black History Awareness Society has launched an exhibit entitled British Columbia’s Black Pioneers: Their Industry and Character Influenced the Vision of Canada at the Digital Museums Canada website.

      The exhibit chronicles how B.C. Governor James Douglas, who was the governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island and the Colony of British Columbia and was of mixed European and African heritage, invited a group of 800 Black immigrants to this region during a heightened need for settlers to prevent Americans from taking over the colonial territory. 

      According to the exhibit, which includes several videos, many Black pioneers came on a steamer from California to Vancouver in 1858 while others came by land.

      The exhibit provides profiles of notable individuals, such as Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, who was the first Black person elected to Victoria city council, and Sylvia Stark, whose descendants still live on Salt Spring Island; examples of discrimination, as well as those who fought against racism; and businesses and organizations on Vancouver Island.

      The B.C. Black History Awareness Society, which was formed in 1994, seeks to stimulate interest in history and culture and to celebrate the achievements of Black people in British Columbia.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.