February marks the beginning of Black History Month, exploring and celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of Black British Columbians. The Office of the Lieutenant Governor has its own ties to Black history in the province—Sir James Douglas, the first governor of the colony of British Columbia, was born to a Scottish father and a mother who was Barbadian Creole, someone of mixed African and European ancestry. The role of governor is precursor to that of Lieutenant Governor, and the resting place of Douglas, along with more than 50 other notable Black British Columbians, can be visited in the historic Ross Bay cemetery as part of an informative tour on February 26, co-hosted by the BC Black History Awareness Society and the Old Cemeteries Society.
The cemetery tour is but one of a handful of vibrant and educational events taking place over February. As always, the BC Black History Awareness Society has arranged a lively calendar with opportunities for learning and engagement covering both history and the work of contemporary Black British Columbians. Explore the fascinating lives of early pioneers at Black History and Heritage Day on February 11, and learn about storytelling from award-winning author Esi Edugyan on February 16. Music, faith, and more will be covered throughout the month—see the full calendar here.
February is always an opportunity to revisit the lives of other prominent Black British Columbians, such as Rosemary Brown, the first Black woman elected to a provincial legislature in Canada, who spent her life working to advance human rights and fight discrimination; the Starks of Salt Spring Island, a pioneering family whose roots linger today, along with the 26 other Black homesteading families who made the Gulf Islands their home; William Allen Jones, first in BC to be granted a provincial dental license; Mifflin Gibbs, elected to Victoria City Council in 1866; and the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps, an all Black military unit active in the 1860s.
These stories are woven into the tapestry that is the history of British Columbia. Without Black History Month, and the efforts of those who ensure these stories remain present and persistent, the accomplishments of so many would be lost. It’s a reminder to us all to remain curious and engaged, and to continue to share the contributions of those who came before us, and those who continue to pave the way.
Learn more about Mr. and Mrs. Charles Alexander, featured in the title image.