A new short documentary focuses on the impact of Black pioneer settlers in Victoria in the 1850s. (Screenshot/Youtube)

A new short documentary focuses on the impact of Black pioneer settlers in Victoria in the 1850s. (Screenshot/Youtube)

Black History Month: Documentary sheds light on black pioneers’ role in Victoria

Secret Victoria: Rush to Freedom looks at how a mass migration shaped the capital

A Victoria-based documentary explores the important role of black pioneers in B.C.’s history.

Secret Victoria: Rush to Freedom was created by Vancouver-based producer Anthony Brown and Telus Originals director Melinda Friedman.

It looks at how a rush of black immigrants in the 1850s helped shaped the Victoria we know today.

READ MORE: Black History Month – The Alexander family was among the first Black pioneers in B.C.

In 1850, then Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island, James Douglas – a man many people don’t realize was of mixed heritage himself – invited American black people from San Francisco to come settle in Victoria as free British citizens to combat the growing threat of American invasion. In California at the time, black people did not hold many rights, including proper citizenship. As a result, hundreds of black people took the chance of heading north.

The documentary picks the brains of local historians to understand the context of the migration, and the ripple effect it had on the capital’s history.

Brown has produced several documentaries, including a full-length documentary titled “Go Do Something Great” which explores black history in the province and is shown in local school systems. When Telus asked him to help with the Secret Victoria project he was delighted.

ALSO READ: Black History Month – ‘My family has been here since before Canada was a country’

“When I was growing up as a kid I wanted to learn something like that … as a person of colour I felt myself being left out,” Brown said. “We learned a lot about the British, a little bit about native history, but not a lot about black people.”

Brown had a lot of fun putting the documentary together, and said he’s glad to offer another opportunity for people to learn about Victoria’s real history.

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Brown will soon retire from his job at Port Vancouver, allowing him to focus fully on his production company, Brownie Productions. His next documentary will look at a Vancouver neighbourhood once known as Hogan’s Alley, a predominantly black neighbourhood where Brown’s parents were married.

The documentary can be found at youtube.com.

Anyone with questions about the documentary is welcome to contact Brown at brownieproductions@shaw.ca.


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