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History African American

Go Do Some Great Thing

The Black Pioneers of British Columbia

by (author) Crawford Kilian

foreword by Adam Rudder

Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd.
Initial publish date
Nov 2020
African American, Pre-Confederation (to 1867), African American & Black
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2020
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2008
    List Price

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Living in pre-Civil War Philadelphia, young Black activist Mifflin Gibbs was feeling disheartened from fighting the overwhelming tide of White America’s legalized racism when abolitionist Julia Griffith encouraged him to “go do some great thing.” These words helped inspire him to become a successful merchant in San Francisco, and then to seek a more just society in the new colony of Vancouver Island, where he was to become a prominent citizen and elected official.

Gibbs joined a movement of Black American emigrants fleeing the increasingly oppressive and anti-Black Californian legal system in 1858. They hoped to establish themselves in a new country where they would have full access to the rights of citizenship and would be free to seek success and stability. Some six hundred Black Californians made the trip to Victoria in the midst of the Fraser River Gold Rush, but their hopes of finding a welcoming new home were ultimately disappointed. They were to encounter social segregation, disenfranchisement, limited employment opportunities and rampant discrimination. But in spite of the opposition and racism they faced, these pioneers played a pivotal role in the emerging province, establishing an all-Black militia unit to protect against American invasion, casting deciding votes in the 1860 election and helping to build the province as teachers, miners, artisans, entrepreneurs and merchants.

Crawford Kilian brings this vibrant period of British Columbia’s history to life, evoking the chaos and opportunity of Victoria’s gold rush boom and describing the fascinating lives of prominent Black pioneers and trailblazers, from Sylvia Stark and Saltspring Island’s notable Stark family to lifeguard and special constable Joe Fortes, who taught a generation of Vancouverites to swim. Since its original publication in 1978, Go Do Some Great Thing has remained foundational reading on the history of Black pioneers in BC. Updated and with a new foreword by Adam Rudder, the third edition of this under-told story describes the hardships and triumphs of BC’s first Black citizens and their legacy in the province today. Partial proceeds from each copy sold will be donated to the Hogan's Alley Society.

About the authors

Crawford Kilian has been teaching and writing online since the 1980s. He developed Capilano University's first online writing course, as well as teaching how to write for multimedia and the web. Kilian has published over 20 books as well as hundreds of articles both in print and online. He is a contributing editor of The, and runs numerous blogs. His Self-Counsel books include Writing for the Web, Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the forthcoming Write Your Nonfiction Book Online.Crawford blogs about writing: * Writing for the Web * Ask the English Teacher * Books and Writers * Write a Novel * Write Your Nonfiction Book

Crawford Kilian's profile page

Adam Rudder was born in Vancouver and completed his Master of Arts degree in history at the University of Victoria. He is co-chair of the Hogan’s Alley Society, which seeks to preserve and promote the historical, cultural, societal and economic contributions made by Black settlers and their descendants.

Adam Rudder's profile page

Editorial Reviews

The revised third edition of Kilian Crawford’s ground-breaking book on BC’s Black pioneers is timely and essential reading. It is a critical corrective to omissions and erasure in both academic histories and in popular understandings, not only of the past but also of the present… Documentary accounts of history like this one will help us better understand the world we inherited in all its complexity. Much work remains to done to recover Black history in BC and to ensure an anti-racist future. Kilian’s book has laid the foundations. It should be in every BC teacher’s repertoire and its gaps should inspire young historians to write the stories still to be told.

BC Studies

Amid the vast variety of history books and material available these days, one that stands out is Go Do Some Great Thing by Crawford Kilian (2020, Harbour Publishing), which recounts the history of B.C. from the Black pioneering perspective — a fleeting topic in most history resources...

The book reads like an adventure story, describing the characters and challenges the early Victoria immigrants and established inhabitants struggled with, and there’s a ­joyous boom-town feel to it.

Times Colonist

... accessible and well written …

The Ormsby Review

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