The first black immigrants arrived in British Columbia from California in 1858. They settled in Victoria and on Salt Spring Island, but as the center of economic power shifted, some came to Vancouver in the early 1900s.
They made their homes in Strathcona, an east side, working-class neighborhood. Over the next thirty years, they were joined by black homesteaders from Alberta, who originally came from Oklahoma, and by black railroad porters whose jobs were tied to the nearby railway stations.
By the 1920s, the black community had purchased a church, started businesses and established a neighborhood where they could raise their families. At its height in 1940s, the black population in Strathcona was approximately eight hundred.
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Black Strathcona Stories
While a few blacks continued to live in Strathcona, by 1990 there was little left to indicate that there had ever been a black community there. Today, Greater Vancouver has a population of over 20,000 blacks who occupy the city at large, and hold no substantive claim to the old east side neighborhood. But for six decades, the black community in Strathcona thrived – producing world-class athletes, musicians, entertainers, restaurant and nightclubs owners, entrepreneurs, community builders and political activists.
From the early 1900s to the late 1960s, the East Side neighborhood of Strathcona was home to Vancouver’s first and only black community. The ten video stories of Black Strathcona celebrate some of the people and places that made the community vibrant and unique.
An Interactive New Media Project
Black Strathcona is an innovative, interactive new media project celebrating Vancouver’s vibrant Black community that flourished in the East End neighbourhood of Strathcona from the 1920′s to the 1970′s. The project consists of 10 short films, combining narration with rarely seen archival photographs and film, highlighting the rich cultural heritage of the community.
In celebration of Black History Month, Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue and TD present Then and Now, a series of must-see events in six Canadian cities illuminating the significant contributions African Canadians have made to Canada’s cultural landscape.