Members of San Francisco’s Black community of gathered in Zion Church an April 14, 1858, to listen to Captain Jeremiah Nagle, captain of a British ship, The Commodore. These were free men and women though had no civil rights in California, and were increasingly becoming victims of violent discrimination. Having decided to move on, they were looking at several destinations, including Mexico and Panama. Nagle had come with orders from James Douglas, the Governor of British Columbia and of mixed race, to persuade them to come north to Victoria.
The audience listened attentively, examined the maps he had brought, and asked many questions. Before the meeting ended, it was decided to send a commission of 35 members back with Nagle aboard The Commodore to have a look at Victoria. The news came back that land was cheap and that Blacks in British Columbia had the same rights as white citizens some 800 Black Americans packed up and headed north.