Updated: Sep 15, 2020
In 1850, Mifflin Wistar Gibbs migrated to San Francisco. He apprenticed as a carpenter, but racism froze him out of work. He worked as a bootblack, then started a successful clothing business with Peter Lester. He stood against the poll tax. His goods were seized and sent to auction, but in a show of support from the community, no one would bid on them, so he recovered his property.
In 1851, with partners G.W. Dennis and James Brown, he founded the first black-owned newspaper, Mirror of the Times to advocate for francisement, right of oath, and equal rights. During the state conventions in 1854, ‘55, and ‘57, he became a leading member of the push for equality. He (and others) faced discrimination through poll taxes and other ‘legal’ injustices.
In 1858 Gibbs moved to Victoria in what is now British Columbia, part of a mass migration of black men and women seeking equality under the British flag. While in Canada, he became wealthy through real estate, retail, and mining. In 1869, he returned to the US, got a law degree in OH, and moved to AR. In 1873, he became the first elected African American municipal judge in the US. In 1897, he was appointed US Consul to Madagascar.