February is Black History month. It is important to remember Black history and the contributions of individuals from the BIPOC community. History isn’t complete without the contributions of the men and women who shaped the future of society not only for the BIPOC community but for every community. When we think of Black history we often think of Rosa Parks, Viola Davis, and Martin Luther King Jr. They blazed a trail for those coming after them. An inspiration not only for the BIPOC community but for everyone to look to and learn the importance of standing up for what is right.
As pillars of the BIPOC community they are remembered, commemorated and have their stories told year after year, as they should be. One pillar that is often not mentioned is Violet Pauline Henry King. The daughter of Jamaican immigrants growing up in predominantly white Calgary during the 1930s and 40s she saw firsthand the challenges of Black Canadians. From a young age she had a community focus and a keen interest in the law. When she attended the University of Alberta in 1948 she was the only Black female student. In recognition of her many contributions to the university during her studies she was recognized with the Executive “A” gold ring. After graduating in 1952 she went on to being called to the bar in 1953. Throughout her career she gave speeches on racism, promoting gender equality and race equity.
As a leader in her community she was the treasurer for the Calgary Brotherhood Council, which was a labour union for the Sleeping Car Porters. She worked hard to further the rights of Black workers. She wasn’t only Alberta’s first female black lawyer but also Canada’s first black female lawyer. Ms. King was also the first female of any racial background to hold an executive position with the YMCA in the U.S.A.
A remarkable woman recognized for her accomplishments by many organizations, the National YMCA Hall of Fame, International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids, the University of Alberta. When we remember Rosa Parks, Viola Davis and Martin Luther King Jr we need to remember Violet King. She prepared the way for many black women and black individuals to pursue a future in law, providing inspiration for those who came behind and encouraging positive change for society.