In Honour Of
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
– officially celebrated in Canada and the United States,
but available to all –
I celebrate John Craven Jones – first teacher on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina on September 10, 1834
Died at Greensboro, South Carolina, on December 17, 1911.
“John’s father Allan Jones believed passionately in education for the Black people. He was a Black man, born into slavery in America. He became a free man. (We don’t know for sure, but he probably bought freedom for himself and his wife and children) When he was free, he started a school for Black children. People who did not believe that Black children should learn to read and write burned down his school. He started another school. That school was also set on fire and destroyed. He started a new school. It, too, was burned down. Then Allan Jones sent his sons to Oberlin College, Ohio, to get a high class education. All three Jones brothers graduated from the college. John was the brother who wanted to teach. Like his father, he especially wanted to teach his own people. Oberlin College had taught him how to start a one-room school for children, and how to give them a really good education from grade one through to grade eight.
When he graduated from Oberlin College, John Craven Jones taught for two years as the only teacher in a one-room school for Black students, in Xenia, Ohio.
In 1859, when he was 25 years old, John Craven Jones and his brothers came to Salt Spring with the first group of non-native people making a new life for themselves by settling on Salt Spring Island. (Before 1859, the land and coasts of Salt Spring Island were used only by the First Nations people of the area) Some of these new settlers were white men, bachelors who married Indian women. Indian women knew how to gather food and how to survive on the island. But almost all of the Black people came as families, husbands and wives with children who needed education. John Craven Jones was teaching these children almost immediately, and continued to do so for many years, without any pay. (The families made sure he had all he needed to stay teaching on the island, so they shared food with him, and helped him with his other needs).”
Because Mr. Jones did not obtain appropriate certification (as he was teaching school during office hours of the Ministry of Education, I don’t know how he could have traveled to Victoria to obtain this official documentation), we have copies of an Inspection Report that was completed by a man with significantly fewer qualifications than Mr. Jones!
John taught on Salt Spring until 1875, then returned to Oberlin. There, he met Almira, also a graduate of Oberlin College, and married her when he was 48 years of age. John and Almira went to Tarboro, North Carolina, where he taught in a school for Black students. John and Almira had three children. John taught in Tarboro for about 20 years before retiring as a farmer. John Craven Jones died at Greensboro, South Carolina, on December 17, 1911.
Descendants of the original black families are still with us on Salt Spring Island. Their contribution to the community today is primarily in the arts – music and writing.
Marcus Mosely, a Texas raised singer who starred in various highly successful stage production such as “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, “Black and Gold Revue” and “Show Boat” (now living in Vancouver), offered Salt Springers a weekend of training in Black Spirituals and Gospel. Descendants of John Carver Jones’ students came to our Sunday night performance. Blessedly, dignity outshone truth. It leaked no signs of their suffering through our attempts at their soul’s music.
Thank you, John Craven Jones, for all you gave to our Island home.