Black History Month Spotlight: Violet King

Violet King

Violet King was the first Black Woman to practice law in Canada. She was born on 18 October 1929 in Calgary, Alberta to John and Stella King. John worked as a sleeping car porter with the Canadian Pacific Railway and Stella worked as a seamstress. Violet attended the University of Alberta in 1948 and while attending University she taught piano lessons to fund school. Out of 142 students in the Faculty of Law, King was one of only three women. While in Law school, she was part of the Blue Stockings Society, an informal group of intellectual women who discussed timely topics and issues in 18th-century England. She was also vice-president of the students’ union and representative of the students’ union to the National Federation of Canadian University Students.

King obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1952 and a law degree in 1953. She was the first Black person to graduate from law school in Alberta and the only woman in her graduating class. On June 2nd, 1954, King was called to the Alberta Bar and became the first Black female lawyer to practice law in Canada. She spoke up about racism and women’s discrimination in the workplace.
King eventually moved to Ottawa to work with the federal Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Her roles included executive assistant to the chief of the Liaison Branch of Canadian Citizenship and Immigration and directing programs with the Canadian Citizenship Council. In 1963, she moved to New Jersey to become executive director of the Newark YMCA’s Community Branch. In 1965, King married Godfrey C. Henry. In 1966, the couple gave birth to their only child, Jo-Anne Henry. “In 1969, King moved to Chicago to become director of planning, and later became director of manpower, planning and staff development with the YMCA. In 1976, she was appointed executive director of the National Council of YMCA’s Organizational Development Group, making her the first woman named to an executive position with the national organization.” (Violet king. The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2017, November 16). In 1982, King passed away from cancer in New York, NY at age 5. In 1998, she was inducted to the National YMCA Hall of Fame.

Thank you,
The Mind Forward EDI Committee

Violet king. The Canadian Encyclopedia. (2017, November 16).