Black History Month 2020

To support Black History Month, we will be sharing content that celebrates black contributions to British society and black history.

Claudia Jones 
Claudia Jones was a feminist, black nationalist, political activist, community leader and journalist.

Born in Trinidad in 1915, she moved to Harlem, New York at the age of 8. She lived there for over 30 years and became an active member of the American Communist Party who utilised her journalistic and community leadership skills. By 1948 she had become the editor of Negro Affairs for the party’s paper the Daily Worker and had become an accomplished speaker on human and civil rights.

In 1955 she was deported from the US and given asylum in England. She spent her remaining years working with London’s African-Caribbean community, founding The West Indian Gazette, founding the Notting Hill Carnival and working tirelessly in the fight for equal opportunities for black people.

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Brendon Batson
Brendon Batson is considered one of the pioneer black football players in England.
Beginning his professional career at Arsenal, it was not until he was at West Bromwich Albion that we made his mark on football.

Alongside his teammates Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham, became a key figure at West Bromwich Albion at a time when black players were subjected to extreme racism from football fans.

After retiring from football, he established himself as one f the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) senior administrators before rising to the position of deputy chief executive.

In 2000 he was awarded the MBE for services to football and in 2002.

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Paul Boateng 
Born in Ghana in 1951, Paul Boateng moved to England in 1966. He come to prominence in the late 1970s as a civil rights lawyer and a familiar figure at protests of police activity.

He was elected to the Greater London Council in 1981 and became chairman of the police committee, campaigning for greater accountability and control over the Metropolitan Police, and vice-chair of its ethnic minorities committee.

In 1997, he made history when he was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, the first black person to hold a ministerial office in the Government. In 1998, he became the minister of State for Home Affairs and in 2002, he was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

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Olive Morris 
Olive was an important figure in terms of civil rights, campaigning for racial and gender equality.

Campaigning for the rights of black people in South London and Manchester, Olive was a founding member of the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) and the Brixton Black Women’s Group, one of Britain’s first networks for black women.

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Stuart Hall 
Stuart Hall was a leading 20th Century Cultural theorist and a sociologist who is known as an important figure for multiculturalism.

Hall is generally credited with expanding the field of cultural studies to include theories about race and gender and is widely known as the founder of British Cultural Studies and the Birmingham School and Cultural Studies.

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Lilian Bader 
Born in 1918, Lilian Bader went on to become one of the very first black women to join the British Armed Forces. Lilian began her military career at the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 as a canteen assistant at an army base in Yorkshire, a role she kept for only seven weeks before she was sacked due to the fact her father was born outside the UK.

She did not join the forces again until 1941 when she was accepted into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, qualifying first as an instrument repairer, before becoming a leading aircraft woman and soon afterwards earning the rank of Corporal.

Ignatius Sancho
Born in 1729 on a slave ship in the mid-Atlantic, Ignatius was brought to England when he was two. Ignatius taught himself to read and write with the help of his then owner the Duke of Montagu. Speaking out against the slave trade, he went on to compose music and write poetry and plays before opening a grocer’s shop in Westminster with a legacy left to him by the Duchess of Montagu.

His shop became a meeting place for some of the most famous writers, artists, actors and politicians of the day and as a financially independent householder, Ignatius became the first black person of African origin to vote in parliamentary elections in Britain. 

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Phillis Wheatley 
Born in West Africa, at the age of 7 Phillis was seized and put on board a ship and sent to the US as a slave for a family called the Wheatleys.

Whilst a slave, Phillis was taught to read and write. She wrote her first poem at the age of 14 and at the age of 20 she moved to England with her son. Within a yeat, she published her first book. This made her the first African American poet to be published, with her first volume of poetry published in 1773.

Wheatley was a household name among literate colonists and her achievements a catalyst for the fledgling antislavery movement.

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John Blanke – Henry VIII’s Black Trumpeter 
An African trumpeter, John Blanke was employed by Henry VIII and can be seen inscribed into a 60ft long roll depicting the prestigious Westminster Tournament of 1511. Historians have also discovered a letter from John asking Henry VIII for a pay rise.

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The Ivory Bangle Lady 
Whilst some might think that the first Black people in Britain arrived from Britain’s colonies this is not true with scientists finding that black people were in Britain since Roman times.

The Ivory Bangle Lady is the name given to the remains found in York in 1901. Analysis has dated her remains to the second half of the 4th Century and revealed that although she was born in Roman Britain, she is likely to be of North African descent.

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