October is one of my favourite months of the year, it’s my birthday month, Halloween, marks the start of autumn but most importantly it is when all of us black people can celebrate our history, and educate ourselves on what the current ethnocentric education system fails to teach.
As I’ve got older, I have educated myself more and more on Black history and it is so shocking just how much history is never taught, talked about or acknowledged. There are a vast majority of inspirational individuals in our history and in this post, I will be attempting to educate you on some very special individuals in British history that we should be shouting about.
*Names are in bold to make it clear as some don’t have pics*
- Ignatius Sancho (c1729-1780), the composer, actor, writer and businessman was the first Black person known to have voted in Britain in 1774 and 1780. Sancho was also the first African prose writer whose work was published in England.
2. The ‘Africa Times and Orient Review’ is the first political journal produced by and for Black people ever published in Britain. Duse Mohamed Ali, an Egyptian Nationalist and Pan Africanist Journalist founded The African Times and Orient Review in London in July 1912. It was printed in Fleet Street in London. Marcus Garvey was a staff writer at the newspaper.
3. Una Marson (1905-1965) was the first Black female broadcaster at the BBC from 1939 to 1946. Una was born in Jamaica in 1905 and was a poet, publisher as well as activist for racial and sexual equality- she was a true pioneer for black women and one we should celebrate! Also, Marson was a secretary to the League of Coloured Peoples as as well as many other organisations including the Women’s International League for Peace.
4. John Richard Archer (1863-1932) became London’s first Black Mayor on 10th November 1913 aged fifty years old when he was elected mayor of Battersea. In his acceptance speech, he said that the news of his success ‘will go forth to all the coloured nations of the world’:
They will look at Battersea, and say, ‘It is the greatest thing you have done. You have shown you have no racial prejudice, but recognise a man for what you think he has done’.
5. The earliest recorded black person known to have lived in London is Cornelius a Blackamoor. Burial records show that he lived in Catford and died 2nd March 1593, his stature, age, job are all unknown.
6. J.S Celestine Edwards (1858-1894) was the first Black man to edit a White-owned newspaper Lux (1892-1895), which was a weekly Christian Evidence Newspaper. He was also the editor of its monthly journal entitled ‘Fraternity (1893-1897)’ which reached a circulation of more than 7000.
7. In 2012, archaeologists made a discovery that uncovered skeletons from the 19th century. One skeleton was found to be Beachy Head Lady, her name comes from the spot where she was discovered. It was later concluded that she belonged to women of sub-Saharan African descent from around 125 AD- she lived in England for most of her life and held a relatively high stature in Roman society. Her discovery confirms the African presence in Britain stretches back to the second and third centuries.
8. John Edmonstone was a freed slave from Guyana. He learnt about taxidermy from naturalist Charles Waterton in Scotland and later became a tutor at Edinburgh University, where he taught a young Charles Darwin, he is thought to have inspired Darwin’s trip to the Galapagos and eventual theory of natural selection.
Charles Darwin testified in his autobiography (1,2) that when he was a student at Edinburgh (1825 Oct – 1827 Apr) “a negro lived in Edinburgh, who had travelled with Warton, and gained his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently; he gave me lessons for payment and I often used to sit with him for he was a pleasant and intelligent man.”
9. Dido Elizabeth Belle born into slavery as the daughter of an enslaved British African woman and Sir John Lindsay, a naval officer who was stationed in the British West Indies. He later took Belle with him when he relocated back to England in 1765, he gave her to his uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, and his wife Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Mansfield.
They educated Belle, bringing her up as a free gentlewoman at their Kenwood House.
Belle lived there for 30 years. In his will of 1793, Lord Mansfield confirmed her freedom and provided an outright sum and an annuity to her, making her an heiress.
10. Olaudah Equiano was an 18th century writer and anti slavery campaigner. From an early age, Olaudah Equiano experienced the horrors of slavery first hand. But, after gaining his freedom, he gained British citizenship and wrote about his experiences. His autobiography went on to become pivotal for the abolitionist movement.
Thanks for reading,