Updated: Mar 18
Guyanese-British firefighter and social worker Frank Bailey, who is widely considered to be the first Black firefighter of post-war London, paved the way for diversity and inclusion within the fire service.
On 26th November, Google Doodle illustrated by West Yorkshire-based guest artist Nicole Miles, celebrated Guyanese-British firefighter and social worker Frank Bailey, who is widely considered the first Black firefighter of post-war London. Among his pioneering accomplishments in the name of diversity and inclusion, Bailey is also credited as one of the first Black social workers specializing in mental health in London’s Kensington and Chelsea borough.
Frank Arthur Bailey was born on this day in 1925 in British Guiana (now Guyana), South America. He attended local schools and then took a job on a German trade ship, which brought him to New York. There he found work in a hospital where he staged a walkout in protest of the institution’s separate dining rooms for different types of employees. The subsequent integration of the dining facilities proved just one of Bailey’s many successful challenges to an unequal status quo.
Bailey moved to London in 1953 and caught wind that Black people were not being hired by the city’s fire service. Not one to stand idly by in the face of injustice, Bailey applied to join the West Ham Fire Brigade and made history when he was accepted into service. A lifelong advocate for workers’ rights, Bailey became a union branch representative before the repeated denial of promotions pushed him to leave his post in 1965.
Bailey then transitioned into social work and became the first Black legal advisor for Black youths at Marylebone Magistrates Court.
His daughter Alexis Bailey said: "I’m very proud of my dad. He spent his whole life fighting against injustice and he never gave up. He taught me to challenge things I believe are wrong and stand up for myself and others, even when it scares me."
What the artist Nicole Miles had to say?
As a Caribbean person living in the UK, it's inspiring and relatable to see how immigrants (especially from my tiny corner of the world) have given so much of themselves to their various adopted homes. With this project, not only was Frank Bailey a Black person living in Britain, he was from Guyana (which is considered culturally Caribbean), and that link was interesting to me among other little connections I discovered when researching him.
Happy Birthday, Frank Bailey. Your actions continue to encourage others to never give up in the fight for equality for all.