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  • Google Doodle celebrates Mama Cax during Black History Month USA

    Google Doodle celebrates the pioneering American model and disability rights activist who championed for the fashion industry's inclusion of differently abled models and people of colour. On the 8th February 2023, in honour of Black History Month USA, Google Doodle celebrated Haitian American model and disability rights advocate Mama Cax. Illustrated by Brooklyn-based guest artist Lyne Lucien, Mama Cax is best known for shattering expectations around beauty. The model and advocate proudly strutted down catwalks on her prosthetic leg, often designed with colours and patterns. Also on this day in 2019, Mama Cax made her debut on a runway at New York Fashion Week. Mama Cax was born Cacsmy Brutus on November 20, 1989, in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At age 14, she was diagnosed with bone and lung cancer. As a result of her cancer, she underwent an unsuccessful hip replacement surgery at age 16 which led to the amputation of her right leg. At first, Mama Cax was depressed and struggled to accept herself with a prosthetic leg, as she wanted it to look realistic and match her skin tone. As time passed, Mama Cax began accepting and loving her new body. She started wearing stylish prosthetic covers with pride incorporating it as part of her personal style. She also began expressing her love for fashion and style with colourful outfits, hair dyes, and bold makeup. During this time of embracing her disability, Cax also leaned into her athleticism and learned to handcycle — she went on to complete the New York City Marathon! As the body positivity movement grew, Mama Cax noticed that Black women and women with disabilities were underrepresented in social media. She began posting regularly and advocating for inclusivity in fashion and using social media to discuss her body insecurities. She officially broke into the fashion industry as a model in an advertising campaign in 2017 and was signed by Jag Models shortly after. In 2018, she landed a Teen Vogue cover, and the following year, Mama Cax walked in both the February and October New York Fashion Weeks. Mama Cax’s life was tragically cut short by medical complications in 2019 at the young age of 30. The model and activist is remembered for expanding the image of what people with disabilities should be or look like. Today’s vibrant Doodle artwork is a reflection of her bright life. The artwork highlights the many facets of her identity including her Haitian heritage, her NYC hometown, and her fashion career with her prosthetic incorporated into the look. Thank you for being a positive role model and advocating for inclusion in the fashion and beauty world, Mama Cax.

  • Yvonne Conolly - Britain's first female Black headteacher

    Yvonne Conolly CBE was born Cecile Yvonne Conolly in 1939 Jamaica. After completing three years training as a primary school teacher in Jamaica, she made the decision with her ex-pat teacher friend Elizabeth Heybeard to come to Britain to teach. She arrived in the UK in 1963 and initially found work as a supply teacher and took jobs a babysitter, cleaner and typist to supplement her income. Conolly eventually found permanent teaching position at George Eilot School in Swiss Cottage, north London. Here, for five years, she excelled and eventually became deputy-head of the primary school; she had originally planned to return to Jamaica after three years. On a whim, she applied for the headteacher role at Ring Cross Primary School and much to her surprise was offered the role in January 1969. At just 29 years of age, she became the UK’s first Black female headteacher. She received racist abuse after being appointed headteacher and needed a bodyguard to accompany her to work. She was subjected to repeated attacks in national newspapers and would receive hate mail at home. She recalled in one of her last interviews with the Islington Tribune in February 2021: “And I remember people looking at me washing my hands, thinking the water would run brown. Were they being racist, or just ignorant?” In her role as headteacher, Yvonne was appointed to a multi-ethnic team of inspectors assembled by the Inner London Education Authority in 1978. Her job on the board was to help schools in the capital tackle racism by looking at resources and policymaking, with a particular focus on North London. After leaving Ring Cross Primary she was later made an Ofsted inspector and also set up the Caribbean Teachers' Association. She was an Ofsted inspector for seven years between 1977-1986. When this role ended, she continued being an active voice in the home secretary’s advisory council on race relations. The Department of Education paid their respects to Connolly in a statement, describing her as a “history maker.” After retiring from teaching in 2001, Connolly remained chair of the Caribbean Teachers’ Association and in October 2020 she was honoured for her services to education with the Honorary Fellow of Education award from the Naz Legacy Foundation. HRH Prince of Wales, who announced Connolly’s award, said at the time that she had “character and determination” which helped her break barriers for black educators. In the Queen's Birthday Honours in October 2020, Conolly was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for services to education. Conolly is also remembered in Islington where, near to her home in Finsbury Park, the 'Yvonne Conolly Garden' in Wray Crescent Park was dedicated to her in 2019. Yvonne died in January 2021 after battling the incurable blood cancer myeloma for 10 years. Sources: Image credits: Myeloma UK

  • Pablo Fanque – master horseman and first Black circus owner in Britain

    Pablo Fanque was born William Darby on 30 March 1810 in Lincoln and was one of five children born to John and Mary Darby. At the age of 10 or 11, he was apprenticed to circus proprietor William Batty and made his first known appearance as the ‘Young Darby’ in a sawdust ring in Norwich on 26 December 1821. His acts included equestrian stunts and rope walking. Once established as a circus performer, William Darby changed his professional name to Pablo Fanque. He appears to be a prodigy and was a great juggler, acrobat, tightrope walker, and expert horseman. Pablo left the William Batty’s travelling circus to join Andrew Ducrow, one of the most prestigious names in the history of the circus and remained with him for some time. There he developed his famous horse training skills – getting his horses to waltz (dance) in time to the music (now referred to as dressage), which was very difficult and rare to see at the time. By the mid-1830s, Fanque was noted not only as a daringly acrobatic master of the corde volante (French for flying rope), but also as a superb horseman, billed in the press as “the loftiest jumper in England.” Fanque was renowned for his showmanship and reputation for treating for his acts well. Consequentially, his circus grew to include a stable of 30 horses; clowns; a ringmaster; a band; an “architect” (someone who was charged with erecting the wooden “amphitheatres” in which they performed) and the regular services of Edward Sheldon, a pioneer in the art of billposting whose family would go on to build the biggest advertising business in Britain by 1900. In the 30 years that Fanque operated his own circus (sometimes in partnership with others), he toured England, Scotland, and Ireland, but he performed mostly in the Midlands and the Northern England counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and what is now Greater Manchester. Pablo married two times. His first wife, Susannah Marlaw was the daughter of a Birmingham buttonmaker. They had two sons, one of which was called Lionel. On 18 March 1848, Susannah tragically died when part of a circus building collapsed, killing her. In June 1848, widower Fanque married Elizabeth Corker, a circus rider and daughter of George Corker of Bradford. Corker was 22 years old. With Corker, Fanque had two more sons, George (1854–1881) and Edward Charles "Ted" (1855–1937). Both joined the circus. Fanque was a charitable man who often donated generously to local charities in the areas he visited, and sometimes discounted the ticket costs for those in need. Further he frequently arranged shows for benefit shows for performers in his circus and others in the professions (who had no regular retirement or health benefits), and for community organisations. Fanque was a member of the Order of Ancient Shepherds, a fraternal organization affiliated with the Freemasons. It assisted families in times of illness or death with burial costs and other expenses. For example, an 1845 show in Blackburn benefitted the Blackburn Mechanics Institution and the Independent Order of Oddfellows, offering a bonus to the Widows and Orphans Fund. Pablo died of bronchitis on 4 May 1871 and was buried next to his first wife Susannah Darby. In 2010, Fanque was honoured in his birthplace of Norwich by a commemorative blue plaque on the wall of the John Lewis department store on All Saints Green, believed to be near his birthplace. He was the inspiration behind The Beatles’ song ‘Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite!’ from their album, ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’. Sources:

  • John Richard Archer - the first Black mayor of a London borough

    John Richard Archer was born on 8 June 1863 in Liverpool to Richard Archer, from Barbados, and Mary Theresa Burns, from Ireland. Following in his father’s footsteps, he became a seaman and travelled the world for many years spending time in America and Canada. He married Margaret, a Black Canadian, and in the 1890s, returned with her to England, settling in Battersea while in his thirties. He started to study medicine but supported himself by a small photographic studio. Archer entered local politics after attending the Pan-African Conference held in London in 1900, where he met leading members of the African diaspora. He was also a supporter of the radical Liberal John Burns and friendly with London radicals. In 1906 he was elected as a Progressive (Liberal) to Battersea Borough Council for Latchmere ward; at the same time, Caribbean Henry Sylvester Williams and fellow Pan-Africanist won in Marylebone. Archer successfully campaigned for a minimum wage of 32 shillings a week for council workers but lost his seat in 1909; he was re-elected in 1912. In 1913, Archer was nominated for the position of mayor (at that time a position implying that he was the political leader of the Battersea council, rather than the ceremonial role common in England from the 1920s). There were negative and racist aspects to the campaign, with allegations that he did not have British nationality. He won by 40 votes to 39 among his fellow councillors. His success caught the eye of the newly formed NAACP in the United States who reported Archer’s success in their journal the Crisis in January 1914. Archer moved to the left during his years in Battersea and in 1919 was re-elected to the council as a Labour representative, and by 1931 he had become the deputy lead of the Labour group. In 1918 he had been elected as the first president of the African Progress Union, working for "advanced African ideas in liberal education". In 1919 he was a British delegate to the Pan-African Congress in Paris and two years later, chaired the Pan-African Congress in London. In 1922, Archer gave up his council seat to act as Labour Party election agent for Shapurji Saklatvala, a Communist Party activist standing for parliament in North Battersea. He convinced the Labour Party to endorse Saklatvala, who was duly elected - one of the first Indian MPs in Britain. He and Saklatvala continued to work together, winning again in 1924 until the Communist and Labour parties split fully. In the 1929 general election, Archer was agent for the official Labour candidate, who beat Saklatvala. Archer served as a governor of Battersea Polytechnic, president of the Nine Elms Swimming Club, chair of the Whitley Council Staff Committee, and a member of the Wandsworth Board of Guardians. He was again elected in 1931, for the Nine Elms ward. At the time of his death in 1932, he was deputy leader of Battersea Council. He died on 14 July 1932, a few weeks after his 69th birthday. His funeral was held at the Church of Our Lady of Carmel in Battersea Park Road on 19 July. He was buried in the council cemetery at Morden. London’s first Black mayor is remembered both in his birth city of Liverpool where they have the John Archer Hall and in Wandsworth where there is road named after him called 'John Archer Way’. In 2004, he was chosen for the "100 Great Black Britons" list, and in April 2013 he was remembered by a Royal Mail stamp recognising ‘Great Britons’. He has two blue plaques – the first was issued by the Nubian Jak Community Trust and an English Heritage blue plaque at his former home on Brynmaer Road in Battersea. In March 2018 the Ark Academy Network renamed High View Primary school in Battersea as Ark John Archer Academy. Sources: Local historian Sean Creighton -

  • Ira Aldridge - the UK's first Black Shakespearean actor

    Ira Frederick Aldridge was born on 24 July 1807 in New York City to Reverend Daniel and Luranah (also spelled Lurona) Aldridge. At the age of 13, Aldridge went to the African Free School in New York City, established by the New York Manumission Society for the children of free enslaved African American and other Black heritage peoples. His first professional acting experience was in the early 1820s with the African Grove Theatre troupe. It was founded and managed by William Henry Brown and James Hewlett, and was the first resident African American theatre in the United States. After the troupe was forced to close by an intense racist campaign, Aldridge packed his bags in 1824 and made his way to England. He made his debut acting appearance at London’s East End Royalty Theatre in May 1825. As his career grew, his performances of Shakespeare's classics eventually met with critical acclaim and he subsequently became the manager of Coventry's Theatre Royal. In 1850, he published his autobiography Memoir and Theatrical Career of Ira Aldridge, the African Roscius. In it, he detailed aspects of both his personal and professional life, describing his voyages across the country: 'acting in succession at Brighton, Chichester, Leicester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Exeter, Belfast and so on, returning to London after a lapse of seven years...' Aldridge spent much of the 1850s on the Continent, touring the Austro-Hungarian empire, Germany, Prussia, Switzerland, Poland and eventually travelling to Russia in 1858 where he was well received. Upon returning to England in the 1860s, he applied for British citizenship. He married two times, first to Margaret Gill in 1825 and after her death to the self-styled Swedish countess Amanda von Brandt. Together they had four children, two of whom, Luranah and Amanda, became professional operatic singers. By the time of his death in 1867 in Lodz, Poland, Aldridge was an acclaimed and award-winning stage actor and the most visible Black figure in Europe. He had appeared on stage in more than 250 theatres across Britain and Ireland, and more than 225 theatres in Europe. In 2017, a blue plaque dedicated to Aldridge was unveiled in Coventry by actor Earl Cameron who had been trained by Aldridge's daughter, the opera singer Amanda Aldridge (1866–1956). Aldridge is also the only actor of African-American descendent honoured with a bronze plaque at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

  • Vivian Anderson - first Black Briton to play for the senior men's England national football team

    Vivian Alexander Anderson, MBE (born 29 July 1956) is an English former professional footballer and coach. He won five senior trophies including the 1977–78 Football League title, and both the 1978–79 European Cup and the 1979–80 European Cup playing for Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest. He was later part of the squads to win a domestic cup with each of Arsenal and Manchester United. He also played for Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley and Middlesbrough. He was the first Black Briton to play for the senior men's England national football team.

  • Laurie Cunningham - first British footballer to sign with Real Madrid

    Laurence Paul Cunningham (8 March 1956 – 15 July 1989) was an English professional footballer. A left winger, who started his football career as a schoolboy at Arsenal in 1970 but whose career didn’t take off until he joined West Bromwich Albion in 1977. Two years later, he became the first British footballer signed by Real Madrid. He was there for five years, winning La Liga once and the Copa del Rey twice. After a spell in France with Marseille, he returned to England with Leicester City in 1985, followed by a return to Spain with Rayo Vallecano. Cunningham signed with Wimbledon in 1988, helping them win the FA Cup in 1988 for the final trophy of his career. Cunningham received his first international call-up to the England U21 side in 1977 while playing for West Bromwich Albion, becoming the first Black footballer to represent an England international team organised by the Football Association. He later earned six caps for the full national team between 1979 and 1980, becoming one of the first ever black England internationals. While playing for Rayo Vallecano, Cunningham was killed in a car crash in Madrid on the morning of 15 July 1989, at the age of 33. His football achievements have been commemorated with a blue plaque at his former home at 73 Lancaster Road in Stroud Green, London.

  • Emma Clarke - considered to be the first known Black women footballer in Britain

    Emma Clarke was born in 1876 in Bootle, Lancashire in England. She and her sister are known to be the earliest known Black women footballers in Britain. She worked as a confectioner’s apprentice from the age of 15, and received her formative sporting education playing the game in her neighbourhood streets of Bootle. Clarke normally played as an outfield player and she also played as goalkeeper. She made her debut in 1885 for the British Ladies’ Football Club. Photographic evidence shows her lined up in the official team photo for the "South" team of the British Ladies in their inaugural exhibition match, a game watched by more than 10,000 people at Crouch End, London, a game that Clarke's "South" team lost 7–1. A year later she played for Mrs Graham’s XI that toured Scotland. Interest in the tour was substantial and their matches regularly attracted crowds numbering in the thousands. As well as receiving payment for expenses, it is estimated that Clarke would have been paid approximately a shilling a week while on the tour. In 1897, she made an appearance for a team described as "The New Woman and Ten of Her Lady Friends" against "Eleven Gentlemen". The ladies’ team were victorious 3–1, although the report at the time made it clear the feelings about the women's game at the time, describing the game as a grotesque, although conceding that "in the second half the ladies distinguished themselves". It is also thought that her sister played in this match too. Clarke's career as a footballer continued until at least 1903. In 2019, a blue heritage plaque commemorating Clarke was unveiled at Campsbourne School, Hornsey, which is the site of her team, the former Crouch End FC.

  • Arthur Wharton -probably the first Black professional footballer in the world

    Arthur Wharton (28 October 1865 – 12 December 1930) is widely considered to be the first Black professional footballer in the world. He played as a goalkeeper for clubs as Darlington Football Club, Rotherham Town, Preston North End and Sheffield United. Though not the first Black player outright – the amateurs Robert Walker, of Queen's Park, and Scotland international player, Andrew Watson, predate him (possibly a professional before Arthur Wharton for Bootle F.C. in 1887) – Wharton may have been the first Black professional and the first to play in the Football League. Wharton was born in Jamestown, Gold Coast (now Accra, Ghana). His father Henry Wharton was a Grenadian missionary of Scottish and African-Caribbean descent, while his mother, Annie Florence Egyriba was a member of the Fante Ghanaian royalty. Wharton moved to England in 1882 at the age of 19, to train as a Methodist missionary, but soon abandoned this in favour of becoming a full-time athlete. He was an all-round sportsman – in 1886, he equalled the amateur world record of 10 seconds for the 100-yard sprint in the AAA championship. He was also a keen cyclist and cricketer, playing for local teams in Yorkshire and Lancashire. However, Wharton is best remembered for his exploits as a footballer; while he was not the first mixed-heritage footballer in the United Kingdom — leading amateurs Robert Walker and Scotland international Andrew Watson predate him, however Wharton was the first mixed-heritage footballer to turn professional.

  • Exploring the military and footballing career of Walter Tull

    Lieutenant Walter Daniel John Tull (28 April 1888 – 25 March 1918) was an English professional footballer and British Army officer of African-Caribbean descent. He played as an inside forward and half back for Clapton, Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town and was the third person of African-Caribbean heritage to play in the top division of the Football League after Arthur Wharton and Willie Clarke. He was also the first player of African-Caribbean descent to be signed for Rangers in 1917 while stationed in Scotland. During the First World War, Tull served in the Middlesex Regiment, including in the two Footballers' Battalions. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 30 May 1917 and killed in action on 25 March 1918.

  • Celebrating UK Black Footie Firsts throughout December

    To mark the winter FIFA World Cup 2023, we'll be exploring some UK Black firsts in football throughout December. Do you know who was... The first Black Briton to play association football at international level The first known Black women's footballer in Britain The first Black Briton to play for the senior men's England national team The first player of African-Caribbean descent to be signed to Rangers in 1917 Check out out any of our Bio Shorts articles on the individuals below to find out the answers and why not play our football themed quiz with your friends too! Check out our social media accounts or subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter for regular updates!

  • Exploring the military career of Ulric Cross

    Ulric Cross is recognised as one of the most decorated Caribbean airman of WWII. He was born in Trinidad in 1917, Cross joined the RAF aged 24. He trained as a navigator and joined 139 Squadron, gaining the nickname ‘The Black Hornet’. Cross became an expert in precision bombing and joined the ranks of the elite Pathfinder Force, often flying missions at just 50 feet instead of the normal 25,000 feet. After 50 missions, Cross was given the option to rest. He refused and volunteered for a further 30 missions. By the war’s end, Cross had flown 80 missions over enemy territory and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. After the war, Cross qualified as a lawyer, and he briefly worked as a talks producer at the BBC’s Caribbean Service. Before being recruited by fellow Trinidadian George Padmore, one of the architects of Pan-Africanism, to travel to Ghana to help Kwame Nkrumah in his work seeking to unite Africa’s emerging nations. During Cross’s 15 years in Africa, he served on Ghana’s Crown Council. He was also Attorney General in Cameroon, a High Court Judge in Tanzania and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Dar Es Salaam. Cross then returned to Trinidad where he served as a High Court judge and on the Court of Appeal, later becoming Chair of the country’s Law Reform Commission. He was posted to London as Trinidad and Tobago’s High Commissioner to the UK from 1990 to 1993.

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