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  • Six podcasts to listen to during Black History Month UK 2023 & beyond

    The History Hotline by Deanna Lyncook The History Hotline is a fantastic treasure trove of UK Black history delivered by history scholar Deanna Lyncook. Described as: "A space to have honest conversations about Black history and how it impacts the world we live in. We're here to explore some of the facets of Black history ignored by the mainstream, your teachers and the textbooks." Dope Black Mums The Dope Black Mums podcast exists as a digital safe space for Black women to navigate motherhood together. It's a bi weekly insight into the experience of UK Black mums - with inspirational guests, insightful topics, eye-opening honesty and lots of laughter. It's open to everyone. Whether you identify as a Dope Black Mum, Dad, Woman or Man, if you are raising Dope Black little people or if you would just like to learn more about a different culture or perspective. Say Your Mind Hosted by Kelechi Okafor and broadcast every Monday. The Say Your Mind podcast is a unique and hilarious take on Kelechi's take on Tarot, current events and pop culture sprinkled with bad language and an abundance of straws. Opening her show with a tarot reading before dishing out upbeat life advice to her listeners and blasting the week's most problematic figure in her 'Straw Of The Week' feature. The Receipts The Receipts is a fun, honest podcast hosted by Tolly, Milena and Audrey who are willing to talk about anything and everything. The weekly podcast revolves around issues ranging from relationships and situationships to race and religion and everyday life experiences that listeners have sent in for the hosts to discuss. Well-known personalities feature on the show and the podcast has been nominated for several awards. Plus their The Receipts: Official Slay Spotify list aren't too bad either! Dope Black Dads The Dope Black Dads Podcast is an adult-only podcast for all parents or adults preparing for parenthood. Led by Marvyn Harrison with contributions from the Dope Black Dads leadership as well as a host of special guests from the world of healing, media, parenting, TV/film, music, and beyond. They discuss everything from co-parenting, masculinity, and the Black experience all the way to their favourite Netflix show. Don't listen if you're expecting conversations about nappies! About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge Award winning British journalist and author one-off podcast series is a deep dive into the conversations covered in her book 'Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People Race. Delivering a deep dive into racial injustice and feminism, expect well-delivered and considered investigations. An educational and entertaining listen, this podcast requires your full attention. Photo credits: The History Hotline. Spotify/Deanna Lyncook

  • Our top reads for Black History Month UK 2023

    Check out our list of books to read and enjoy during this year's Black History Month UK that includes fiction and non-fiction titles. You can purchases any of the books listed in our IBHM Heritage shop on our IBHM Heritage shop, which helps support IBHM-UK website and independent bookshops. Britons Through Negro Spectacles by Augustus B.C. Merriman-Labour Our book of the month and the perfect companion to this year’s Black History Month UK theme of ‘Before Windrush,’ Part of the Black Britain, Writing Back Complete Collection curated by Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo. Merriman-Labour book was originally published in 1909. It’s a riotous, witty travelogue documenting the authors’ experience in Britain in the early 1900s, from an African perspective. In his book, Augustus narrates a day spent accompanying a newly arrived African friend around London. Part travelogue, part reverse ethnology, and part spoof of books by ill-informed ‘Africa experts.’ He slyly subverts the colonial gaze usually place on Africa, and introduces readers to the citizens, culture and customs of Britain with a mischievous glint in his eye. His jokes at the expense of the British attracted condemnation, and the book’s commercial failure push Augustus into bankruptcy. This incredible work of social commentary feels a century ahead of it time, and provides unique insights into the intersection between empire, race and community at this important moment in history. That Reminds Me by David Owusu The debut novel of David Owusu and the first novel to be published by Stormzy’s publishing imprint, Merky Books, tells the story of K, a boy born to Ghanian parents in London. Baby K is place in foster care and grows up relatively happily, he thinks in the countryside. When K is eleven, he returns to his birth family, and to a very different context of working-class British Ghanaian life in 1990s Tottenham. Slowly he finds friends. Eventually, he finds love. He learns how to navigate the city. But as he grows, he begins to realise that he needs more than the city can provide. He is a man made of pieces. Pieces that are slowly breaking apart. That Reminds Me is the story of one young man, from birth to adulthood, told in fragments of memory. It explores questions of identity, belonging, addiction, sexuality, violence, family and religion. It is a deeply moving and completely original work of literature from one of the brightest British writers of today. Keisha the Sket by Jade LB In 2005, a 13-year-old with no internet wrote a series of stories about life in London’s ends that ended up going viral – then, she disappeared. Now in print for the first time, Keisha the Sket tells the story of sharp, feisty and ambitious girl who been labelled ‘top sket’ but she’s making it work. When childhood crush and long-time admirer, Ricardo, finally wins her over, Keisha has it all: power, a love life and the chance for stability. But trauma comes knocking and with it a whirlwind of choices that will define what kind of a woman she truly wants to be. Complete with essays from esteemed contemporary writers Candice Carty-Williams, Caleb Femi and others, this is the complete and defining edition with edits and additional content from the author, perfect for readers - existing and new - to read and fall in love with over and over again. The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward Yrsa Daley-Ward’s book, The Terrible (subtitled as a ‘storyteller’s memoir’) does not run across the pages like a traditional work of creative nonfiction. She has devised a form that combines first and third person, poetry and prose, upside-down printing, and streams-of-consciousness about sexuality and physicality that sometimes make for difficult reading. Essentially, this is the story of Yrsa, the child of a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father who grows up in a northern English market town with her beloved brother, Little Roo. Early on, she realises that her body is dangerous, and she and Roo are shipped off to live with their Seventh Day Adventist grandparents – something to do with a blue nightdress, and Marcia’s latest boyfriend. The power of sex, and the fear of it, are palpable. The Terrible is a coming-of-age story that follows Yrsa from childhood to the loss of her mother, her love of her brother, her coming out, and her recognition of the ways trauma has caused her to zoom in and out of presence. For those who’ve experienced PTSD, the splits of narrative into poetry make intuitive sense. They enact the experience of being fragmented by something larger than yourself. Of occupying the world as an Other. That Moment When: Life Stories from Way Back Then by Mo Gilligan You might know Mo as the critically acclaimed stand-up comedian, BAFTA-winning presenter, Masked Singer judge and social media mega star. But do you know the moments that really made him? Opening up on the turning points, the good times, the challenges and the lessons learned, this is Mo as you've never seen him before. Journeying through childhood memories in South London, Mo reminisces about school days and old-school raving, and takes us behind the scenes of his first comedy gigs, the creation of the original Geezer, selling out national tours and becoming one of TV's most in-demand stars. Share the moment that Mo decided he wanted to be a comedian, the moment he went viral, the moment he realised he was famous (and how to deal with it), the moment his Netflix special dropped, the moment he won his BAFTA and the moments he still has to come. In among the laugh-out-loud observations, life lessons and candid storytelling, there lies the bigger influences in Mo's life - the unsung heroes of the Black British comedy scene, the power of community and the feel-good legacy he wants to create. The Fraud by Zadie Smith Renowned writer Zadie Smith latest work is her first historical novel and is loosely based around the famous Tichborne Trial of the early 19th century. It’s an interweaving tale of Scottish housekeeper Mrs Eliza Touchet, a once famous novelist William Ainsworth, and star witness Andrew Bogle. Mrs Touchet is a woman of many interests: literature, justice, abolitionism, class, her cousin, his wives, this life and the next. But she is also sceptical. She suspects her cousin of having no talent; his successful friend, Mr Charles Dickens, of being a bully and a moralist; and England of being a land of facades, in which nothing is quite what it seems. Andrew Bogle meanwhile grew up enslaved on the Hope Plantation, Jamaica. He knows every lump of sugar comes at a human cost. That the rich deceive the poor. And that people are more easily manipulated than they realise. When Bogle finds himself in London, star witness in a celebrated case of imposture, he knows his future depends on telling the right story. The 'Tichborne Trial' captivates Mrs Touchet and all of England. Is Sir Roger Tichborne really who he says he is? Or is he a fraud? Mrs Touchet is a woman of the world. Mr Bogle is no fool. But in a world of hypocrisy and self-deception, deciding what is real proves a complicated task. Settlers: Journeys Through the Food, Faith and Culture of Black African London by Jimi Famurewa Daniel Kaluuya and Skepta; John Boyega and Little Simz; Edward Enninful and Bukayo Saka - everywhere you look, across the fields of sport, business, fashion, the arts and beyond, there are the descendants of Black African families that were governed by many of the same immutable, shared traditions. In his book Jimi Famurewa, a British-Nigerian journalist, journeys into the hidden yet vibrant world of African London. Seeking to understand the ties that bind Black African Londoners together and link them with their home countries, he visits their places of worship, roams around markets and restaurants, attends a traditional Nigerian engagement ceremony, shadows them on their morning journeys to far-flung grammar schools and listens to stories from shopkeepers and activists, artists and politicians. But this isn't just the story of energetic, ambitious Londoners. Jimi also uncovers a darker side, of racial discrimination between White and Black communities and, between Black Africans and Afro-Caribbeans. He investigates the troublesome practice of 'farming' in which young Black Nigerians were sent to live with White British foster parents, examines historic interaction with the police, and reveals the friction between traditional Black African customs and the stresses of modern life in diaspora. This is a vivid new portrait of London, and of modern Britain. Just Sayin’ by Malorie Blackman Malorie Blackman OBE is one of Britain's best loved and most widely-read writers. For over thirty years, her books have helped to shape British culture, and inspired generations of younger readers and writers. The Noughts and Crosses series, started in 2000, sparked a new and necessary conversation about race and identity in the UK, and are already undisputed classics of twenty-first-century children's literature. She is also a writer whose own life has been shaped by books, from her childhood in south London, the daughter of parents who moved to Britain from Barbados as part of the Windrush Generation, and who experienced a childhood that was both wonderful and marred by the everyday racism and bigotry of the era. She was told she could not apply to study her first love, literature, at university, in spite of her academic potential, but found a way to books and to a life in writing against a number of obstacles. This book is an account of that journey, from a childhood surrounded by words, to the 83 rejection letters she received in response to sending out her first project, to the children's laureateship. It explores the books who have made her who she is, and the background to some the most beloved and powerful children's stories of today. It is an illuminating, inspiring and empowering account of the power of words to change lives, and the extraordinary life story of one of the world's greatest writers. Wahala: Three friends, three ‘perfect’ lives. Here Comes Trouble by Nikki May Ronke, Simi and Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English, though they don't all choose to see it that way. Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their 30s, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her 'urban vibe' yet again. When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past, arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them. Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself. This is Not America: Why Black Lives in Britain Matter by Tomiwa Owolade Across the West, racial injustice has become a matter of urgency. Terms like 'critical race theory' and 'intersectionality' are everywhere and, in the rush to get it right, Britain has followed the lead of the world's dominant political power: America. But what if we've been looking in the wrong place? In This is Not America, Tomiwa Owolade argues that too much of the debate around racism in Britain is viewed through the prism of American ideas that don't reflect the history, challenges and achievements of black communities at home. Humane, empirical and passionate, this book promises to start a new conversation around race and, vitally, shed light on black British life today. You can purchases any of the books listed in our IBHM Heritage shop on IBHM Heritage shop, which helps support IBHM-UK website and independent bookshops. Disclosure: If you buy books linked to our site, we may earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookshops.

  • Learie Constantine - was a cricketer, statesman, and Britain's first Black peer

    Black History Month UK 2023 'Before Windrush' - exploring the lives and stories of Black Britons who were living in the UK before the arrival of Empire Windrush in 1948. Learie Constantine is the epitome of Black Excellence and a truly modern renaissance man. A gifted sportsperson, civil rights activist, and politician whose life was crammed to the brim with Black Firsts. He was born in the small village of Petit Valley in north-west Trinidad on 21 September 1901, and was the second child of the family and the eldest of three brothers. His father, Lebrun Constantine, was a plantation foreman on a cocoa estate and a famous cricketer who had represented Trinidad and Tobago in the first-class cricket and toured England twice with the West Indian team. All his family loved cricket. His Uncle Victor was also a first-class cricketer who played for both the national and West Indian teams, and a third family member, Constantine’s brother Elias, also played for the national cricket team. Constantine wrote that although his family was not wealthy, his childhood was happy. He spent a lot of time playing in the hills near his home or on the estates where his father and grandfather worked. He enjoyed cricket from an early age, and his family regularly practised together under the supervision of father Lebrun and maternal Uncle Victor Pascall. At school, Constantine showed prowess in several sports and was respected for his cricketing lineage. He played for the school cricket team, which he captained for two years. He developed a reputation as a brilliant all-rounder player but didn’t start playing competitive club cricket until 1920 because his father wanted him to have a professional career. After graduating from school, Constantine joined a firm of solicitors in the Trinidad and Tobago capital city of Port of Spain as a clerk. His father saw this as a possible route into the legal profession for his son. But as a member of the Black lower-middle class, it was unlikely that Constantine would progress far. Since few Black Trinidadians at the that time became solicitors because of the social restrictions they faced due to their ethnicity. The Caribbean (or West Indies as it was known at the time) at the turn of the 20th century was still defined by the racial politics of the plantation slave system. For the millions of people emancipated under the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act their freedom didn’t extend to their political and economic freedom. They were still seen and treated by the state as ‘dependents’ rather than citizens. Restricted from moving up society’s social ladder and forced to eke out a living for themselves. With some even being forced to become wage labourers for former owners. For Constantine, this meant that a possible route into the legal profession didn’t exist. He was destined to be a solicitor’s clerk because he was a member of the Black lower-middle class. Because at the time, few if any Black Trinidadians could become solicitors. Unhappy with the lack of opportunities opened to him because of his colour, Constantine decided to pursue a career in professional cricket and use it as a means of securing a contract with an English cricket team. A talented all-rounder he secured a place on the West Indies Cricket team. And in 1928 he was selected for the team’s tour of England and wowed the crowds with his bowling and batting skills. In one notable all-round innings at the Lord’s Cricket Ground against Middlesex, he took seven wickets and hit 103 runs in just one hour. In fact, he was the first West Indian to take a wicket in a test match and the first person to ever take five wickets in one inning. In his memoirs, Cricket in the Sun (1947), Constantine highlighted the problems of racism in cricket. At that time, West Indies teams were almost invariably captained by a white man and whites-only dances were held after matches with England. It was also widely believed that Lancashire Cricket Club would have offered Constantine a contract was it not for the racial prejudice of some leading members. Constantine’s star performance caught the eyes of several English cricket clubs and whilst still touring he was offered a contract with Nelson in the Lancashire League. He signed an initial three-year contract with Nelson worth £500 per season, plus performance bonuses and travelling expenses. His cricket appearances boosted attendances and gate receipts for all Nelson’s matches and was of great financial benefit to both the club and the League as a whole. In Constantine’s eight seasons at the club, Nelson never finished lower than second, won the league competition six times and the knockout cup twice. “When the Constantine family first came to Nelson in 1929, the rag-and-bone was the only other Black man living in the town. Upon their arrival, they received some welcoming letters from the local people alongside racist and abusive ones. Little kids from the school over the road used to peep in through the windows of Constantine’s house, trying to steal glimpses of their local cricket club’s new pro. They pointed at him in the street, asked him if he’d been working down a mine, whether he could wash it off with soap. While his wife Norma was started at whenever she went shopping.” Constantine rationalised that the main reason for the racism his family experienced was out of ignorance rather than spite. Most, but not all. As he found out when he met Jim Blanckenberg, the South African all-rounder he had replaced. Constantine met Blanckenberg in his first year of playing for Nelson. Thousands of locals had come to watch the talented West Indian play his inaugural match against the East Lancashire side. With everyone looking on, Constantine offered the South African his hand and Blanckenberg turned his back on him. A justifiably furious Constantine then proceeded to take out the entire East Lancashire team in a flurry of deadly spin bowls with Nelson winning the match by four wickets. It was reported that after the game, Blanckenberg stormed into the Nelson’s changing room to complain about the bruises he’d received during the match. Constantine never apologised. By the end of their first summer in Lancashire, Learie was ready to return to the Caribbean, but it was his wife Norma who persuaded him to stay and make a home there. They settled in a prosperous and middle-class area of Nelson, No. 3 Meredith Street, and stayed there for over 20 years, making life-long friends, and becoming part of the community. Constantine went on to play with distinction between 1929 and 1938, while continuing as a member of the West Indies in tours of England and Australia. Sometime in 1933 Constantine published his first of many books, ‘Cricket and I’, with the help of his lodger, the prolific writer and political theorist, fellow Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) national C.L.R. James. James was at the forefront of a growing Caribbean nationalist movement, though Constantine had until then consciously avoided politics. Through James' influence, Constantine realised that his position gave him opportunities to further the cause of racial equality and independence for Trinidad and Tobago. He joined the League of Coloured Peoples, an organisation aiming to achieve racial equality for Black people in Britain. He helped James to get a job with the Manchester Guardian, and in return, James helped Constantine to write his first book. In later years, commentators identified Constantine's book as an important step in Caribbean nationalism, and an encouragement to future authors. For the 1938 cricket season, Constantine played for Rochdale in the Central Lancashire Cricket League, although he continued to live in Nelson. He didn’t enjoy the experience despite performing successfully. The pitches were different from his old league and some of the players were resentful of his earnings. Constantine was paid £812 for a season considerably more than other cricket players at the time. But Constantine was the box office draw who was pulling in the crowds and generating thousands in ticket sales. There was also an incident of racial abuse which Constantine believed the Central Lancashire League committee effectively covered up. This season ended Constantine’s career in the Lancashire Leagues, although during the war he returned to play for Nelson as an amateur. Learie didn’t give up his dream of becoming a solicitor and started studying law by correspondence course while still a professional cricketer. In 1939, he was taken into the family solicitor’s office of Alec Birtwell, a fellow Nelson cricketer. Had the war not intervened he would have become articled to this firm and started his new career in the law. When war broke out in 1939, Constantine choose to stay in Nelson rather than take his family back to the safety of Trinidad. He said: ‘I couldn’t run away. I had got a standard of life in England that I could never have achieved in my country. I had made a lot of friends. England to me stood for something and now that war had started, I would have felt like a little dog to have run away from England.’ At almost 40, he was too old for active service and initially worked as an Air Raid Precautions equipment officer, and a billeting officer for incoming evacuees. Although the war had affectively ended his career in top-class cricket, he continued to play league cricket and appeared in many wartime charity games. In 1941, he was offered the role of Welfare Officer with the Ministry of Labour and National Service, in conjunction with the Colonial Office. He was responsible for looking after the interests of West African seamen in Liverpool, and munitions workers and trainees from the West Indies in the north-west. He was initially based in Liverpool’s famous royal Liver Building and was helped by an assistant, Sam Morris, who was active in the League of Coloured Peoples. During Second World War large numbers of servicemen and women from across the Commonwealth were recruited to help Britain’s war effort. They included RAF pilots from the Caribbean, lumberjacks from Honduras working in terrible, bleak conditions in Scottish forests, and Jamaican technicians who worked in munition factories in and around Merseyside. These new arrivals needed support. Learie Constantine’s long experience of living in England, and his understanding of the prejudices and difficulties they would face, made him the ideal person to help them. Constantine worked closely with trade unions in an attempt to ease the fears and suspicions of white workers. He used his influence with the Ministry of Labour to pressurise companies who refused to employ West Indians, but generally preferred negotiation to confrontation, an approach that was often successful. In a newspaper interview with the Liverpool Echo in August 1954, he recalled how he had to resolve a housing issue between Black and white workers in a gunpowder factory. All the workers at the factory, including the Black workers, were put up in hostels. But some of the white workers ‘objected’ to the Black workers being housed. So, Constantine actually stayed in a hostel to promote understanding between the workers. The ruse worked and the Black workers were ‘permitted’ to stay in the hostels. He also went on to remember a racist incident in which he was accosted in a dance hall of one of the hostels by ‘a man in an American Air Force officers’ uniform. The American officer, who had ‘aggressively shouldered the whole length of the hall’ towards Constantine, yelled at him to ‘get out,’ shouting that ‘where we are’ they did not allow Black people to mix with white. However, it was ‘the aggressor who had to get out.’ Sadly, Constantine was to experience another American fuelled racial incident again in August 1943 when he was booked to play a charity cricket match at Lords. Ahead of the game he booked a four-night stay at Imperial Hotel, London for him and his family. He was reassured in advance that his colour wouldn’t be an issue. Upon arrival, he was denied accommodation for the full stay because management insisted his presence would offend the white American servicemen who were staying in the hotel. The case Constantine v Imperial London Hotels ruled in favour of Constantine and set a precedent on challenging racial discrimination in the court and providing Black people with the legal recourse against some forms of racism. Ironically, the British government had asked Constantine to produce radio broadcasts to West Indies, reporting on the involvement of West Indians in the war effort. As a result, he was often asked to speak on BBC radio about his life in England. His radio performances met with critical acclaim, and he became a frequent guest on radio panel shows; he also took part in a film documentary West Indies Calling in 1943 with Una Marson and Ulric Cross. His wartime experiences caused him to increase his involvement in the League of Coloured Peoples, sometimes referring cases to them. He particularly took up the cause of the children of white women and Black overseas servicemen; these children were often abandoned by their parents. However, plans to create a children's home for them came to nothing, leaving Constantine frustrated. He remained in his post until the summer of 1946, latterly concerned with the repatriation of the West Indian workers at the end of the war. He was awarded an MBE in 1947 for his ‘welfare work’ during wartime. After the second World War, Constantine moved his family to London where he worked as a journalist and broadcaster for the BBC whilst he studied law. To supplement his income and finance his studies, he took a few coaching jobs and wrote several books on cricket including Cricket in the Sun (1947) which covered his career and the racism he had encountered. He qualified as a barrister and was called to the bar by the Middle Temple in 1954. Having turned down an offer in 1947 to return to his old employer, Trinidad Leaseholds, in 1954 Constantine agreed to join the same company as an assistant legal advisor. Before leaving England, he published Colour Bar, a book that criticised not only racial inequality, but also British colonialism and empire. Although not viewed as radical by black audiences, it was aimed at white British readers. The British press gave it mixed reviews and criticised him for unfairness in parts of the book; other critics accused him of communist sympathies. Constantine returned to a country that was clamouring for independence from Britain. Feeling isolated in his job from his largely white colleagues. He gravitated towards the political movement for independence and accepted Eric Williams, leader of the newly founded People’s National Movement (PNM), invitation to become a party chairman and member of executive committee. In 1956, Constantine stood for election and narrowly won the constituency of Tunapuna. The PNM formed a government and Constantine became the Minister of Communications, Works and Utilities. He was a popular and successful politician and played a significant role in securing the country’s independence in 1962. After deciding not to stand for re-election in 1961 he accepted the role of Trinidad and Tobago’s first High Commissioner in London. Constantine returned to England with his wife in 1962. He was knighted the same year becoming Sir Learie Constantine and was given the freedom of the town of Nelson. However, his tenure as High Commissioner ended when he got involved in the Bristol Bus Boycott in 1963. Politicians in both Trinidad and Tobago and Britain felt a senior diplomat shouldn’t be so closely involved in British domestic affairs, particularly as he acted without consulting his government. Williams effectively withdrew his support from Constantine, who decided not to continue as High Commissioner when his term expired in February 1964. For the remainder of his life, Constantine lived in London. He returned to legal practice and was elected an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple in 1963. He also resumed work in journalism: he wrote and broadcast on cricket, race and the Commonwealth, and produced two more books: a coaching book The Young Cricketers Companion (1964), and The Changing Face of Cricket (1966) which included his thoughts on modern cricket. By the 1960s, Learie was firmly part of the UK establishment. He was founding member of the Sports Council, sat on the first Race Relations Board constituted under the 1965 Act, was appointed to the BBC's General Advisory Committee in 1966 and became a BBC Governor two years later, and in 1967 was elected Lord Rector of St Andrew’s University. However, he remained a vocal campaigner of racial equality and justice. Whilst on the Race Relations Board, he spoke out against the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, a stance that led to an offer from the Liberal Party, which he declined, to stand as parliamentary candidate for Nelson. Later, he was involved in an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate the release, after a military coup, of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the overthrown Prime Minister of Nigeria. In 1969, Learie Constantine became the UK’s first Black peer taking the title ‘Baron Constantine, of Maraval in Trinidad and of Nelson in the County Palatine of Lancaster’. Cementing his place as part of the UK establishment. His life peerage attracted widespread media attention, with Constantine stating: "I think it must have been for what I have endeavoured to do to make it possible for people of different colour to know each other better and live well together." In his last years, Constantine was criticised for becoming part of the Establishment. The new generation of Caribbean immigrants believed he was out of touch and the more radical Black activists disapproved of his conciliatory approach to racist incidents. Even the Private Eye mocked him. Reflecting on Learie Constantine’s impact on British society depends on where you stand; on the cricket field, in a broadcasting studio or in the House of Lords, where Learie was able to sit after becoming a life peer in 1969. Learie Constantine is a towering figure in British Black history. A man of many accolades and achievements. But perhaps CLR James described him best when he wrote of him: "Many doors in England were open to him. That doors were closed to other West Indians seemed more important to him.” Baron Constantine died aged 69 at his home in Hampstead, London on July 1, 1971. He was honoured on both sides of the Atlantic with a state funeral in Trinidad and a memorial service in Westminster Abbey. He was posthumously awarded Trinidad and Tobago's highest honour, the Trinity Cross. Several books have been written about him and he has two Blue Plaques, one erected on his former home in Nelson and an English Heritage Blue Plaque on his former address in Earls Court, London. Sources: Cricket and I by Learie Constantine and CLR James Connie: The Life of Learie Constantine by Henry Pearson Learie Constantine by Gerald Howat Learie Constantine by Peter Mason's%20first%20black%20peer%2C%20Sir,%2C%20Colour%20Bar%20(1954).

  • Kofoworola Abeni Pratt - one of the first Black nurses in the NHS and nursing pioneer in Nigeria

    Black History Month UK 2023 'Before Windrush' - exploring the lives and stories of Black Britons who were living in the UK before the arrival of Empire Windrush in 1948. Chief Kofoworola Abeni Pratt Hon. FRCN was born into a wealthy family in Lagos, Nigeria in either 1914 or 1915. She was the second of four children - two girls and two boys - of Augustus Alfred Scott and Elizabeth Omowumi Scott (née Johnson). Her paternal grandmother was the daughter of Chief Taiwo, alias 'Olowo', who became the Olofin of lsheri in Lagos State. Brought up in the Anglican faith, she attended St John's Secondary School and CMS Girls School in Lagos. Kofoworola's desire to work within the nursing profession was fired by a tragic event from her early youth. At the end of the First World War in 1918, an influenza epidemic swept across the globe. The cosmopolitan city of Lagos was ravaged by the infection. One morning, the young Kofoworola wandered into her young sister's room to find her father holding her sister to his chest and crying. Her aunt who was also in the room grasped the young Kofoworola and ordered her to go to the room next door. She later learned that her sister, Ayoka, had died at the tender age of two-and-a-half years from influenza. But Kofoworola's wish to become a nurse was thwarted by her father who felt it wasn't a position befitting of a daughter from the Nigerian elite. At that time, in colonial Nigeria, senior nursing posts were only open to white immigrant British women, with the menial tasks delegated to Nigerians. After passing the Cambridge senior school certificate in 1933, she instead went on to study teaching and returned to her old school to teach British history. From 1936 to 1940, she taught at the CMS Girls School. On 3 January 1941, she married Eugene Samuel Oluremi (Olu) Pratt, a pharmacist for the Colonial Civil Service. Her husband was posted in Enugu, Warri and Forcados, so the couple moved around a lot. Their first son died in infancy and their second son, Babatunde, was born in Lagos in 1943. Unsatisfied with their nomadic lifestyle, her husband moved to London the following year to study to become a doctor. Whilst there Olu Pratt made the introduction for his wife to the matron at St Thomas' Hospital in 1946. The matron accepted her, subject to the arrival of the required documents, which proved to be in order. At that time, it was unusual for a married women from the middle classes to enter the nursing profession. Society norms dedicated that married women stayed at home to raise their family, particularly amongst the middle classes. But Kofoworola’s husband Olu strongly supported his wife’s commitment to nursing and provided an unobtrusive support to her achieving her dream career in nursing. In August 1946, Kofoworola moved to England to study nursing at the Nightingale School at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Her son was left with foster parents in Nigeria while she attended the St Thomas’ Preliminary Training School. Kofoworola arrived to, a London still reeling from the Second World War. St Thomas’ Hospital had been bombed in the war, and so her nursing training took place in temporary quarters across London. During her time at St Thomas’s Hospital, Kofoworola experienced racial discrimination, when a patient refused to be treated by a Black nurse. She was active in the West African Students' Union (WASU), an association of students from various West African countries who were studying in the United Kingdom, and which, in 1942, had called for the independence of Britain's West African colonies. Kofoworola passed her preliminary state exams in 1948 and her finals in 1949, qualifying as a State Registered Nurse on 25 November 1949. Ambitious and driven by learning, she followed her nurse training with a succession of further achievements. She qualified as a midwife (and worked as a midwife), then gained a certificate in tropical medicine. Back in the early 1950s, the Royal College of Nursing ran a ward sister course which she completed before moving into children’s nursing. She worked for the NHS for four years from 1950 to 1954. With the NHS beginning in 1948, she is recognised as one of the first Black women to work in the NHS. Kofoworola is often incorrectly cited as being the first qualified Black nurse to work for the NHS. It seems this first appeared in her biography by Justus A. Akinsanya and was then repeated. Recent research shows that Black nurses worked in the UK prior to the founding of the NHS in 1948, such as Annie Brewster and Princess Ademola. By 1948 trained Black nurses predating Koworola's qualification in 1949, were working for the NHS; however, their stories are under-researched and have only recently come to light such as Lulu Coote. Kofoworola broke through many barriers in her lifetime. She was the first Black student at the Nightingale School for Nurses and later became the first Nigerian-born Chief Nursing Officer in Nigeria. (1) The 1950s also marked another milestone in the lives of the Pratt family with the birth of their third child, a boy they named Olufemi in 1952. He was three months old when his mother decided to take advantage of the Nightingale Fund grant previously offered to her. She completed the Ward Sister’s Day course at the Royal College of Nursing while Femi was cared for by Dr Pratt's cousin, Mrs Akerele. She completed the course and obtained a distinction in the final examination. By now, Dr Pratt had been appointed as medical officer with the Commonwealth Development Corporation and was later posted to the Cameroons. Leaving their family divided between England and the Cameroons. (2) In 1954, Kofoworola returned to a Nigeria still in the grips of British colonial rule. She applied for a post as ward sister at the University College Hospital in Ibadan but was turned down, despite her numerous qualifications and considerable experience as a ward leader in the UK. Colonial Nigeria was managed by the British under a system known as ‘indirect rule.’ Credited to Frederick Lugard who took the idea from the Songhai and Ashanti Empires. Lugard’s interpretation became a political doctrine which held that Europeans and Africans were culturally different to the extent, Africans had to be ruled through the African’s own institutions. In practice, this meant that the African colonies were ruled directly by the Colonial Office in London and an apartheid-style system in which the vast majority of the native populations were condemned to work in menial jobs. At the time, the position of ward sister was only open to white British nurses. Kofoworola fought the decision and with the support of her colleagues at St Thomas’ Hospital got the position. Not surprisingly, the staff weren’t very welcoming and when she arrived at the hospital, she discovered that her accommodation was in a separate block from her white British colleagues. Even more maddening, the professor of medicine wouldn’t let her work on the hospital ward because she was a native Nigerian. However, the matron of the hospital overturned the decision and Kofoworola was moved to a medical ward at the newly built Adeoyo Hospital in Ibadan. When Kofoworola arrived at Adeoyo Hospital was still under construction and she used the opportunity to impose new standards for hygiene, care and nutrition, and reformed the administration of the ward. She was promoted to administrative sister in 1955 and the following year, she returned to London to study for a diploma in hospital nursing administration from the Royal College of Nursing. This transition from white British nurses, doctors, and other professionals and administrators to Nigerians was called “Nigerianisation”. It was a policy of training and posting Nigerians to positions of responsibility previously occupied by white Britons in the public service of the government of Nigeria. The process started and was largely implemented in the 1950s becoming more important as Nigeria marched towards independence in 1960. It was shaped as a fight against racial discrimination and colonialism by Nigerian nationalists. Shockingly, but not surprisingly, when the first independent Nigerian government took power, they had to agree to giving financial compensation to all the white British workers who had lost their jobs to native Nigerians. After becoming the first Nigerian ward sister, Kofoworola, then, successively, the first Nigerian assistant matron, deputy matron, and in 1964, matron, at the top hospital in Nigeria, University College Hospital, Ibadan. Later in 1959, she travelled to the United States, Puerto Rico and Jamaica on a Carnegie Grant to gain broader nursing experience. In the United States, she was impressed by training based at universities. She would later lead in the introduction of university-based training in Nigeria, achieved in 1965. In 1964, Kofoworola was appointed matron at University College Hospital in Ibadan, the first Nigerian nurse to hold that position, which was previously only open to white British nurses when Nigeria was under colonial rule. The following year, she became chief nursing officer in the Nigerian Ministry of Health and was later made commissioner of health for Lagos. (3) Committed to public service and raising the profile of nursing, she helped establish a professional association for nurses in Nigeria and founded a journal, Nigerian Nurse. She led in the establishment of nursing schools and did some of the training herself. There were many broader accomplishments too, which helped cement Kofoworola’s place as a nursing leader of international significance. She led Nigeria’s first delegation to the congress of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and was the first African to serve as a vice president of the ICN. As an advocate for the rights of women and children, she also headed the Nigerian delegation attending the United Nations’ first world conference on the status of women, held in Mexico City in 1975. (3) And for a decade she was a member of an expert panel that advised the World Health Organization on nursing. (3) In October 2021, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital launched The Kofoworola Abeni Pratt Fellowship for nurses, midwives, and allied health professional from across the Trust who wanted to undertake personal and professional development. The one-year programme and was based in the Nightingale Academy where Kofoworola started her nursing career. Kofoworola has been dubbed the ‘African Florence Nightingale’ and there are certainly many similarities between the two. Both came from middle class backgrounds and were discouraged by their parents to pursue a nursing career. Both fought and overcame the discrimination of the day to pursue their nursing careers and revolutionised the nursing industries in their home countries. Rightly so, Kofoworola is well known throughout Nigeria because of the legacy she left. She’s a role model to the thousands of women who choose to enter the nursing professional in Nigeria each year. And by highlighting her story throughout Black History Month UK we hope that she can inspire Black nurses here in the UK too. In 1979, surely in a full circle moment, Kofoworola was awarded the Florence Nightingale medal by the International Committee of the Red Cross and made an honorary fellowship of the RCN. (3) Kofoworola died in Lagos in 1992. Sources: An African Florence Nightingale by Justus A. Akinsanya (2) (3) (1)

  • 31 ways to celebrate Black History Month UK

    We're challenging everyone to celebrate Black History Month UK in a different way each day of October! International Black History Month is commemorated across the world in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands. We’ve been celebrating it in the United Kingdom since the 1980s and we’re challenging all our supporters to celebrate Black British History in a different way each day of October. Here are 31 ways you can celebrate #BlackHistoryMonthUK this month: 1. Join us and help amplify the voices of Black people living in the UK 2. Support a Black-owned business on Black Pound Day on 1st October 3. Visit the Black Cultural archives in Brixton, London 4. Donate or Sign up to a Black British organisation or charity 5. Host a Black movie night (or marathon if you have the stamina!) 6. Spend time with a Black elder in your community 7. Read a Black British author 8. Host a Black British History Quiz (why not try one of our quizzes) 9. Support the Black British media and press (check out our Black British movies and TV shows recommendations) 10. Sign up to mentor a vulnerable Black child in your community 11. Subscribe to a Black British social media influencer 12. Explore Black History in your local area and don't forget to snap a picture and tag us @bhmuk_landmarks on Instagram 13. Decorate your home in Black art 14. Spread the word on our campaign theme of 'Before Windrush' by sharing any of our campaign videos or making and sharing a post on your social media platform 15. Read the biography of an influential Black figure 16. Schedule some me-time to recharge your batteries if you’re dealing with casual racism at work or any other environments 17. Visit a Black exhibition in your local museum or library 18. Host a Black History Month UK-themed dinner party 19. Engage in healthy conversations about Black British history on social media 20. Suggest a Black author for your book club (check out our top reads for the month) 21. Attend or host a Black culture event in your community (visit our event page for ideas) 22. Study the history of the African diaspora across the globe 23. Contribute a blog to a Black media outlet 24. Try a new African or Caribbean recipe 25. Book a Black History walking tour 26. Donate blood 27. Listen to a podcast by a Black Content provider 28. Explore some Black British music from the past (you can start with our Spotify playlist!) 29. Learn about an unsung Black British hero 30. Register to vote 31. Take on our #BHMFamilies challenge and don't forget to tag us @ibhmuk on Instagram

  • Who were the African Caribbean prisoners of war held in Porchester Castle during the 18th century?

    Portchester Castle has a remarkable history dating back centuries, from Roman fort to Saxon settlement, it has served as a Norman castle and gathering point for medieval kings before crossing the Channel. The castle was used as a prisoner-of-war from the late 17th century onwards. In 2017, the English Heritage revealed that some of these POWs were African-Caribbeans who had been captured whilst fighting France for their liberty from enslavement. But let’s go back to the beginning of this story on the island of St Lucia in the Caribbean. When war between Britain and Revolutionary France erupted in 1793, the overseas colonies belonging to Britain, France and their European allies, including the Caribbean, were also dragged into the war. The many Caribbean islands were much fought over by European powers vying for supremacy. These islands were mainly inhabited by an enslaved African Caribbean population working on European-owned plantations. (1) A French-born revolutionary, Victor Hugues, captured the island of Guadeloupe from Britain in 1794. He then declared an end to slavery and enlisted many former enslaved and free people of mixed race into the French Revolutionary army. Across the Caribbean, men of both African and European descent served in racially integrated military units that fought against Britain – which was still a slave-owning nation – on islands such as St Lucia, St Vincent and Guadeloupe. (1) On 26 May 1796, the French garrison holding Charlotte on St Lucia surrended to British forces commanded. They laid down their weapons and marched out of the fort and onto British ships. The terms of their surrender ensured that they would all be treated as POWs rather than enslaved people. (1) The garrison was made up of largely local African-Caribbean soldiers, with a smaller number of European French soldiers. There were also women and children among them. They were brought across the Atlantic in a convoy of ships, arriving on the Solent as winter began setting in. It would have been a complete culture shock. If the contrasting weather and diet were not bad enough, they were also bullied by European prisoners already being detained in the castle. The women and children were initially held alongside the men but were sent on to Forton Prison in nearby Gosport. Surviving letters show that Dr James Johnston, a Royal Naval Surgeon and one of the prison commissioners tried his best to treat the prisoners with care and consideration, arranging for a special diet and for beer to be flavoured with warming ginger. Notable prisoners included Commander of the Caribs (Garifuna), the indigenous people of the Caribbean, Jean-Louis Marin Pedre was also held alongside his wife, Charlotte, and Captain Louis Delgrès, who later led the resistance of Napoleon’s attempt to re-enslave Guadeloupe and is now honoured as a national hero at the Panthéon in Paris. Among the more charismatic rebels was Jean-Louis Marin Pèdre who was a free-born property owner. He had been driven into armed opposition to the British by the behaviour of the then governor of St Lucia who had detained hundreds of people arbitrarily, demanding money for their release. After his surrender to the British, Pèdre found himself detained in Portchester Castle – alongside his wife Charlotte. But the most famous POW was Captain Louis Delgrès, who later became leader of the resistance movement in Guadeloupe, fighting the reinstatement of slavery by Napoleon. He and his followers died in horrible circumstances in 1802. Facing defeat, he ignited his gunpowder stores knowing that they all would be killed but it would also kill many French soldiers. By the end of 1797, most of the PoWs appear to have been dispersed, with some going on to form part of a battalion of Black pioneers which saw action in France, Italy and Russia. Some even ended up fighting for the British navy. Sources: (1)

  • Our TV picks for Black History Month UK 2023

    Dreaming Whilst Black Dreaming Whilst Black is a British comedy series written by and starring Adjani Salmon. Originally a webcast series, an award winning television pilot (2021) developed into a series, which was broadcast on BBC Three from 24 July 2023 and is currently airing on BBC iplayer. This hilarious comedy centres around Kwabena (Adjani Salmon) who works in recruitment but dreams of being a film maker with his video producer friend from film school Amy (Dani Mosley) and explores the specific struggles faced by Black creatives in the entertainment industry. It's a smart and incredibly funny show with some amazing scenes - 'Can I just pay for soup please' being one of our most favourite and rewatched scenes. Black and British: A Forgotten History Streaming on BBC iplayer Historian David Olusoga explores the enduring relationship between Britain and people whose origins lie in Africa. The Confessions of Frannie Langton streaming on ITVX This tv adaptation of Sara Well's period novel tells the story of Frannie Langton, a servant and former enslaved person who is accused of murdering a plantation owner and his wife. Moving from Jamaican sugar fields tot he fetid streets of Georgian London, exploring one woman's haunted fight to tell her story. 8 Bar The Evolution of Grime streaming on BBC iplayer Storyville explores the history grime and UK rap. They called it young black kids’ punk rock - a genre that radio stations wouldn’t play and records that labels refused to sell. But grime would not be stopped. With machine-gun lyrics that shred the eardrums and syncopated electronics that pound the chest like a sledgehammer, grime was a product of social unrest, urban culture and disenfranchised youth colliding in early 2000s UK. It didn’t just rouse a grassroots audience, however. Today, grime is surging in popularity all over the globe and widely influencing the music charts. This is the story of the genre’s roots. Champion steaming on BBC iplayer Champion is a British musical drama television series created and written by award winning author Candice Carty-Williams for BBC One. Set in South London, it focuses on the musical rivalry between two up-and-coming musicians, siblings Bosco and Vita Champion, and the ramifications and fallout of which could drive their family apart in their quest for musical stardom. White Nanny Black Child on Channel 5 White Nanny Black Child is a feature documentary tracing the experiences of Black Nigerian immigrants fostered by white British families between 1955 and 1995 will get its UK theatrical release and a Q&A at Ritzy Picturehouse Brixton on Sunday 1st October, before its TV premiere on Channel 5 on 3rd October 2023 at 10pm. Riches streaming on ITVX Riches is a British drama television series created by Abby Ajayi, and is one of it's most exciting new dramas depicting the glamorous lives of a Black cosmetics dynasty. It's a fabulous over-the-top pulpy drama that will have you glued to your screen for its six episodes. Focusing on black talent.... Black Ops streaming on BBC iplayer Watch the first series of Black Ops - a British television comedy series starring the multi-talented Gbemisola Ikumelo and Akemni Ndifornyen who are also co-creators, writers an executive producers. Set in East London, it focuses on Dom and Kay who are two police community support officers who join the Greater London Police and find themselves working undercover. Rye Lane streaming on Disney+ Rye Lane is the sweet British romcom directed by Raine Allen-Miller in her feature directorial debut, from a screenplay by Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia. Set in the South London area of Peckham and Brixton, the film is titled after the real-life Rye Lane Market. It stars David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah who dazzled as two strangers who have a chance encounter, after having both been through recent breakups, and spend the day getting to know each other. Three Little Birds streaming on ITVX Three Little Birds is the brainchild of legendary British comedian Sir Lenny Henry who has written and produced this historical ITV drama. It narrates the adventures of gregarious sisters Leah and Chantrelle, who hail from St Anne’s district in Jamaica, and their virtuous, bible-loving acquaintance, Hosanna as they board a cruise ship heading for a new life in the 'mother country' namely the UK. This six-part series will premiere its n during Black History Month UK. Hijack streaming on Apple TV Idris Alba heads up this tense thriller told in real time. Hijack follows the journey of a hijacked plane as it makes its way to London over a seven-hour flight, and authorities on the ground scramble for answers. They Cloned Tyrone streaming on Netflix British actor John Boyega joins Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx in the pulpy mystery caper They Cloned Tyrone. A series of eerie events thrusts the unlikely trio onto the trail of a nefarious government experience conspiracy. Top Boy streaming on Netflix Check out the final season of Top Boy on Netflix. The series is set on the fictional Summerhouse estate in the London Borough of Hackney and focuses on two drug dealers, Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kane Robinson), along with others involved with drug dealing and gang violence in London. The Strays streaming on Netflix Originally released in February this British social horror The Strays explores the intersections of colourism and class. Written and directed by Nathaniel Martello-White, in his directorial debut. In the film, Neve leads an idyllic life with her family. As a socialite in her community and the deputy headmistress of a private school, Neve's privileged life begins to crumble when two strangers arrive in town. Image Credits: BBC, Apple TV, and Netflix.

  • What is the theme for Black History Month UK 2023?

    Angela M explains Black History Month UK and how to celebrate this October. October marks the start of Black History Month UK – a time to celebrate and remember African and Caribbean heritage peoples' achievements and contributions to the British economy, culture, and history. It's a chance to tell the stories of those lesser well-known Black Britons who we will forget if we don't showcase them. What is Black History Month UK? Black History Month UK began in October 1987 by Akyaaba Sebo, a special projects coordinator of the Ethnic Minorities Unit at the now defunct Great London Council. He wanted to boost the self-esteem of Black British children and young adults by educating them on the long history and achievements of Black people living in the UK. Taking inspiration from Black History Month (also known as African American History Month) in the United States. The first event was held on 1 October 1987 at County Hall and was attended by American historian Dr. Maulana Karenga, who founded the African American holiday of Kwanzaa; and Kenyan women’s activist Wanjiru Kihoro. It has since evolved into a national movement recognised by the British government and observed throughout the UK. It is also recognised in other parts of the world during October in Ireland and the Netherlands. In the US, where Black History Month originated, the awareness month is held in February. It is also celebrated in Canada in February too when it was officially recognised in 1995. Since the 1990s, the significance of Black History Month has gradually increased throughout continental Europe and it is now observed in Germany, Belgium, and Italy in February. What are the origins of Black History Month? In 1926, African-American historian Carter G Woodson started national Negro History Week to advocate for the inclusion of American Black History in the US national public education system. Over time, and with the momentum and support of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, the week gradually morphed into the month it is today. In 1976, US Black History Month (or African American Month as it’s now regularly referred to) was officially recognised by President Gerald Ford. Why is it celebrated at different times across the globe? After visiting America in the 1970s, Addai-Sebo created a British version of Black History Month in 1987, but they are not officially linked. In the United States, Black History Month takes place in February to coincide with the births of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Addai-Sebo choose to celebrate Black History Month UK in October because of the month's importance in the African calendar. More importantly, it was the start of the British academic year. Why should we separate Black History Month celebrations in the US and UK? When Black History Month UK started in the UK, there was a big emphasis on African American history. Over time the focus has moved to celebrating and recognising Black British history and key Black figures in the UK. It’s important also that we focus only on British Black history as the Black British community is a composite of peoples with different cultures and identities. Some individuals with a lineage beginning long before the Windrush generation and others with distinct and very different cultures rooted in the African and Caribbean continents. Why do we celebrate Black History Month UK 2023? In 2021, the National Census revealed that the overall Black population makes up 2.4 million (4%) people living in England and Wales, a steep rise from the 1.9 million (3.3.%) recorded a decade earlier. This growth was powered by a growing Black African population (nearly 3%) while the Black Caribbean population slowed to just 1%. As Britain’s Black population changes, we need to make sure that the stories of the previous generations are not lost and are remembered and honoured by the new generations of Black Britons. ‘[UK] Black history is a series of missing chapters from British history’ said David Olusoga, historian, and we must be involved in the telling of these stories. Black History Month exists to tell these stories in our own voices. It’s our chance to shine a light on individuals who aren’t featured in the mainstream and whose contributions would be forgotten without Black History Month UK. It's a time to celebrate Black Britons who are making history now too. It also provides us with a space to tackle racial discrimination head-on within our society by encouraging government, institutions, and corporations to advocate for diversity, equality, and inclusion. Do we really need Black History Month UK? Some campaigners argue against the existence and usefulness of the month as they believe it marginalizes UK Black history and that it should, rightly, be remembered all year round. Organisations such as The Black Curriculum are working hard to address the lack of Black British history in the UK curriculum through campaigning, training teachers, and delivering Black history programmes. But Black History Month UK, like many other national and international events, provides us with an opportunity to remember individuals and events that would never be included in a racially inclusive national curriculum and would remain forgotten to the annals of time. What are the aims of Black History Month in the UK? Celebrate and recognise the achievements of African and Caribbean heritage people's role in helping to shape UK culture, history, and economic development. Educating the UK population on how the relationships between Britain, Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States helped create modern Britain. To encourage government, institutions, and corporations to embrace and adopt equality and diversity policies. What is the theme of Black History Month UK 2023? The theme of Black History Month UK 2023 is ‘Before Windrush’. This October we’ll be exploring the lives and stories of Black Britons who were living in the UK before the arrival of Empire Windrush in 1948. Throughout the month we’ll be shining a spotlight on notable Black Britons such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, Learie Constantine and Princess Ademola. We’ll also exploring Black doctors and nurses working in healthcare before the NHS and the 18th century Black prisoners of war at Portchester Castle in 1796. Not forgetting that Black History Month is also about documenting history in the making. We'll be asking the UK Black Community to commemorate the month by sharing their own family histories using the hashtag #bhmfamilies How can I celebrate Black History Month UK 2023? Black History Month is an excellent opportunity for people from all backgrounds to educate themselves on Black Britain’s history and familiarise themselves with the lesser-known Black Britons who have made a difference to the country. There are a variety of ways you can observe the month: Attend any of the hundreds of events taking place up and down the country to commemorate Black History Month. Check out our Events page for more information. Take on the #BHMFamilies selfie challenge Attend the #BHMUK23 launch event and Play our Big Fat Black History online quiz Why not watch our '10 ways to celebrate Black History Month UK' video for more ideas? How should educational organisations and business corporations recognise the month? The theme of Black History Month UK 2023 is ‘Before Windrush,' and we advise any schools and colleges interested in exploring the topic in greater detail to visit The Black Curriculum website, which has an extensive range of educational resources relating to the theme. We encourage business corporations to provide a safe space for all individuals who wish to commemorate the month in which stories can be shared – personal experiences and/or inspiring stories. But to also remember that not everybody may want to be involved in your Black History Month UK planning simply because of their ethnic background. Such assumptions place the burden of responsibility on them, and if they’re a visible minority in your workplace, they might feel tokenized about their role in your workplace. Remember, for best results, you should be recognizing all your employees, all year round! Companies are also advised to run a DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusion) audit of their business. Surveys make it easier to understand the current state of DEI at your company, pinpoint focus areas, and run intersectional analyses that can guide companies towards meaningful action. Who is the International Black History Month UK (IBHM-UK) organisation? The International Black History Month UK (IBHM-UK) was created in June 2020 by a group of Black Britons with a passion for investigating and curating the hidden and forgotten stories of Britain’s black past. We’re committed to raising the profile of the month amongst the African, Caribbean and Black British community in the UK. As one of our young volunteer interns explains: “Neither my primary or secondary schools celebrated Black History Month UK and I had to learn about UK Black History myself. So, I think it’s important that an organisation like this exists to fill the gaps in knowledge that many people in the UK’s African and Caribbean community may have about Britain’s black past. Our community is not a monolith, and we all have different lived experiences. BHMUK allows us all to reflect and celebrate on all the different aspects of British Black history from finding out about awe inspiring individuals like Dr Harold Moody and John Blanke to the legislative changes in UK law championed by the Windrush generation." For too long, Black History Month UK has lacked direction and focus. We decided to step into that space to ensure that this important month has a clear message and theme. Our CEO, Angela says: “I have a young son who was tasked with choosing a notable Black Briton for a school assignment and I was shocked to learn that the only resources available was a listings website with poorly researched articles and filled to the brim with job adverts. We set up this organisation to ensure that quality information and free resources are available to everyone who wants to learn about UK Black History. And more importantly, that the stories of Black Britons are told in an authentic voice that belongs to us and not someone masquerading as one of us!“ We are a local community group that provides free resources on UK Black History and hope to run themed Black UK history events in 2023 and beyond.

  • Celebrating Global Black History Month(s) and UK Pride Month

    The first of February marks the start of Black History Month in several countries including the USA, Canada, and Germany. And the start of Pride month in the UK too! This February, we want you to join us in exploring the history behind the country that started Black History Month and learn about the Black Britons who have led the way in LGBT+ history in the UK. ​ Remember, you can explore Black British History beyond a designated month and we’re committed to helping guide you through your journey learning about UK Black History all throughout the year. Start your journey today by learning about Black British LGBT+ trailblazers: Pearl Alcock, Justin Fashanu, and Olive Morris. Or check out our features on Black History Month USA that include a profile on the African American actor, Ira Alridge, who was Britain’s first Black Shakespearean actor and the origins of Black History Month. We've also compiled a list of media recommendations for you to explore during the month and a Global Black History quiz to play with family and friends. Check out our social media accounts or subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter for regular updates!

  • Justin Fashanu – the first openly gay male professional footballer

    Justinus Soni ‘Justin’ Fashanu was born on the 19 February 1961 and was the son of a Nigerian barrister living in the UK and a Guyanese nurse called Pearl. He and his younger brother John Fashanu were placed into a Barnardo’s children’s home when their parents split up. When Justin was six, he and his brother were fostered by a couple called Alf and Betty Jackson and were brought up in Shopham, Norfolk. Justin excelled at boxing as a youth and for a time considered becoming a boxer before turning his attention to footballing. He was spotted by a Norwich City football club scout whilst playing in a school football match in 1974. Soon after, Fashanu joined the Norwich City football academy and turned professional in December 1978. He made his league debut on 13 January 1979, against West Bromwich Albion, and became a regular fixture of the team. In 1980, he won the BBC Goal of the Season award, for a spectacular goal against Liverpool that has been described by football pundits as one of the greatest goals ever scored at Norwich City. He managed a total of 103 senior appearances for Norwich, scoring 40 goals. While at the club Fashanu was capped six times for the under-21 England team, scoring five goals in eleven games. In August 1981, he signed for Nottingham Forest, becoming Britain’s first £1 million Black footballer. But he struggled to replicate his form at the club, partly because of the strained relationship with Nottingham Forest manager Brian Cough over his sexuality and lifestyle. Clough barred him from training with his teammates after learning of Justin’s homosexuality. Fashanu was frozen out of the first team and sent on loan to Southampton. He was eventually sold to Nottingham Forest’s rivals Notts County for just £100,000. Justin went on to play for a variety of clubs until retiring from the game in 1997. In October 1990, fearing that he was about to be outed by a national newspaper, Justin Fashanu came out as gay via an interview with the tabloid newspaper The Sun. In doing so, he became the first openly gay professional footballer in the UK until Jake Daniels in 2022 (yes, that long!). Although Fashanu claimed that he was generally well accepted by his fellow players, he freely admitted that they would often joke maliciously about his sexual orientation, and he also became the target of constant crowd abuse because of it. Justin committed suicide in May 1998. In 2017, Netflix released a film about him called ‘Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story’ and was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2020. His legacy lives on through the work of LGBT+ campaigners, the Justin Campaign and The Justin Fashanu Foundation, founded by his niece Amal Fashanu. Sources:

  • Pearl Alcock - the outsider artist who provided a queer safe space for London’s Black gay community

    Pearl Alcock was born Pearlina Smith in 1935, in the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Little is known about her life before she came to England, but it’s thought that she grew up in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, and that she was married to a French-Canadian man. At the age of 25, she migrated to Leeds as part of the Windrush generation with just five pounds in her pocket. She initially worked as a maid and then found factory work until she saved up £1000 to be able to open her own shop in London. Sometime in the early 1970s, she launched a bridal shop on Railton Road in Brixton, London. Within a few years, she had opened a sheeben – an unlicensed bar – in the shop’s basement. Pearl’s sheeben became the only queer safe space for London’s Black gay community in the 1970s. At the time when the community experienced racism within the predominately white gay scene. In a Gal-Dem article on Pearl Alcock: “Longtime friend of Pearl, Dirg Arab Richard, described her as ‘kind and generous’ person, always ‘full of laughs.’ When Dirg knew her, she was very much out and proud – he remembers her proudly proclaiming “I’m bisexual ya know!” to a straight friend of his. She was forced to close her sheeban after the police started targeting them following the election of the Thatcher government in 1979. By 1981, Pearl’s shop had ceased trading because of the reduced number of customers due to the first Brixton Uprising. Undeterred, Alcock opened a café next door at 105 Railton Road in a building owned by relatives of hers. “The cafe wasn’t particularly grand or fancy, but that was part of its charm; it was a “safe haven”, according to Dirg Aab Richards. You’d be there, packed in like sardines with a bunch of other people from the local community who were mostly West Indian.” The 1985 Brixton uprising brought more financial hardship culminating to a period of the cafe running by candlelight as the electricity was shut off. The café eventually shut down at the end of that year. Pearl’s journey with art began that same year when she was unable to afford a birthday card for a friend, so she drew one, using crayons and packaging from women’s tights. Spurred on the positive reaction from her friend, she started making bookmarks and selling them for a pound each using any free materials she could find. In an interview with Mark Kurlansky in 1991, she told him that: “Everything I [got], I was scribbling on. The receipts at the cafe. Everything… I couldn’t stop working.” Alcock started to gain recognition from the art world in the late 1980s with the support of her friends, who brought her art materials and purchased some of her early work. “As Pearl’s work got more attention, she moved onto bigger pieces. She flitted between the abstract style of her paintings that were beginning to be shown in galleries, and a more commercial aesthetic, like making postcards to sell under railway arches.” By the late 1980s, her art was being exhibited in the 198 Gallery, the Almeida Theatre and the Bloomsbury Theatre. Then in 1990 her work was included in the London Fire Brigade calendar. But it wasn’t until a year before her death in 2006 that Pearl’s work started to gain mainstream recognition, being shown in the Tate Britain as part of their ‘Outsider Art’ exhibition in 2005. Monika Kinley, one of the country's leading advocates of Outsider Art, describes her as "a visual poet". In 2019, she was the subject of a year-long retrospective at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. Pearl Alcock is an important figure in both Black British art and Britain’s Black LGBTQ+ community. A fearless, pioneer who provided a safe haven to queer Black Britons in the 1970s. Pearl kept making work until she died aged 72, on 7 May 2006 in St George’s Residence Housing Co-op – coincidently not too far away from where her infamous sheeben was. Sources:

  • 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.

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