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  • Google Doodle celebrates Ignatius Sancho on the first day of UK's Black History Month

    As the UK's Black History kicks off, Google Doodle celebrates the extraordinary life of Abolitionist, Composer and Writer, Igantius Sancho To honor the start of the UK’s Black History Month, today’s Doodle, illustrated by UK-based guest artist Kingsley Nebechi, celebrates British writer, composer, business owner, and abolitionist Ignatius Sancho. A former slave who advocated for abolition through prolific letter-writing, Sancho became the first person of African descent to cast a vote in a British general election. Born in Africa around 1729, Ignatius Sancho was enslaved for the first five years of his life on the Caribbean island of Grenada before he was taken to England as a toddler. There, he was forced to serve as a slave for three sisters in Greenwich but eventually managed to run away and escape. He then gained employment with another aristocratic family for whom he worked for the next two decades. Having taught himself to read and write, Sancho utilized his employers' extensive library to further his self-education. A skilled writer, Sancho penned a large volume of letters, many of which contained criticism of 18th-century politics and society. Newspapers published his eloquent calls for the abolition of slavery, which provided many readers their first exposure to writing by a Black person. The multi-talented Sancho also published four collections of music compositions and opened a grocery store with his wife in Westminster. As a financially independent male homeowner, he was qualified to vote—a right he historically exercised in 1774. Sancho’s extensive collection of letters was published posthumously in 1782, garnering huge readership and widespread attention to the abolitionist cause. The Google Doodle was illustrated by UK-based guest artist Kingsley Nebechi. He says: The topic was a great chance to explore a really crucial part of Black history. Creating the Doodle inspired me to explore various artistic elements from historic times, which is one of my favourite things to do during the creative process. Thank you, Ignatius Sancho, for your courageous fight in the name of freedom and equality.

  • 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: https://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/halloffame/justin-fashanu/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Fashanu

  • 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: https://gal-dem.com/remembering-pearl-alcock-black-bisexual-shebeen-queen-of-brixton/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl_Alcock#cite_note-Kurlansky1992-4 https://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/pastexhibitions/pearlalcock/

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Archer_(British_politician) https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/john-richard-archer/ Local historian Sean Creighton - https://youtu.be/adr1aq_7I-Q

  • 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: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/pablo-fanques-fair-71575787/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Fanque https://www.greatbritishlife.co.uk/lifestyle/heritage/22650024.fabulous-pablo-fanque/

  • 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.

  • Lilian Bader was one of the first women of Afro-Caribbean heritage to join the Royal Air Force (RAF)

    Lilian Bader was born in 1918 in the Toxteth Park area of Liverpool to the Barbadian-born Marcus Bailey, a merchant sailor who had fought for the British in the First World War, and her British-born mother, Lillian McGowan who was of Irish parentage. The Baileys married in 1913 and had three children. Liverpool is one of the oldest continuous Black communities in Europe. Black people have been in Liverpool as sailors, soldiers and slaves for over 300 years, long before the Windrush generation and post-war migration from the Caribbean. Around the age of seven, her parents separated and her father took custody of the children. The family moved to Hull, where her father Marcus had worked before the war and had friends there who could help him look after his children while he worked. In 1927, Bader and her older brothers, Frank and James, were orphaned and brought up in care. Lilian was separated from her older brothers and for many years had no contact with them. From the age of nine, she lived in the Roman Catholic Girl’s home in Middlesbrough. She lived there until she was 20 because no one would employ her. Bader explained that it was difficult to find employment ‘because of my father’s origins: “My casting out from the convent walls was delayed. I was half West Indian, and nobody, not even the priests, dare risk ridicule by employing me.” However, Bader was determined to overcome the racial prejudice she faced. Eventually finding work in domestic service. With the outbreak of the second world war in 1939, Lilian wanted to do her bit for the war effort and enlisted in the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) at Catterick Camp, Yorkshire. She was given a role working in the NAAFI canteen, serving food and drink to servicemen but was dismissed after only seven weeks because of the ‘colour bar’. Her father’s West Indian heritage was discovered by an official in London and for weeks, her supervisor avoided informing her of this decision – but eventually, he had to tell her the truth and sack her. Lilian returned to domestic service. But she felt embarrassed when a group of soldiers expressed surprise that she was not doing war work. She asked: “How could I tell them that a coloured Briton was not acceptable, even in the humble NAAFI?” Yet Bader was determined to sign up. One day whilst listening to Una Marson’s BBC radio programme Hello! West Indies, she heard a group of Caribbean men talk about how after being rejected by the British army they were accepted and enlisted to help with the war effort by the RAF. Consequently, the resilient, resourceful and patriotic Lilian tried again. She applied for and was enlisted with, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) on 28 March 1941. She said she found herself "the only coloured person in this sea of white faces", but, "somebody told me I looked smart in my uniform, which cheered me no end." Although not widely reported or recognised in the UK, the Caribbean was impacted by 2WW warfare through the Battle of Atlantic campaigns from 1941 to 1945. Most notable is the Battle of the Caribbean in which German U-boats and Italian submarines attempted to disrupt the Allied supply of oil and other materials from the Americas and Caribbean by sinking ships carrying goods and attacking coastal targets in the Caribbean. With the 2WW on their doorstep, thousands of Caribbeans volunteered to join the war effort. Driven largely by a need to fight fascism. They had witnessed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia (then referred to as Abyssinia) in the 1930s which had imposed racial segregation and banned mixed marriage. While watching in horror the rise of Hitler in Germany. Fearing that if Hitler and his allies won the war, they would try to reintroduce slavery to the Caribbean. Approximately 10,000 Caribbeans volunteered for service alongside the British during the Second World War. Around 6,000 Caribbeans served with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, in roles from fighter pilots to bomb aimers, air gunners to ground staff and administration. Of these, well over 100 were women who were posted overseas – 80 chose the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WWAF) for their contribution, while around 30 joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). Initially, Bader carried out domestic work for WAAF officers, before taking an exam and winning a place on a course for instrument repairers, one of the new trades open to women. Her joy at being enlisted was overshadowed by the tragic death of her older brother, Able Seaman James Bailey, who was killed in action on 14 March 1941 while serving in the Merchant Navy. She nevertheless passed her course ‘First Class’, becoming one of the first women in the air force to qualify in that trade. Bader was one of the first group of women to be allowed on planes to check for leaks in their vital pipes. She was also of the first group of women in the WWAF to be issued with overalls since the uniform skirts weren’t very practical when scrambling inside bomber plane engines! By the end of 1941, she was a Leading Aircraftwoman (LACW) at RAF Shawbury where she worked long hours checking for faults in the instruments of the aircraft. She soon gained the rank of Acting Corporal. During the war, she was introduced by an acquaintance to a young UK-born Black mixed-race soldier called Ramsay Bader. He was a tank driver who was serving with the 147th (Essex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. Lilian and Ramsay exchanged letters and photographs. Lilian immediately felt attracted to Ramsay: ‘Even in the ugly khaki battle dress, he looked like an officer.’ The couple met for the first time at York station and married later in Hull on 11 March 1943. Spending their first night of their honeymoon at the Station Hotel in Hull and as Lilian recorded, “Hitler celebrated with an air raid.” Lillian was discharged from the WAAF in February 1944 when she discovered she was pregnant with her first child. A few months later, on the 6 June, her husband Ramsay was one of the thousands of soldiers engaged in the D-Day landings. It was an anxious time for Lilian, and she prayed that her husband would survive, which Ramsay did. I didn’t know if Ramsay was alive or dead… I remember kneeling in the chapel and praying like blazes that Ramsay would be saved. It was a terrible time because you knew some people were going to be killed, and Ramsay couldn’t swim! He hated water. That’s what worried me more than anything, but he came through. Lillian Bader After the war, the couple moved to Northamptonshire to raise their family and went on to have two sons. When they had grown up, Lillian studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree at London University and then became a teacher, a profession into her 80s. Her younger son flew helicopters in the Royal Navy and later became an airline pilot. By the end of the 20th century, three generations of her family had served in the British Armed Forces. In 1989, she released a memoir entitled ‘Together – Lillian Bader: Wartime Memoirs of a WAAF’ published by the Imperial War Museum. In it, she reflected on her family’s contribution to Britain: "Father served in the First World War, his three children in the Second World War. I married a coloured man who was in the Second World War, as was his brother who was decorated for his bravery in Burma. Their father also served in the First World War. Our son was a helicopter pilot, he served in Northern Ireland." On 7 August 1990, she appeared on the UK television show ‘Hear-Say’ with a group of ex-service men and women from African and Caribbean countries who had fought on behalf of the UK in the 2WW. They debated the pros and cons of supporting Britain in the two world wars with members of the younger generation. During the programme, Bader became frustrated with the lack of understanding from some of the younger members of the audience. They failed to understand why black people from across the British Empire joined the war effort. So, Bader explained why she had joined the WAAF: "We [black people] would have ended up in the ovens." Lilian understood that, if Hitler had invaded England, Britain’s Black citizens would have suffered the fate of Black people in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe: they would have been rounded up and interned in concentration camps. Nine years later, on Remembrance Sunday, 14 November 1999, Bader contributed to another television documentary, The Unknown Soldiers, which received awards from the Commission for Racial Equality and the Royal Television Society. In 2002, she was invited to meet the Queen at the inauguration of the Commonwealth Memorial Gates in Hyde Park which commemorates the armed forces of Africa, the Caribbean, and the Indian subcontinent countries that fought in the First and Second World Wars for Britain. Lillian Bader died on 14 March 2015 but she will always be remembered as a resilient woman who stood in the face of adversity to give back to the country she called home. Unafraid to highlight the racial discrimination she and her family suffered whilst proudly serving their country throughout the wars. She said: “I think we've given back more to this country than we've received." Bader knew the contribution of Black and Asian Britons in the war should be recognised and remembered, a struggle that continues to this day. She dedicated her later years into making as much noise as she could for this. Following her death, she was recognised in 2018, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. The Voice newspaper listed Lillian Bader – alongside Kathleen Wrasama, Olive Morris, Connie Mark, Diana Abbott, and Margaret Busby – among eight Black women who have contributed to the development of Britain. In October 2020, Bader was commemorated by the publication of an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Sources: https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/being-black-britains-oldest-black-21066287 http://www.caribbeanelections.com/knowledge/biography/bios/caribbean_soldiers.asp https://archive.voice-online.co.uk/article/obituary-war-hero-lilian-bader-1918-2015 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilian_Bader#cite_note-:0-5 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/leading-aircraftwoman-in-the-waaf-and-one-of-the-first-black-women-to-join-the-british-armed-forces-10158515.html https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/online-exhibitions/pilots-of-the-caribbean/heroes-and-sheroes/technician-leading-aircraftwoman-lilian-bader/ https://www.africansinyorkshireproject.com/lilian-bader.html https://www.neversuchinnocence.com/lilian-ramsay-bader-second-world-war

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

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