top of page

68 items found for ""

  • Google Doodle celebrates the life of Una Marson

    Una Marson was one of Jamacia's most influential feminist thinkers. She was a poet, playwright, editor, activist and broadcaster. On the 10th October 2021, Google Doodle, illustrated by UK-based guest artist Sarah Madden, celebrates one of Jamaica’s most influential feminist thinkers—the writer, advocate, and broadcaster Una Marson. Marson was the first Black woman to be employed as a radio producer at the BBC, where she recorded several significant interviews including one with swing band icon Ken “Snakehips” Johnson, which took place on this day in 1940. Una Marson was born on February 6, 1905, in Santa Cruz, Jamaica. Marson became Jamaica’s first woman magazine publisher and editor in 1928 when she established “The Cosmopolitan”—a publication focused on gender issues and social injustice. The inspiration she drew from London’s political and literary climate led her to move to the city in 1933. Shocked by the racism she encountered, she started fighting for equal rights alongside fellow Caribbean immigrant Dr. Harold Moody, the founder of civil rights group The League of Coloured Peoples. Marson returned home in 1936 to cultivate a new generation of Jamaican writers. While writing her own poetry and plays—which she often self-financed—she founded Jamaica’s Save the Children Fund. After relocating again to England in 1938, she took a position at the BBC, where she worked with George Orwell, read her poetry alongside T.S. Eliot, and produced the popular weekly program “Calling the West Indies.” First broadcast in 1943, it featured poems and short stories by Caribbean authors, giving an international platform and voice to writers such as Samuel Selvon. It also publicized both a woman's perspective to the largely male-dominated Black Internationalist Movement and a culturally relevant voice to Britain's growing Caribbean community. Marson’s literary contributions are not widely known, and even less is known of her later life. However, it was her writing and poetry that influenced the broadcasting she is best known for, and has broadened her legacy for future generations to discover. In 2009, her achievements were celebrated with an installation of a Blue Plaque—which honors individuals who have had great impacts on their community and beyond—at her former home in London’s Brunswick Park. Here’s to a cultural groundbreaker—thank you Una Marson!

  • Google Doodle celebrates the 68th birthday of Olive Morris

    Olive Morris is widely recognised as a prominent voice of leadership in the fight against discrimination in Britain during the 1970s. On the 26th June 2020, Google Doodle recognised the Jamaican-born British community leader and campaign activist Olive Morris. Olive Elaine Morris was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica on this day in 1952 and moved to London before she turned 10. A catalysing moment in Morris’ life of activism occurred when she was just 17, when she witnessed the arrest and beating of a Nigerian diplomat whom police had stopped on the basis of the “sus” laws of the time, similar to today’s “stop-and-search” policies. In response to this injustice, Morris intervened to try to protect the diplomat and prevent the arrest. As a result, she was arrested, held, and physically assaulted. This incident ignited Morris’ determination to take action, and she soon joined the Black Panthers’ Youth Collective to oppose systemic racism within Britain. Morris took a leadership role in the push toward justice across many areas of society, including fighting for racial equality, gender equality, and squatters’ rights. After heading protests and demonstrations, she helped to found the Brixton Black Women’s Group in 1973, one of Britain’s first networks for Black women. Despite leaving secondary school with no qualifications, Morris enrolled in 1975 at Manchester University, where she earned a degree in social sciences and fought tirelessly for issues like international students’ rights. She also traveled extensively around the world, from China to Algeria, which greatly informed her approach to activism back home. In 1978, she co-founded the Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent, considered instrumental in rallying movements for change. In honor of Morris’ lifetime of activism, she was selected in 2015 to appear on the Brixton Pound, a currency designed to foster local business within the South London neighborhood she served during her lifetime. Today’s Doodle features Morris’ portrait on a wall in South London, surrounded by the local community the Brixton Pound that featured her was intended to support. Her commitment to fighting for equality and justice continues to inspire today.

  • African Romans in Britain

    Roman Britain was actually a multi-cultural society that included newcomers and locals with African ancestry and dual heritage. The Roman Empire was the largest empire of the ancient world. At its peak in the early 2nd century AD, its territories stretched from northern England in the far north to the borders of modern-day Sudan in the far south and from Portugal in the far west to the Persian Gulf in the far east. As a direct result of the vast territories, the Roman Empire was an extremely ethnically diverse and multicultural place. But, likely, you weren't taught this at school. In 1901, a skeleton that would later be called the 'Ivory Bangle Lady' was discovered in a stone sarcophagus buried underneath a main road in York. The skeleton was of a wealthy mixed-race young woman - probably from North Africa - who held a high status in a diverse city. Entirely at odds with traditional views of Roman Britain. The Ivory Bangle Lady came from a group of graves excavated in 1901, located on what would have been the approach to the Roman city of Eboracum, modern-day York. The burials were dated to the second half of the 4th century AD, and many had rich grave goods. But she had one of the richest graves found, which ultimately turns on its head the perception that Africans in Roman Britain were slaves. In 2010, the University of Reading re-examined the skeletons from Roman burial sites in Gloucester, Winchester, and York and discovered a greater population mix in Roman Britain than had previously been imagined. One in 5 of the Roman Britons were 'non-locals' hailing from other parts of the Roman empire. Some of them had African ancestry such as the young woman called the Ivory Bangle Lady. Using ancestry assessment they found that the skeleton of the Ivory Bangle Lady was a young woman aged between 18-23 years with a mixture of 'black' and 'white' ancestral traits, and isotope analysis revealed that she had spent her early years in a warmer climate whilst her skull shape suggested she had some North African ancestry. Taken together with the evidence of an unusual burial rite and grave goods, the evidence all pointed to a high-status incomer to Roman York. It seems likely that the Ivory Bangle Lady was of North African descent, and may have migrated to York from somewhere warmer, possibly the Mediterranean. The Ivory Bangle Lady had one of the richest graves and was buried with bracelets, earrings, pendants, beads, a blue glass jug, likely to contain cosmetics or perfume, and a glass mirror. The most famous object was a rectangular openwork mount of bone, possibly from an unrecorded wooden casket, which read "Hail, sister, may you live in God", indicating Christian beliefs. All indicating that she held a high-ranking position within Roman York. Her bracelets were made of Yorkshire jet which probably came from Whitby and African ivory – and is perhaps the most potent image of the multi-cultural Britain of that time. Hella Eckhardt, a senior lecturer at the department of archaeology at Reading University, said "Multi-cultural Britain is not just a phenomenon of more modern times. Analysis of the ‘Ivory Bangle Lady' and others like her, contradicts common popular assumptions about the make-up of Roman-British populations as well as the view that African immigrants in Roman Britain were of low status, male, and likely to have been slaves. Instead, it is clear that both women and children moved across the Empire, often associated with the military." In fact, cosmopolitan Eboracum was home to Severus and his troops nearly 200 years earlier. Lucius Septimius Severus was a Roman emperor from 193 to 211. He was born in Leptis Magna (present-day Libya) in the Roman province of Africa. In 208, Severus travelled to Britain with an army of over 40,000 troops to take Caledonia (now known as Scotland). His army contained troops from North Africa, some of whom were positioned in north Cumbria – near Hadrian’s Wall. We know this from a 4th-century inscription discovered at Burgh-by-Sands close to the fort along the western end of the wall. This inscription along with another piece of evidence, a list of Roman dignitaries, both refer to a unit of “Aurelian Moors”, soldiers collected from the Roman province of Mauretania in North Africa, modern Morocco, who had previously garrisoned the fort in the 3rd century. The unit was named in honour of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius of Gladiator fame and could well have been up to 500 strong. These soldiers are likely to have settled in the area and had families there. Other archaeological discoveries have also shown an African presence in Roman Britain. In London, a study by the Museum of London of a Roman cemetery from Southwark revealed that some of the skeletal remains were adult individuals with Black African ancestry, all of whom appeared to have travelled from the southern Mediterranean. One skeleton was identified as a 36-45 year old woman who was buried with pottery made in southeast England. While in Leicester, work on a part of a large Roman cemetery revealed burials back to the 2nd century AD. Five of the 83 skeletons found had African cranial features – two of which, including a child, appeared to have been born in the Roman province of Britannia. All of which paints a picture of a Roman Britain that was a lot more diverse than previously believed. Evidence of an African presence in Roman Britain is now well documented and is now being incorporated by museums into displays and educational content. Sources:

  • A Hidden Alliance

    We explore the underreported anti-slave lecturing circuit in northwest England and its impact on the working classes. In a quiet little square surrounded by nondescript office blocks in central Manchester stands a statue of the US president Abraham Lincoln as a testament to its anti-slavery movement and solidarity with the Union during the American Civil War. ​ Beneath the bronzed statue is inscribed the words: 'the support that the working people of Manchester gave in their fight for the abolition of slavery during the American Civil War…'. Part of a letter sent to the working class of Manchester from Abraham Lincoln commending them on their historic act of solidarity against the slave trade. ​ In the early 19th century, Manchester, powered by the extraordinary growth of its cotton industry, became the world's first industrial city. But the cotton industry that fuelled the mills and factories of Britain's industrial revolution came directly from the American South – produced through the labour of nearly two million enslaved African Americans. Despite the British passing the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, which gave all enslaved people in the British empire their freedom after a period of up to six years. The UK remained economically dependent on it. This paradox of British morality and Britain's economic interest came into stark relief in 1861 with the onset of the American Civil War. ​ The Northern and Southern states went into battle over the economic and political control of slavery. Lincoln sent battleships to blockade the southern ports and stop the flow of cotton to Britain and other European countries. Believing that they would see the conflict as an anti-slavery issue rather than an anti-protection issue and not intervene in favour of the South. The blockade helped tip an already declining textile industry into a more profound depression otherwise referred to as the Cotton famine (1861-65). By the end of 1862, almost half a million working-class Northerners were out of work and receiving some form of poverty relief. In the following year, riots erupted in Stalybridge, one of the worst affected towns, when local officials replaced direct money payments with a voucher system. Soup kitchens were opened to help workers evicted from their homes. As the poverty worsened throughout the region, thousands of unemployed workers left their towns and emigrated overseas to America, Australia, and New Zealand. In fact, by 1864, 1,000 people had left the region. ​ Many mill and shipping companies resented the blockade. They lobbied the British government to intervene in the war and smash the embargo, allowing the precious raw cotton back into Europe. In Liverpool, a city made wealthy by cotton imports, it was said that more Confederate flags were flying along the banks of the Mersey than Virginia. The city was instrumental in running arms to the Confederacy and even built warships for the southern states. British neutrality meant that warships could not legally be made in the country for either side. Even the liberal-leaning Manchester Guardian urged the Rochdale mill workers to drop their support of the embargo. But they resisted, in a meeting at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, on 31 December 1862, despite their increasing hardship, they vowed to support the Union in its fight against slavery. An extract from the letter they wrote in the name of the Working People of Manchester to His Excellency Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, says: ​ ... the vast progress which you have made in the short space of twenty months fills us with hope that every stain on your freedom will shortly be removed, and that the erasure of that foul blot on civilisation and Christianity – chattel slavery – during your presidency, will cause the name of Abraham Lincoln to be honoured and revered by posterity. We are certain that such a glorious consummation will cement Great Britain and the United States in close and enduring regards. — Public Meeting, Free Trade Hall, Manchester, 31 December 1862. ​​​Yet cotton workers, despite their great hardships, pledged solidarity with the enslaved Africans on the plantations. At one public meeting, several workers declared that they would rather starve than support slavery. The contributions of Black abolitionists are often overlooked when analysing the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade in Britain and its empire. But they played a huge role in opening the eyes of the British public to the terror and brutality of the slave trade in Britain and its empire. The Sons of Africa, now considered Britain's first Black political organisation, were instrumental in helping bring the anti-slave message to the English working classes. While working behind the scenes to aid their White allies in getting cases to courts such as the Zong massacre and lobbying pro-abolitionists MPs to pass anti-slave legislation. ​The Sons of Africa were a group of Black Abolitionists brought together under the leadership of Olaudah Equiano in 1785. Its members were educated Africans in London, including formerly enslaved men like Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, and other leading members of London's Black community. They had strong ties with the Anti-Slavery Society, a British abolitionist group of twelve White Quaker and Anglican men, including prominent anti-slave campaigners Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp. The Sons of Africa referred to Thomas Clarkson as "our constant and generous friend." The Sons of Africa conveyed their anti-slave messages to the public and elites through a variety of ways to help them accomplish their goals. They wrote letters, for example, to the MP Sir William Dolben. They often sent letters opposing slavery and detailing conditions of the Middle Passage to newspapers to help provoke debate. Shortly after his correspondence with them and a visit to see a slave ship being fitted out, Dolben proposed a Parliamentary bill to improve the conditions on slave ships. The Slave Act 1788 was the first law passed to regulate the slave trade, establishing standards of how many slaves could be carried in relation to ship size. Both Equiano and Cugoano wrote books detailing the hardships and suffering they had experienced as slaves. Cugoano was the first African to publicly demand the end of slavery and to challenge the perceived justification for enslaving Africans. He wrote: "if any man should buy another man... and compel him to his service without any agreement of that man... it is the duty of the man who is robbed in that manner to get out of the hands of his enslaver." The group also held public lectures. They worked closely with the Anti-Slavery Society and frequently lectured to their membership base. But unlike them, they didn't just confine their messaging to the English middle classes and actively targeted the working classes of the new industrial cities such as Liverpool, Bristol, and Lancashire by hosting lectures and writing letters to newspapers describing their enslavement and the brutalities of the slave trade. ​ "The Sons of Africa were just as energetic as white abolitionist... the records of their activities are far from complete and much about them remains unknown." By the late 1700s and early 1800s, the anti-slave lecturing circuit had become a mainstay of the abolitionist movement. In the 1800s, many abolitionists who were former enslaved Africans such as William Wells Brown, Henry Box Brown, Sarah Parker Redmond, Frederick Douglass, and James Watkins also visited the northwest of England to campaign against slavery in America. James Watkins escaped from slavery in the USA and became well known throughout the northwest of England through his public lectures on the horrors of slavery. Like fellow escapee, Henry Box Brown, Watkins had come to England because of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which was a law that declared all runaways, even in free states, should be returned to their owners. Formerly enslaved James Watkins came to live in Bolton and his landlord, a printer, agreed to publish his autobiography. This biography is now held at Bolton Museum & Archive Service. Watkins visited local millworkers to petition their support for the anti-slavery movement, emphasising the connection between the cotton industry and slavery. Watkin's anti-slavery campaign amongst local workers did not fall on deaf ears. The workers gave him their support. He made the plight of enslaved people known across many areas of the borough. There were many escaped former enslaved African Americans who toured Lancashire and the rest of Britain to condemn the southern slaving states of America. In the Oldham Archives, the narrative of one escapee, James Johnson, a 'colored Evangelist,' has been discovered. Probably the most famous of these touring former slaves was William Andrew Jackson. He escaped from slavery as the coachman of southern leader Jefferson Davis. He was a great speaker and used his speaking skills to rouse people into supporting the anti-slavery northern states of America. He was widely praised by Lancashire workers. 'I hope you will not allow any temporary suffering to lead you to give your sympathies to the enemies of human freedom on the other side of the Atlantic; I hope we shall prove there is something we love better than cotton, that is liberty of the human race.' George Thompson at a meeting in Stockport, 1861. Henry 'Box' Brown was born enslaved on an American plantation and worked in a tobacco factory. In 1849 Brown's master refused to buy Brown's wife when she and their children were put up for sale, and they were sold to a man in North Carolina. This act prompted Brown's determination to escape from slavery, and a scheme was hatched to post him to Philadelphia in a box. Helped by the free black American, James Caesar Anthony Smith, Brown was posted from Richmond in Virginia to the city of Philadelphia. The 350-mile journey took 27 hours to complete. In Philadelphia, the box was opened, and Brown jumped out and declared, 'Good morning, gentlemen!' as if he had arrived on a train. The story of this journey to freedom caught the public's imagination, and Brown became well known, joining the abolitionist lecture circuit and calling himself Henry Box Brown to commemorate his escape. Brown and James Caesar Smith toured the north of England with an exhibition called 'The Mirror of Slavery.' He spent the next 14 years lecturing and re-enacting the manner of his escape. By 1865 interest was lessening in stories of the American slavery experience due to the abolition of slavery after Lincoln's victory in the American Civil war. ​Historian Robin Blackburn has compared how workers were treated in the two forms of labouring – saying that 'industrial discipline is similar to plantation discipline.' Although some northwest workers supported the southern 'slave' states, the majority supported the 'anti-slavery northern cause, despite it meaning that they might suffer unemployment. The many well-attended meetings in communities throughout Lancashire show the extent of their support for the northern states. It was where many made the connection between the chattel slaves in the Americas and their own position of 'wage slavery' in poor conditions in the mills. Midway through the Cotton Famine, Abraham Lincoln sent over an aid package containing boxes of bacon and bread, bags of rice and corn, and 15,000 barrels of flour to help feed the starving people of Lancashire in recognition of their support of the northern states. Its arrival in Liverpool in February 1863 was greeted by an enthusiastic pro northern public meeting of between 3-4,000 people. The only surviving item, a flour barrel, is in a collection at Touchstones Rochdale. On 14 August 2016, a plaque created by BBC History was unveiled to commemorate the Rochdale mill workers who supported the struggle against slavery during the American Civil War. It is located by a road still called today what is was known as then –"Cotton Famine Road." The road was cut across the landscape by unemployed workers from Lancashire in a public works scheme – a response to the humanitarian crisis that was unfolding in the region. Sources:

  • Ivory Bangle Lady

    Black History Month UK 2021 'Black to the Past' campaign - African Romans in Britain By its very design, the Roman Empire was an extremely diverse and multicultural place. Through trade, logistical or military movements, civilian migrations both voluntary and forced, people travelled within an Empire that ruled one-fifth of the ancient global population. Burial remains and tomb inscriptions demonstrate the diversity of Roman Britain. Inscriptions carved into stone to commemorate the dead on tombs, or to record who set up an altar to the gods, show that people came not only from Italy, but also from Gaul, North Africa and Spain; in the later Roman period new troops were recruited from Germany and even from beyond the frontiers of the Empire. The Roman conquest of Britain led to the migration of many soldiers and administrators, merchants and also women and children. Evidence suggests that, over time, these newcomers and the local population intermarried, and that the populations in major urban and military sites were very diverse. In 1901, a group of Roman graves were found by workmen cutting a line for a new railway on Sycamore Terrace. The area was once part of a sprawling cemetery on the fringes of Eboracum, Roman York. One of the richest graves found, was a high status Christian woman buried in a stone coffin with luxury goods including jewellery made from elephant ivory and Whitby jet. For over a century, the female nicknamed the 'Ivory Bangle Lady' was interpreted as an important Christian woman of Roman York, but little consideration was given to her origins. In 2010, a team of archaeologists from the University of Reading re-examined her skeletal remains and their findings challenged assumptions about the diversity of the ancient Roman city. Hella Eckhardt, senior lecturer at the department of archaeology at Reading University, said. "In the case of York, the Roman population may have had more diverse origins than the city has now." Using ancestry assessment, they found that the skeleton of the Ivory Bangle Lady was a young woman aged between 18-23 years with a mixture of 'black' and 'white' ancestral traits. Isotope analysis revealed that she had spent her early years in a warmer climate, while her skull shape suggested she had some North African ancestry. Taken together with the evidence of an unusual burial rite and grave goods, the evidence all pointed to a high-status incomer to Roman York. It seems likely that the Ivory Bangle Lady was of North African descent and may have migrated to York from somewhere warmer, possibly the Mediterranean. The Ivory Bangle Lady had one of the richest graves and was buried with bracelets, earrings, pendants, beads, a blue glass jug, likely to contain cosmetics or perfume, and a glass mirror. The most famous object was a rectangular openwork mount of bone, possibly from an unrecorded wooden casket, which read "Hail, sister, may you live in God," indicating Christian beliefs. All suggesting that she held a high-ranking position within Roman York. Dr Hella Eckardt, Senior Lecturer at the University of Reading, said: "Multi-cultural Britain is not just a phenomenon of more modern times. Analysis of the ‘Ivory Bangle Lady' and others like her, contradicts common popular assumptions about the make up of Roman-British populations as well as the view that African immigrants in Roman Britain were of low status, male and likely to have been slaves." The skeleton and the grave goods of the Ivory Bangle Lady are on display in the Yorkshire Museum.

  • What is the theme for Black History Month UK 2021?

    Angela M explains Black History Month UK and how to celebrate this October. October is Black History Month UK. It's a time to celebrate and remember African and Caribbean heritage peoples' achievements and contributions to the British economy, culture, and history. Stories that have long been deliberately overlooked and excluded from the history books. What is Black History Month UK? Celebrated every October since 1987, Black History Month UK was the brainchild of Akyaaba Addai-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 during February, where it was officially recognised in 1995. 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 do we celebrate Black History Month UK 2021? Black British history goes back nearly two thousand years with evidence of African people living in Roman Britain. In fact, archival research suggests Black communities have been living in the UK since the 1500s. But these histories have been omitted or distorted in the history books. In recent times, it's not uncommon to see objections raised over the inclusion of People of Colour in the portrayals of ancient and pre-Windrush Britain. The furore over an educational cartoon produced by the BBC in 2017 that included a Black Roman soldier in Britain demonstrated the importance of educating all Britons on its multicultural past. Black History Month is our chance to uncover and learn the long and deep relationship between Africa and Britain dating back to antiquity times. To discover and embrace the forgotten individuals who helped contribute to the values of modern-day Britain. It's a time to celebrate Black Britons' achievements and contributions that helped shape the UK amongst the Black British community and the widen UK population. 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 and inclusion. Why do we have 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 absence 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 an 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 2021? The theme of Black History Month UK 2021 is 'Black to the Past.' We'll be uncovering Britain's hidden Black history spanning from Roman times to the 1800s. We'll examine key moments of that period and explore some of the everyday lives of ordinary Black Britons of the time. The subjects touched upon will include Black Abolitionists and the Lancashire mill worker's role in ending the Atlantic Slave Trade, Africans in Roman and Medieval Britain, the forgotten Black Tudors and Stuarts, and the many extraordinary Edwardians. We'll also be shining a spotlight on the Black Britons from the time, including the most well-known Black Tudor, John Blanke, Ignatius Sancho, Dederi Jaquoah, and Prince Alamayou. How can I celebrate Black History Month UK 2021? Black History Month is an excellent opportunity for people from all backgrounds to educate themselves on Black British history and the often-overlooked people 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. Please visit our website for more information. • Show your support online by posting the official Black History Month UK avatar on your social media channel during the month. • Take on the #BHMLandmarks selfie challenge • Enter our #BHMUK21 treasure hunt, and you could win prizes! • Play our Big Fat #BHMUK21 virtual quiz • Why not watch our '12 ways to celebrate Black History Month UK 2021' video for more ideas? How should educational organisations and business corporations recognise the month? The theme of Black History Month UK 2021 is 'Black to the Past,' 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. Companies are also advised to run a diversity and inclusion audit of their business – and perhaps book a Black keynote speaker to provide advice on making their workplaces more racially inclusive.

  • UK rapper Stormzy gets a waxwork in Madame Tussauds

    Stormzy has announced he’s the latest celebrity to be immortalised in London’s Madame Tussauds. The UK rapper, who was celebrated his 28th birthday this week, has been working with the London tourist attraction for more than a year to perfect the figure. He attended a number of sitting with Madam Tussauds artists, where hundreds of precise measurements and reference photographs were taken. Seeing his wax copy for the first time, Stormzy can be heard saying: “That’s scary, cuz. Oh my days.” In the video, Stormzy’s young nephew can be seen tugging on the wax figure’s hand, thinking it’s his uncle, and heard saying “Uncle Junior is not moving.” Stormzy then appeared from behind a wall and the little boy exclaimed: ”You scared me! You’ve got two Uncle Juniors!” The musician and this team will continue to work with Madame Tussauds on putting the final touches to the waxwork before it goes on display later this summer. Stormzy said:”I’m proud, and I hope, when my fans see my figure, they feel proud too. “I was told Madame Tussauds London wanted to make a figure of me just after I performed at Glastonbury, and it really felt like the icing on the top of the cake. “Growing up, going to school, we’d go to Madam Tussauds London all the time. “For me to be there, it feels like, flipping heck, I’m going up in the world.” Tim Walters, general manager at Madam Tussauds London, said:”You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that isn’t Stormzy fan. “His chart-topping hits, powerful performances and important work as an activist have spoken to the nation. Whether you admire him for his music, believe in what he stands for, or just think he’s a really nice guy, we know his figure is going to be a fantastic, and important, addition to our Madame Tussauds London line-up.” #MerkyBooks, Stormzy’s imprint within Penguin Random House UK, has also announced a competition for children aged between eight and 16 to win a ticket, with an adult guest, for a special unveiling of the waxwork hosted by the rapper. The event will celebrate the new figure and the first children’s book published by #MerkyBooks, Superheroes: Inspiring Stories Of Secret Strength. To enter, fans can pre-order the Superheroes book from

  • C4 commissons new comedy 'Big Age' pilot for their Black to Front day

    Channel 4 has announced the commission of Big Age, a 1 x 30’ refreshing new comedy pilot written by acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola (Love in Colour) and produced by Tiger Aspect (Man Like Mobeen, Hitmen). The vivacious show will air as part of Channel 4’s Black to Front day on Friday 10 September 2021. Big Age follows a group of four young Black-British friends who are in the ‘big age’ era of their lives. With a backdrop of parental expectation, personal dreams and the crushing reality of maxed out credit cards and with the Nigerian phrase ’at your big age!’ ringing in their ears; it’s a quipped admonition that can be both loving and mocking, both commanding and encouraging - it is about growing up, stretching up, stepping up. Bolu Babalola, the creator of this distinctive and inspiringly funny show, is a British-Nigerian woman with a misleading bachelor's degree in law, a master's degree in American Politics & History from UCL where her thesis was on Beyoncé's "Lemonade"; she was awarded a distinction for it. So essentially, she has a master's degree in Beyoncé. She is the author of the New York Times and Times Best-Selling anthology Love In Colour, and a self-coined "romcomoisseur". Bolu writes stories of dynamic women with distinct voices who love and are loved audaciously. In the pilot, Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo (Alex Rider, Been So Long) plays our protagonist Ṣadé who has just turned 25, or twenty-thrive – she’s unashamedly ambitious, fierce but has moments of spiralling (yet hilarious) insecurity. Ṣadé dreams of being a writer. Dela is Ṣade’s best friend, played by Racheal Ofori (Sliced, Treadstone) – she’s an artist who prefers to ‘go where her soul flows’ and is a free-spirited, sexually liberated, social justice warrior who would do anything for her friend. She’s also secretly a very middle-class private school kid who never used to “see colour” (something she is secretly deeply ashamed of). Michael Workeye (Brothers, Sitting in Limbo) plays Zeke, Ṣadé’s unrequited love – a slick-talker and player, full of easy charm and charisma. Completing the foursome is Tayo, played by CJ Beckford (I Am Danielle, Sitting in Limbo), the dry humoured grounding force of the group who seemingly has his life on track. Bolu Babalola said: “It is quite literally a dream come true to have the opportunity to bring Big Age to life with Channel 4. It's been a great joy to develop these characters and this world over the years, and I am so thrilled that a place that has housed so many of my favourite shows has chosen to help me share it. Ṣadé is a young woman with big dreams and a big heart, and Big Age is a celebration of friendship, ambition with heart, and the connections that propel us forward in newly formulating adulthood. With great thanks to Tiger Aspect and my wonderful producer and creative partner Amy Annette, I cannot wait for the world to meet (and fall in love with) Ṣadé and the gang.” Fiona McDermott, Head of Comedy, Channel 4 said: “When we first read this script, Ṣadé and Dela just bounced off the page. Funny, contemporary, and surprising characters that have a deliciously moreish, comic energy. We knew we needed to see them come to life. We’re so pleased to be working with Bolu on this, her first scripted project, and beyond thrilled that she and Big Age are part of our Black to Front commitment.” David Simpson, Head of Comedy for Tiger Aspect said: “We’re delighted to be making this pilot for Channel 4. Bolu’s writing is funny, nuanced and wonderfully well observed and she has created a set of characters and a friendship at the heart of this that audiences are going to adore. It is also fantastic to be part of Channel 4's Black to Front event championing Black talent on and off screen. It is so important for broadcasters to make these kinds of meaningful commitments and it has been wonderful to see a cast and crew come together at the heart of this production that are absolutely sensational." Channel 4 will broadcast one complete day of television fronted by Black talent and featuring Black contributors this September. Black to Front will champion Black voices and stories and celebrate the incredible Black talent that make, shape and star in British TV. Black to Front is part of Channel 4’s ongoing commitment as an anti-racist organisation to improve Black representation on and off screen, amplify the conversations around representation and portrayal, and drive long-term change. Black to Front was conceived by commissioning editors Vivienne Molokwu and Shaminder Nahal. It will be led by Deputy Director of Programmes, Kelly Webb-Lamb with Vivienne and Shaminder working across the whole day with Melissa Cousins as Project Coordinator. Head of Creative Diversity Babita Bahal and Director of Commissioning Operations, Emma Hardy are also part of the core team. Big Age will air as part of Black to Front alongside a one-off special of The Big Breakfast fronted by Bafta winning Mo Gilligan and AJ Odudu, a new 4-part reality series Highlife and Countdown, presented by the eminent journalist and broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald. Additionally, some of Channel 4’s biggest flagship shows will be fronted by Black talent and featuring Black contributors, including Celebrity Gogglebox and Channel 4 News. Hollyoaks will be an hour-long special entirely written, directed and performed by its Black talent. To ensure that Black to Front drives significant and sustainable change within the industry off-screen, Channel 4 is working with The Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity to help shape meaningful off-screen commitments to leave a lasting legacy and to ensure we are addressing specific problems in the industry.

  • Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen to follow up Small Axe with Uprising

    Acclaimed British filmmaker and artist Steven McQueen will re-team with the BBC for a new three-part documentary entitled Uprising. The new series will focus on three major events in 1981 which defined race relations for a generation: the January 1981 New Cross Fire which killed 13 black teenagers; the Black People's Day of Action two months later in March, 20,000 people joined the first organised mass protest by Black British people; and the Brixton riots in April. Events that formed the backdrop to the fourth installment of the Small Axe anthology series, 'Alex Wheatle'. The documentary will reveal how these three events intertwined in 1981 and will be directed by Steve McQueen and James Rogan. McQueen is committed to bringing Black British history to the screen and is also producing two follow-up documentaries that further expand on the series. Black Power: A British Story of Resistance and Subnormal will be directed by two up-and-coming Black British directors - BAFTA winner George Amponsah and Lyttanya Shannon. Small Axe has been nominated for a slew of awards including six BAFTA awards. Steve McQueen, Director and Executive Producer, says: “It is an honour to make these films with testimonials from the survivors, investigators, activists and representatives of the machinery of state. We can only learn if we look at things through the eyes of everyone concerned; the New Cross Fire passed into history as a tragic footnote, but that event and its aftermath can now be seen as momentous events in our nation’s history.” “It has been an honour to work with Steve McQueen to bring these powerful stories to BBC One,” added the BBC1 chief content officer Charlotte Moore, who commissioned the series. “With his visionary genius as a filmmaker he has created an incredibly important and evocative series that charts events that have defined race relations in Britain today, giving a voice to the people at the heart of these stories.” Photo credit: By Ross from hamilton on, Canada - Steve McQueen Q&A, CC BY 2.0,

  • History of modern Black British Music: Lovers Rock

    A short introduction to the musical genre of Lovers Rock... Search IBHM-UK to find our specially curated playlist of 'Lovers Rock' and to hear the soundtrack to Steve McQueen's anthology film 'Lovers Rock'.

  • Google Doodle celebrates the 95th birthday of Frank Bailey - London’s first black firefighter

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

  • Artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen's 'Small Axe' film series premieres in November on BBC One

    "Small Axe" is an anthology comprised of five original films set from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s that tell personal stories from London's Caribbean community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will despite rampant racism and discrimination. The five original films that make up the Small Axe collection by Academy Award, Bafta and Golden Globe-winning filmmaker, Steve McQueen will air weekly on BBC One. Set from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, the films each tell a story involving London’s West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will, despite rampant racism and discrimination. Even though this collection of films is set some decades ago, the stories are as vital and timely today as they were for the West Indian community in London at the time. Small Axe is a celebration of Black joy, beauty, love, friendship, family, music and even food; each one, in its own unique way, conveys hard-won successes, bringing hope and optimism for 2020. Steve McQueen explains: “The seed of Small Axe was sown 11 years ago. Initially, I had conceived of it as a TV series, but I realised these stories had to stand alone as original films, yet at the same time be part of a collective. The anthology, anchored in the West Indian experience in London, is a celebration of all that that community has succeeded in achieving against the odds. "Although all five films take place between the late 1960s and mid-80s, they are just as much a comment on the present moment as they were then. They are about the past, yet they are very much concerned with the present. A commentary on where we were, where we are and where we want to go.” Lucy Richer, Senior Drama Commissioner and Executive Producer for the BBC: “It has been an honour to work with Steve to bring Small Axe to screen. With his visionary genius as a filmmaker he has made incredible, life-changing, life-affirming films which tell burning stories from our past and blaze a trail for the future. "These inspiring films of truth and powerful purpose celebrate ordinary lives, and we are delighted to bring them to BBC One and BBC iPlayer this November.” Small Axe has been executive produced by Tracey Scoffield and David Tanner for Turbine Studios and Steve McQueen for Lammas Park. Mike Elliot is producing for EMU Films with Turbine and Anita Overland. The executive producers for the BBC are Lucy Richer, Senior Commissioning Editor for Drama and Rose Garnett, Director of BBC Film. Amazon Studios is co-producing within the US. BBC Studios are the international distributors and are handling global television sales. Small Axe will debts on BBC One and iPlayer, and air on Amazon Prime Video in the US for five consective weeks. Mangrove, the first in the series, will premieres on BBC One and iPlayer on the 20th November. Mangrove Mangrove centers on Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes), the owner of Notting Hill's Caribbean restaurant, Mangrove, a lively community base for locals, intellectuals and activists. In a reign of racist terror, the local police raid Mangrove time after time, making Frank and the local community take to the streets in peaceful protest in 1970. When nine men and women, including Frank and leader of the British Black Panther Movement Altheia Jones-LeCointe (Letitia Wright), and activist Darcus Howe (Malachi Kirby), are wrongly arrested and charged with incitement to riot, a highly publicized trial ensues, leading to hard-fought win for those fighting against discrimination. Lovers Rock Lovers Rock tells a fictional story of young love at a Blues party in 1980. The film is an ode to the romantic reggae genre called "Lovers Rock" and to the Black youth who found freedom and love in its sound in London house parties, when they were unwelcome in white nightclubs. Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn makes her screen debut opposite the BAFTAs 2020 Rising Star award recipient Micheal Ward (Top Boy). Red, White and Black Red, White and Blue tells the true story of Leroy Logan (John Boyega), a young forensic scientist with a yearning to do more than his solitary laboratory work. When he sees his father assaulted by two policemen, he finds himself driven to revisiting a childhood ambition to become a police officer; an ambition borne from the naïve hope of wanting to change racist attitudes from within. Leroy must face the consequences of his father's disapproval, and the blatant racism he finds in his new role as a despised yet exemplary constable in the Metropolitan Police Force. Alex Wheatle Alex Wheatle follows the true story of award-winning writer, Alex Wheatle (Sheyi Cole), from a young boy through his early adult years. Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and ability to grow his passion for music and DJ'ing. When he is thrown in prison during the Brixton Uprising of 1981, he confronts his past and sees a path to healing. Education Education is the coming of age story of 12-year-old Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy), who has a fascination for astronauts and rockets. When Kingsley is pulled to the headmaster's office for being disruptive in class, he discovers he's being sent to a school for those with "special needs." Distracted by working two jobs, his parents (Sharlene Smith, Daniel Francis) are unaware of the unofficial segregation policy at play, preventing many Black children from receiving the education they deserve, until a group of West Indian women take matters into their own hands.

bottom of page