During the month of October the “Black HistoryMonth” is celebrated in the United Kingdom, 30 days dedicated to making visible relevant black personalities and their contribution to history. We have made a small selection to introduce you to some of these figures from different fields.
– Charles Ignatius Sancho. Writer and composer. The first African descendant to be able to vote for members of Parliament, then (18th century) the requirements to do so were a matter of land ownership. Only a tiny percentage of the population could do it. Two years after his death, The Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African, was published, becoming a benchmark for abolitionists.
– Queen Charlotte. Direct descendant of the African line of the Portuguese Royal Household. She is the second black queen of England (the first was Philippa of Hainault). Known for being a patron and student of Johann Christian Bach, supporting abolition, and advocating for women’s education.
– John Edmonstone. Born into slavery in English Guiana and later freed, he taught taxidermy in Edinburgh to students at the Scottish City University. One of the most prominent was Charles Darwin. The knowledge and references to the tropical forests of South America that Edmonstone contributed to Darwin were determining tools in the latter’s research.
– Linda Dobss. The only non-white judge of the British Supreme Court elected from 2004 to 2013. Previously a member of the High Court, where people of color make up less than 3% of those appointed.
– John Richard Archer. First black mayor in Great Britain (Battersea, 1913) and first black British to represent the country at an international conference.
– Randolph Turpin. Boxing World Champion. In July 1951 he made history by defeating Sugar Ray Robinson for the title. It’s a remarkable fact because Robinson had only lost one fight out of 133 in his professional life.
– Andrew Watson. Forerunner of Afro-British athletes playing for the Scottish national team. Also enrolled in the University graduating in Fine Arts. We are talking about 1881.
– CleoLaine, a.k.a Lady Dankworth. From the London suburbs to the Grammy Awards winning in the category of best female vocal jazz performance. For her attributions through music she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
– Mary Prince. Author of The history of Mary Prince, a west indian slave written by herself, is a milestone for several reasons. It was the first book published in England written by a black woman, being a pioneer also in telling slavery in the first person. When it was published, slavery was maintained in the English colonies but was already illegal in England, causing a stir in public opinion that propelled the abolitionist movement to victory.
– Mary Seacole. Born in Jamaica, but of Scottish descent, she learned from her mother the knowledge of traditional Jamaican medicine and combined it with the European medicine she acquired through her travels. She offered herself to the British Government to go to the front of the Crimean War to cure soldiers. She was not allowed and decided to leave, bearing the cost of her trip. There she founded the British Hotel halfway between an inn and a hospital. She wrote her autobiography “Wonderfuladventures of Mrs. Seacole in many lands”. She has been named the greatest black Briton, although controversy has recently been created around her figure, calling into question her intentions and the respectability of the places she ran.
The most curious can find complete biographies of the most influential Afro-Britons in the book 100 Great Black Britons by Patrick Vernon and Dr. Angelina Osborne.