Important Figures in UK Black History
Important Figures in UK Black History
October 2023 sees Black History Month celebrated throughout the UK.
This event is held to mark the contributions made to this country, by those who have African and Caribbean heritage.
There are so many inspirational individuals that have had a great impact on our society – we’ve taken the time to highlight a few figures in this post – however, the links at the end of this article will allow for a deeper exploration of the topic.
Let’s learn and be inspired.
Mary Seacole was a businesswoman and nurse born in 1805. She is most famous for funding her way to the Crimean War in the 1850s after the War Office refused her passage as a war nurse.
Once there, she established the ‘British Hotel’ near Balaclava and looked after many sick and wounded soldiers. She often rode out bravely to the frontline on horseback with nourishing meals to give out to those in need.
In 1857 she authored her autobiography, ‘Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands’ which was released the same year and became a best seller.
William Cuffay is most famous for forming the Metropolitan Tailors’ Charter Association, and being a leading figure in the Chartist movement, the first mass popular political movement in Britain.
Chartism was a movement which emerged in 1836 in London. It expanded rapidly across the country and was most active between 1838 and 1848. The aim of the Chartists was to gain political rights and influence for the working classes. Their demands were widely publicized through their meetings and pamphlets.
He was exiled to Tasmania for allegedly planning an uprising against the British government. However, he was found not guilty and pardoned three years later, but stayed on in Tasmania to play an active role in politics up until his death, aged 82 in 1870.
Dr Harold Moody was a prominent humanitarian, anti-racism campaigner and civil rights activist. After being denied employment on multiple occasions due to racism; he set up his own GP practice in Peckham in 1913.
He also founded the League of Coloured Peoples (LCP), a British civil rights organisation, which aimed to highlight the problems – and successes – of black people, to challenge racial discrimination and fight for equality.
Harold’s campaign for civil rights has been credited as being the key to influencing the Race Relations Act 1965 – the first legislation in the UK to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of colour, race, ethnicity or national origin. The Act saw the introduction of the offence of ‘incitement to racial hatred’ and led to the creation of the Race Relations Board in 1966.
To honour Dr Harold Moody’s legacy in laying the ground for racial equality, in summer 2021, King’s and the Centre for Doctoral Studies launched the Harold Moody PGR Studentships to support underrepresented communities within postgraduate research students.
Sislin Fay Allen
In 1968, Sislin Fay Allen, a nurse at Croydon’s Queens Hospital, became Britain’s first Black policewoman.
At the time there were no black female officers, but that did not deter Sislin from making an application. Within a few weeks, she made it to the interview stage, shocking her husband and family when she was accepted.
Sislin recounts, “ I went out with an officer. People were curious to see a Black woman there in uniform walking up and down, but I had no problem at all, not even from the public. On the day I joined, I nearly broke a leg trying to run away from reporters!.. I realised then that – I was a history-maker! ..”
Sislin went on to work for Scotland Yard’s missing persons bureau before she was transferred to Norbury police station. Her courage and confidence inspired countless individuals from various backgrounds to enter the police force; making her quite the trailblazer!
We are feeling inspired after learning about these individuals, more learnings can be found at the links below, Happy Black History Month!
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