Brave, tenacious and inspiring – Black History Month
During Black History Month 2023 we’re celebrating the achievements of Black people who have inspired us. There are so many we could recognise. The people we’re highlighting have shown they are brave and tenacious. Many are trailblazers overcoming challenges and adversities to include less favourable treatment on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation and social economic status. All our sheroes and heroes are creating a new path and opportunity for others following in their footsteps.
Paul Stevenson OBE
Activist and campaigner Paul Stevenson OBE, paved the way for the first Race Relations Act 1965. As a young social worker, in 1963 Stephenson led a boycott of the Bristol Omnibus Company, protesting against its refusal to employ Black or Asian drivers or conductors. After a 60-day boycott supported by thousands of Bristolians, the company revoked its colour bar in August.
In 1964 Stephenson achieved national fame when he refused to leave a public house until he was served, resulting in a trial on a charge of failing to leave a licensed premises. His campaigns were instrumental in paving the way for the first Race Relations Act, in 1965.
Diane Abbott is both the first black woman elected to parliament and the longest-serving black MP. Born in London, her parents, were originally from Jamaica and immigrated to the UK in the early 1950’s. Dianne served in the Shadow Cabinet of Jeremy Corbyn as Shadow Home Secretary from 2016 to 2020.
Michael Anthony McFarlane OBE
Olympic athlete Michael Anthony McFarlane OBE was an inspiration to many a young sportsperson. He achieved medal success at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the 1982 Commonwealth Games and at the 1985 European Athletics Indoor Championships. The English Schools 200 metres record he set in 1977 still stands 46 years later.
Dame Jocelyn Anita Barrow DBE
British educator, community activist and politician Dame Jocelyn Anita Barrow DBE was the first black woman to be a governor of the BBC and was founder and Deputy Chair of the Broadcasting Standards Council.
Barrow was a founding member, general secretary and later vice-chair of Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) – the organisation that between 1964 and 1967 lobbied for race relations legislation and was responsible for the Race Relations Act of 1968. She went on to play a significant role in the civil rights struggle in the UK and was voted one of the “100 Great Black Britons” in 2023.
Dame Shirley Veronica Bassey DBE
Well known Welsh performer Dame Shirley Veronica Bassey DBE, in a career spanning over 70 years, has sold over 140 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling female artists of all time. She is the first woman in history to claim a Top 40 album in seven consecutive decades in the United Kingdom.
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE
Award-winning scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE has inspired many in her promotion of STEM subjects. She is also a Commissioner for the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.
As a young girl she developed a fascination with space and astronomy and was inspired to study space after watching the TV series “Star Trek” as a child. She persevered with her love of science and despite being dyslexic she obtained a physics degree and PhD in mechanical engineering at Imperial College London, in 1994. Maggie worked for the UK Ministry of Defence helping to develop aircraft missile warning systems and hand-held instruments to detect landmines.
Kane Brett Robinson, better known as Kano, is a British rapper, songwriter and actor from East Ham, London. A significant contributor to grime music, he is widely considered one of the pioneers of the grime culture.*
Malorie Blackman OBE
Award-winning writer Malorie Blackman OBE was Children’s Laureate from 2013 to 2015. She was born in London to parents who were both from Barbados and had come to Britain as part of the Windrush generation. Malorie has written over 60 children’s books and was the first person of colour writer to work on Doctor Who.
Feminist, communist and activist Claudia Jones was a Trinidad and Tobago-born journalist. Deported from the US for political activities she gained asylum in the UK. She founded Britain’s first commercial Black newspaper, the West Indian Gazette and became a leader in the emerging black equal rights movement. In 1959 she helped to found the Notting Hill Carnival with the hopes that showcasing Caribbean culture and heritage would empower her community. The Carnival is currently Europe’s biggest street festival.
Rose Hudson-Wilkin CD MBE KHC
Anglican Rose Hudson-Wilkin CD MBE KHC (Suffragan Bishop of Dover) is the first black woman to become a Church of England bishop. Pictured left.
Sir Lewis Hamilton MBE
A familiar face to many, Sir Lewis Hamilton MBE is the youngest ever driver ranked number one in Formula 1, and the first black driver to win the drivers’ championship.
World War One soldier Walter Tull was born in Kent to a Barbadian man and English woman. After his parents’ death when he was just 9 years old he was brought up in an orphanage. He became a professional footballer, but gave up his career to enlist during World War One. He achieved success fighting in France, and in 1916, returned to England and trained to be an officer – the first black person ever to do so. Two years later, aged 29, he was killed while leading an attack on German trenches. Walter Tull was recommended for a Military Cross after his death, but never received one.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.