Colour Schemes

  • Default Colour Scheme
  • High Contrast Colour Scheme

Font Size

  • A
  • A
Reset Font Size

Black History Month

October is the month for celebrating black history.  Our Student Enrichment team have put together just some of the fantastic contributions people of African and Caribbean descent have made to make today’s society as we know it.

Take this opportunity to have a read through some of the remarkable achievements by some amazing and strong people and about some of the key points in time.


Open All

1914 - Black Poppies : Britain’s black community and the Great war

In 1914, there were at least 10,000 black Britons, many of African and West Indian heritage, fiercely loyal to their Mother Country. Despite being discouraged from serving in the British Army during World War I, men managed to join all branches of the armed forces, and black communities made a vital contribution, both on the front and at home.

By 1918, it is estimated that the black population had trebled to 30,000, and after the war many black soldiers who had fought for Britain decided to make it their home. Black Poppies explores the military and civilian wartime experiences of these men and of women, from the trenches to the music hall.

The anti-black race riots of 1919 started in cities like Cardiff and Liverpool, where black men came under attack from returning white soldiers who resented their presence, in spite of what they and their families had done for Britain during the war.

Black History Month


Former Tottenham Hotspur Player Walter Tull, (Above) is the most celebrated black British soldier who achieved the rank of Lieutenant.

1948 - The colour problem in Britain and its treatment

Confidential memorandum written by K. Little for the Labour Party Advisory Committee on Imperial Questions. It includes an outline of the “four main occupational categories” of “coloured people in Britain”, gives examples of the types of discrimination that may be encountered, and suggests methods of tackling prejudice.

[Included in a file on “Colour Problem: Race Relations”, 1944-1960, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.9/1]

1948 - Who are the Windrush generation?

The ‘Windrush’ generation are those who arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1973. Many took up jobs in the nascent NHS and other sectors affected by Britain’s post-war labour shortage.

Windrush Generation

The name ‘Windrush’ derives from the ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ ship which brought one of the first large groups of Caribbean people to the UK in 1948. As the Caribbean was, at the time, a part of the British commonwealth, those who arrived were automatically British subjects and free to permanently live and work in the UK.

What is the Windrush scandal?

The Windrush scandal began to surface in 2017 after it emerged that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens, many of whom were from the ‘Windrush’ generation, had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights. Coverage of these individuals’ stories began to break in several newspapers, and Caribbean leaders took the issue up with then-prime minister, Theresa May.

There was widespread shock and outrage at the fact that so many Black Britons had had their lives devastated by Britain’s deeply flawed and discriminatory immigration system.  Click here for a short film.

1954 - The colour bar in Britain

This letter was sent to the Trades Union Congress by a West African student living in Britain (no name is given). The writer talks about the “many problems [which] have arisen recently about the employment of coloured workers in Britain, due to the increase in the inflow of West Indians into this Country”, and comments on how discriminatory treatment in Britain could lead to anti-British repercussions when West African countries became independent members of the Commonwealth.

[Included in a file on “Colour Problem: Race Relations”, 1944-1960, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.9/1]

1956 - Employment of coloured workers in the Birmingham area

Black History MonthDraft of a report produced by the Race Relations Group of Fircroft College, Birmingham, under the sponsorship of the Birmingham Christian Social Council. The report was the result of a survey undertaken during 1954 and 1955, and includes sections looking at the employment policies and attitudes of employers, the attitudes of trade unions and British workers, and the reactions and experiences of “coloured” workers. As well as West Indian workers, the survey also attempted to investigate the experiences of workers from India, Pakistan and West Africa.


[Included in a file on “Commonwealth Workers in Britain”, 1956-1960, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.7/3]


1966 - Racism and ignorance in the Midlands

Smethwick, in 1966, was a community divided. Landlords would not let their houses to them. Churches closed their doors to well-dressed families, so as not to upset the white congregation. Even haircuts were off limits as racist barbers refused to let immigrants into their salons.

Immigrant families would arrive for church services in their Sunday best, only to be told by clergymen to come back later so as not to upset the congregation. They were often forced to worship in their own homes.

Immigrants were used to seeing signs in windows, reading: “No Blacks. No Irish. No Dogs.”

A study by the University of Birmingham at the time suggested 80% of the city’s population would not let a room to any of the thousands of migrants who had come to work in Midlands factories.

They should live in a district by themselves. They’re not clean,” one young mother told the documentary.”

They’re a nuisance when you’ve got to walk past them in the street, they won’t move. They’re a nuisance at work.”

They’re content with Kit-e-kat [cat food] and dog food, instead of ordinary meat.”

Prominent Black People


*BBC Radio 6 Music

Timeline - Prehistory to the 21st history

C150,000Bc – Out of Africa (The first modern humans migrate from Africa, fanning out to the rest of the world.

C2500BC – Pyramids of Giza (The tallest human-built structures of the time, containing enough blocks of stone to put a wall around France. Each slide slopes at exactly 51 degrees.

C1264Bc- The temple of Abu Simbel (Construction of awe-inspiring temple carved from mountains. Twice a year, Sunrise illuminates the face of figures in the temple. Alongside stand 20 foot statues of Pharaoh Rameses II and his wife, Nefertari.

C730Bc- The black Pharaohs (The king of Kush, an advanced African civilisation, conquer and dominate Egypt. They revitalise pyramid building.

C300Bc- Nubia Rules (The rules of Nubia establish a capital, Meroe, by the Nile. These black Africans develop their own alphabetic script as early as the second century BC.

43AD- Roman rule in Britain begins (A roman Army African auxiliary unit, the Numerus Maurorum Aurelianorum, helps guard the empire’s border (c100-c400) on Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. It was visited by African Roman Emperor, Septimiud Severus.

100-940- Kingdom of Aksum (According to legend, this northern Ethopian kingdom is the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Their coins were minted from c370 A D and used internationally.)

C1000- Far reaching trade (Mapungubwe lay near the Limpopp River in South Africa. One of many ancient cities established by black African, it traded with China and India.)

1241- Earliest image of a black Briton (A black man is pictured supporting the first letter on a page in an abbreviated Doomsday Book used to collect taxes.)

1331- Untold riches (The richest man in recorded human history, Mansa Musa I, ruler of the Malian empire that covers modern day Ghana dies)

1562- First English slave trade expedition (John Hawkins is the first Englishman to lead a slave-trading voyage from the west coast of Africa. An estimated 13 million African would be forcibly transported during the Atlantic slave trade.

1787- Society for the Abolition of the slave trade (The society introduces the political poster, the consumer boycott, the petition, the flyer, the political book tour and investigative reporting designed to stir people the political action.

1804- The Haitian Revolution (Thousands of formerly enslaved African overcome the British, Spanish, and Napoleonic French armies, establishing the first independent black republic in the Americas. Led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, Dessalaines and Petion, this revolution destroys slavery in France’s most profitable colony.)

1807- Slave Trade Act (The British slave trade is abolished in parliament.)

1834- British end to slavery (Slavery is abolished in the British Empire. Slave owners receive £20m compensation. The freed receive nothing).

1863- Abolition of slavery in the US (Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation proclamation, proclaiming slaves in the rebel confederate states forever free. Many free African Americans and runaway slaves join the Union armies in the ongoing American Civil War. Slavery is formally abolished at the end of the war in 1865.) 

1884-85- Scramble for Africa (The European powers divide Africa up among themselves. The Berlin Conference sets national boundaries. Some of them crudely drawn using a ruler- that do not take into account the needs, history and language of different African people.)

1914-18 – World War One (Many soldiers from the West Indies, India and the breadth of the British Empire join the war. Walter Tull, one of the first black men to command white soldiers in action, is killed in battle.

1939-45 – World War Two (British Empire troops play crucial role with over 2,500,00 from the colonies actively serving. In 1948 the UK arrival of the ship Empire Windrush heralds a new wave of migration, making Britain a modern multicultural nation.

1955- Civil Rights movement (Rosa Parks refusing to give her seat to a white passenger helps launch the civil rights movement that transforms US society.

1960- Independence (Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Nigeria are among 17 African states to gain independence.