Black History Month: 12 forgotten Black heroes who defined and redefined modern Britain
The role of Black men and women in the United Kingdom is often overlooked in the history books. As recently as 2001, the BBC commissioned a poll of the greatest Briton ever, spawning a television series and the votes of more than 1.5 million people for the final list of 100. There was not one Black or Asian face among them.
The arrival of people from the Caribbean to Britain on the Empire Windrush in 1948 has been mythologised as the defining moment that changed Britain from an exclusively white population into a racially diverse one; the beginning of a constant Black British presence in this country.
Yet there is substantial evidence of an African presence in Britain since the Roman period, and a constant presence since the sixteenth century, living far more integrated lives in British communities than previously understood.
Black History Month, from 1 October, has become an important event in the UK calendar to recognise the economic, cultural and political contributions of people of African heritage.
Patrick Vernon, who co-authored 2020’s 100 Great Black Britons with Angeline Osborne, picks out 12 Black Britons from his book who everyone should know about.
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