October is Black History Month, which is an annual celebration to commemorate the achievements of black people and communities who throughout history have often been undervalued and forgotten.
Born to formerly enslaved parents in Jamaica, Fanny Eaton (1835 – 1924) was a portrait model at London’s Royal Academy, sitting for famous artists like John Millais and Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Eaton’s contribution to art history is huge, coming at a time when narrow, racialised beauty standards almost uniformly excluded black women.
Born into slavery in Guyana, as a free man later in life John Edmonstone taught at Edinburgh University, where he taught a young Charles Darwin taxidermy and helped inspire a passion for the tropics in the future father of evolutionary science. Without Edmonstone, Drawin may never have hit onto the idea of natural selection in the Galapagos.
Equiano (died 1797) was either born into slavery or enslaved as a child. He escaped slavery in 1766 by purchasing his freedom, and in 1789 published one of the first detailed, honest first-hand accounts of enslaved life. His book and activism helped end the British slave trade.
Evelyn Dove (1902 – 1987) was an internationally renowned cabaret star. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music, and performed with some of the world’s leading black artists, at the time rivalling the fame of jazz star Josephine Baker. Dove’s success depended upon her overcoming the immense racial prejudices of the day.
Existing content from last year; re-use. Change his description from “Former slave” to “Chartist”; change “son of a former slave” to “son of someone formerly enslaved”.
Hailed as “the godfather of multiculturalism", Stuart Hall (1932 – 2014) founded The New Left Review and transformed the academic study of culture within British academia. He established the first Cultural Studies course in the UK and became one of the UK’s foremost black political activists in his lifetime.
Joan Armatrading (1950 – present) was the first ever female UK artist to be nominated for a Grammy in the blues category. Originally from St Kitts, Armatrading starting writing music at 14, and taught herself to play the guitar. She holds eight honourary degrees.
Olive Morris (1952 – 1979) was a civil rights campaigner from Brixton, who founded multiple black womens’ groups in London and Manchester. She won a place to study at the University of Manchester despite having no school qualifications, and made immense contributions to black communities. She died of cancer aged just 27 in 1979.
Since the release of her debut novel when she was just 24, Zadie Smith (1975 – present) has been regarded as one of the leading literary voices of her generation for novels like White Teeth and On Beauty. Smith's writing, informed by her background with its distinct racial and class intersections, provides profound insights into identity, and the human condition more expansively. She now teaches at New York University.
Wiley (1979 – present) is widely considered the Godfather of Grime. He enjoyed success in grime and garage groups, and as a solo artist. He has been noted for his altruism, supporting numerous other artists both financially and musically. From the mid-90s, he has been instrumental in creating a new sonic aesthetic, drawing on the reggae his father played.
James Berry OBE (1924 – 2017) was a renowned poet whose work was heavily inspired by the language and culture of his native Jamaica. He was one of the first black writers in Britain to achieve widespread recognition, his work playing on the cultural contrasts between his two homes, whilst celebrating unity in diversity.
Lewis Latimer (1848 – 1928) was the child of a famous escaped slave from Virginia, George. Latimer taught himself mechanical drawing whilst working at a patent law firm, and around 1881, worked alongside Hiram Maxim where he helped invent the first seriously viable incandescent lightbulb. He also drew the patent for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.
Serena Jameka Williams (born September 26, 1981) is an American professional tennis player currently ranked as the 22nd best player in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). She won her first major championship in 1999 and completed the career Grand Slam in 2003. In 2017, she defeated her sister at the Australian Open to claim the 23rd Grand Slam singles title of her career.
Venus Williams rose from a tough childhood in Compton, Los Angeles, to become a champion women's tennis player and four-time Olympic gold medallist. Venus, along with her younger sister, Serena, has redefined women's tennis with her strength and superb athleticism. Born in 1980, in Lynwood, California, Venus Williams learned to play tennis on the public courts of Los Angeles. After turning professional in 1994, she won seven Grand Slam titles. Alongside her sister she has gone on to win several doubles championships, boosting her victory total even after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2011
Michelle Obama is an American lawyer and writer who served as the First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th U.S. President, Barack Obama, and was the first African-American First Lady. Born in 1964 in Chicago, Illinois. She attended Princeton University, graduating cum laude in 1985, and went on to earn a degree from Harvard Law School in 1988. As first lady, she focused her attention on current social issues, such as poverty, healthy living and education.