Black History Month celebrates the enormous contribution black Britons have made to our vibrant and diverse society. It was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher.
Our culture has been enriched and our society made stronger because of the people who travelled here to build new lives in the UK, as well as the achievements and contributions of their descendants.
In Wigan, we believe in a fairer, kinder community where everyone is treated equally and where everyone’s achievements are recognised and celebrated.
Recap of Black History Month 2020
Watch some of the dance workshops and performances Everything Human Rights community group ran during Black History Month 2020.
Key figures in history
Throughout history, influential black people, from Martin Luther King and Harold Moody to Stormzy, have helped push black issues to the top of the agenda. These key figures challenged the ‘norm’, worked for public good and helped create change.
100 Great Black Britons is a fascinating read of those who challenged and led the way to acceptance and change in Britain, many taking on roles in the public sector.
Here’s just a few of those key figures for change:
Mary Seacole - first black British nurse
After the Crimean War (1853-1856) Mary Seacole’s outstanding contribution was forgotten until recently. As the black daughter of a Scottish solder married to a Jamaican medical practitioner, Mary had overcome the additional challenge of racism to set up her own hospital for the soldiers. Having gone to war at her own expense and set up her 'hotel', ‘Mother Seacole’s, she looked after the wounded and dying soldiers, making her the first black British nurse.
Lilian Bader - first black women to join the British armed forces
Lilian overcame numerous setbacks before being accepted into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1941 and worked her way to becoming Corporal and leading Aircraftwoman. On leaving the forces she raised two children, retrained and became a teacher.
Frank Bailey - first black firefighter
Frank Bailey came to England from Guyana in 1953. As a political activist he reacted to news that the Fire Brigade's Union had said black people ‘were not employed by the fire service’ by applying for a post. He was successful in joining West Ham Fire Brigade in 1955 as the first full time black firefighter in England. "I was told that the authorities were not hiring black men because they were not strong enough physically or well enough educated to do the job. I immediately recognised racism and said I’m going to apply to be a firefighter and see if they find me unfit." He is now celebrated as having paved the way for black firefighters across the country.
Diane Abbott - first black female MP
Elected in 1987, Diane Abbott was in the first group of black and Asian people to sit in Parliament for almost a century, the fact she was female was significant. Diane started the London Schools and the Black Child programme, which aims to help black children to do well in school.
Marcus Rashford - footballer
There are many black heroes of football. Take Marcus Rashford, who has used his position in the public eye to do good and campaign to extend free school meals across the summer holidays. As a child his mother relied on food vouchers to feed her children. He has now formed a taskforce with some of the UK's biggest food brands to try to help reduce child food poverty.
Looking back way before Rashford, Jack Leslie was the first black footballer to be scouted. However, he was never chosen to play for England because of the colour of his skin. His record playing for Plymouth was prolific despite the racism he received. Plymouth Argyle have named their boardroom after him and are fundraising for a statue.
Wigan's sporting heroes
Billy Boston, Jason Robinson, Emmerson Boyce and Martin Offiah are just a handful of notable black sports people who have made huge contributions to Wigan’s sports scene. Billy Boston even has his own statue on Believe Square.