5 inspirational Black people I wish I learnt about

Tanya Nyadzayo is one of our Student Woman of the Year finalists and during her time at uni she co-founded a social project called Her Packages, which helps school girls in sub-Saharan Africa to get reusable sanitary products. As a Black woman, Tanya is very passionate about representation and education on Black history, so for Black History Month she shared with us some Black people throughout history that have inspired her.

In honour of black history month (BHM), we will be taking a walk through history to revisit 5 black individuals I wish I had been taught about at school. For those who might not be familiar with BHM, it is a yearly celebration of the contributions made by those from the diaspora to British history.

1. Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780)

Ignatius Sancho was the first ever Black British voter and an influential person throughout the arts. Sancho was multi-talented, having written endless amounts of plays, poetry and music. Sancho was born on a slave ship and was then later orphaned by his slave master and made to work as a butler. Despite his rough beginning, Sancho excelled in the arts and his footprint in British classical art can still be seen today.

2. John Edmonstone (1793-1822)

John Edmonstone was an influential figure in the scientific research industry during the 19th century. His work inspired many of the brilliant minds that have shaped science today, including Charles Darwin. Edmonstone taught Darwin during his time working as a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. Before this, Edmonstone had been born into slavery, but was able to buy his freedom. He later moved to Scotland which is where his academic career flourished.

3. Claudia Jones (1915-1964)

Claudia Jones was the founding mother of one of London’s most popular yearly events; Notting Hill Carnival. Jones was not only the founder of this incredible festival, she was also a strong female rights activist who fought for equality. It can be argued that Jones was the early example of an intersectional feminist. She wrote about the connections between gender, class and race in a time when the civil rights movement was only just beginning.

She arrived in the U.K. during the Windrush era and settled in London. Unfortunately, racism against Commonwealth country citizens moving to the U.K. was common practice during this time. However, Jones continued her fight for equality, which is where Notting Hill Carnival was born from.

4. Adelaide Hall (1901-1993)

In 1941 Adelaide Hall was Britain’s highest paid female entertainer, despite being a Black woman during a divided time. Her career as a successful Jazz singer and performer was captivating. She toured around the world, sharing her talent, whilst inspiring many young Black women to continue aspiring for big dreams.

5. Tessa Sanderson (1956-)

Tessa Sanderson was the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in 1984. She was a professional javelin thrower and spent 17 years at the top of her career outperforming her peers. In 1998 Sanderson was awarded an OBE for her work with sport and charities across the U.K., who she has helped earn millions for. She has since retired as an athlete and continues to work within the sporting industry.

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