Photograph of Amy Barbour-James

A bigger picture

These objects represent just six of the many black figures who in different periods and different ways have played a role in the history of England or in defining the nature of Englishness.

Statue of Septimius Severus


Septimius Severus was the first Roman Emperor born in Africa. He ruled between AD 193 and 211. Although his family was of Phoenician rather than black African descent, ancient literary sources refer to the dark colour of his skin and relate that he kept his African accent into old age. He was an accomplished general who, having defeated his internal enemies in a series of civil wars, went on to victories at the furthest frontiers of the Empire, from Mesopotamia to Britain, where he died, at York (Eboracum) in AD 211

See more See more: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/marble-statue-of-the-emperor-septimius-severus/dAHyalZhZhahiA

Painting of St George


St George is most commonly identified in this country as the patron saint of England. However, he is also the patron saint of several other countries, including Ethiopia. The cathedral in the city of Addis Ababa is dedicated to St George and the city’s football club is named Saint George F.C. This painting from the AD 1800s shows a religious procession with St George mounted on a white horse above, wearing a blue cloak and carrying a spear and a gun.

See more See more: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=597730&partId=1&searchText=st+george+ethiopia&page=1

Print of George Bridgetower


George Bridgetower (about AD1778/9 – 1860) was a celebrated violinist, who had a West Indian father and a European mother. He established his name as a musician in Britain and later played before royalty across Europe. Beethoven planned to dedicate a sonata to Bridgetower but retracted the dedication after an argument between the two men.

See more See more: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=747991&partId=1&searchText=george+bridgetower&images=true&page=1

Viv Anderson’s England shirt


© Courtesy of the People’s History Museum

Arthur Wharton (1865 – 1930), a multi-talented sportsman, is considered as the first black professional footballer in the world. Jack Leslie (1901 – 1988), one of the few black footballers in England, was called up for the England team in the mid-1920s, only to have his selection withdrawn when it was realised that he was black. It was fifty years until Viv Anderson (born 1956) became the first black player to represent England in a full international in 1978.

See more See more: http://www.phm.org.uk/our-collection/viv-andersons-football-shirt/

Newspaper story about Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott (born 1953) was the first black female Member of Parliament, being elected in 1987 as MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. This newspaper cutting from the Caribbean Times records Abbott’s challenge to the then Conservative Health Minister, Virginia Bottomley, and her championing of the many black nurses in the health service.

See more See more: http://bcaheritage.tumblr.com/post/3183038336/the-caribbean-times-published-by-hansib-is-a-part
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Photograph of Amy Barbour-James