Early Black British Chronology

Before the Windrush

“Heritage does not disappear; it simply becomes hidden until someone rediscovers it”.

AD 208-211: Libyan-born Roman Emperor, Septimius Severus, campaigned in northern England and Scotland, and restored Hadrian’s Wall. He died in York in 211 AD. The troops under his command included Moors (North Africans).

Born in Africa in 354 AD, in the town of Tagaste, Augustinethe African Saint wrote many books which had an enduring impact on Western literature; these include City of God and The Confessions. During his lifetime he saw the sacking of Rome. He died in year 430 AD.

Recent finds at a Roman site near Lichfield, in South Staffordshire, include a statuette of a black wrestler.

AD 668: African-born Abbot Hadrian is selected by the Pope to become Bishop of Canterbury.  Although Hadrian is described as having great learning, he turns the appointment down, not once but twice. Instead Theodore of Tarsus takes the post and Hadrian settles to become abbot of the monastery of St. Peter (later renamed St. Augustine‘s Abbey) at Canterbury.

AD 862: Vikings, returning from raids on Spain and North Africa, land Black settlers in Ireland.

10th Century: There isevidence of Black settlers living in Norfolk.

Domesday Abbeviato, c.1241 (Courtesy of The National Archives)

The earliest known image of a black Britain is a picture in the abbreviated index of the Doomsday Book.

In the Middle Ages: People of African descent were usually referred to as Blackamoors or Moors; the name given to the North African conquerors from Spain from 711-1492. During the middle and late middle ages, the number of Africans or people of African heritage increased in Britain due to trade between Europe and Africa often via Spain.

*Throughoutold documents spellings varies, and so Blackamoor, Blackimoor, and other variations appear often. The reason for this is, prior to 1755 when Dr. Samuel Jackson published the first dictionary, there were no set standards for spellings.

1500-1505: A small group of Africans were attached to the court of King James IV of Scotland.

c1508: A poem by William Dunbar called ‘Ane Blak-Moir’ suggests that there were black people in Britain during this period.

Note: a small (c) before the dateis short for circa thisindicates that the given date is not fixed; however, we know it was ‘around this time’.

1511: The painter roll of the Westminster Tournament, held to celebrate the birth of a son to Catharine of Aragon, includes the earliest pictorial record of a Black Briton. He is John Blake, the trumpeter employed by Henry VII in 1507, and then by his successor Henry VIII.

* Catherine of Aragon was first married to Henry VII (7th), when he died, she married his brother Henry VIII (8th)  

1555: A group of five Africans, from what is now Ghana, visited England to be trained as interpreters for English merchants.

1558: Reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

During the reign of Elizabeth I England began to participate in the transatlantic slave trade.

1562-63: adventurer, Sir John Hawkins, made the first English Atlantic slave voyage, acquiring at least 300 inhabitants of the Guinea coast.

From 1570 onwards some African slaves were brought to England to work as servants and entertainers.

1575: A group of black musicians and dancers are shown in Marcus Gheeraert’s painting of Queen Elizabeth at Kenilworth, Warwickshire.

As early as 1595 the British recruited many black sailors from the colonies to defend the coast of England. They also took part in expeditions against France, Holland and Spain.

1599: An African courtesan, Luce Morgan, also known as Lucy Negro or ‘Black Luce’, is thought to be the dark Lady referred to in William Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

1596: Elizabeth I issued a proclamation, ordering the expulsion of Black settlers from England.

1601: Elizabeth I issued a second Royal Proclamation, ordering the Lord Mayor of London to expel all ‘negroes and blackamoors’ from London.

1603: Death of Elizabeth I. The Stuart King – 1603: James I accession to the Throne

1604: (November 1st) William Shakespeare’s play Othello is first performed. Othello, the leading character, the hero of the play, is an African/Moorish General.

1607: (April 3rd) Baptism of John Primero, ‘a negro’, servant to Sir Thomas Hunt, – St. Giles Church in the London district of Camberwell.

1609: (February 19th) Baptism of Richard, age 12, a ‘Blackmore’ at Saint George the Martyr, in the London district of Southwark.

1615: (February 13th) John Primero was buried at St. Giles church Camberwell.

1623: (August 20th) Baptism of Philip an Indian Blackmore born in East Indies at Zarat. St. Katherine Church, Tower Hamlet

1625: Charles I succeeded to the throne.

1633: Portrait of William Fielding, 1st Earl of Denbigh, accompanied by an Indian servant, painted by Sir Anthony van Dyke.

Samuel Pepys was an English civil servant. In 1672 he became Secretary to the Admiralty. Pepys is famous for his written diary, and the entries made from 1660 – 1669. He notes that his ‘blackmoor’ cook “dresses our meat mighty well and we are mighty pleased with her”.

1667: (25th October) ‘burial of a son of an Egyptian’ – Caddesley, Corbett Parish Register

1668: (October 11th) Ralph Trunckrt a ‘Blackamore’ age 20 years, willingly baptised at church – Saint Saviour, Southwark.

1668: the presence of ‘vagabonds or such as are called gypsies or Egyptians in great numbers’ at an ales house in Defford.

1672: Slavery is officially legalised. The Royal African Company is granted a charter to carry slaves to America. 

1675: (November 22nd) John Swan a black servant to Col. Warner was baptised at the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower Green.

1679: Burial of John Niger servant to Lady Mordaunt – All Saints Church register, Fulham.

1684: (March 30th) Baptism of James Fulham, a Black from Justice Shalses – All Saints’ Church register, Fulham. 

1684: (October 5th) Burial of James Fulham a Black – All Saints’ Church register, Fulham. 

1685/6: Burial of a short black man in a ‘wascott’ being drowned and cast a shore by the Bromhouse – All Saints Church register, Fulham. 

1685: James II succeeds his brother Charles.

1687: Bristol – when her mistress threatened to send her to a plantation in the West Indies, Dinah Black, a slave, took her mistress to court, and she won the case. When her mistress refused to take her back, Dinah was granted her freedom.

1687: John Moore (he is listed as a ‘blacke’) was given the freedom of York. To gain this honour, he had to be a man of considerable means. John Moore paid 20 nobles (around 13 shillings 6 pence) to the Common Chamber of the city and £4 to the city council.

1688: Charlecote Park, Warwickshire: Portrait of Captain Thomas Lucy with a black boy wearing a metal collar and holding a horse. Painted by, Sir Godfrey Kneller.

1688: (December 23rd) King James is deposed and flees into exile in France.

1689: William of Orange and his wife, Mary becomes joint sovereign.

1690: (1st January) Baptism of Margaret Lucy ‘belonging to Lady Underhill’ – Oxhill Parish Register.

1691: (August 26th) Baptism of Susannah, a ‘Blackimoor Woman’ from Mr. Beatts of Hammersmith – All Saints Church, Fulham.

1692: (July 6th) Baptism of John ‘A Blackmoor’ about one or two and twenty – All Saints Church, Fulham.

1692: (16th January) Court records reveal that Edward Francis the black servant of Thomas Dymock, who was the keeper of the lions in the tower, confessed that he had tried to poison his master. Thomas thought that he would gain his freedom if his master was dead.

1695/6: Burial of Lucy a Black woman Servant of Capt. Wallis – All Saints Church register, Fulham. 

1698-1720: London became the leading slave port in Britain, followed by Bristol and Liverpool.

1700: (29th December)Baptism of Will Archus, ‘an adult male Black’- Oxhill Parish Register.

1702: King William dies and his sister-in-law, Anne comes to the throne.

1704: Charles Hector, Black servant of Charles Mason, Shropshire MP, baptised aged 10 years, Churchstoke Parish Register.

1705: Headstone in Oxhill Parish Churchyard reads:Here lyeth the body of Myrtilla, Negro slave to Thos. Beauchamp of Nevis. Baptised October 20th:  Buried January 6th.

1705: (July 29th) Baptism of John, an ‘Ethyopian’ boy page to Lady Pye – St. Martin’s Parish Register, Tipton.

1714: The death of Queen Ann, she is the last of the Stuart dynasty.

1714: George I (a distant cousin to Anne) succeeds to the throne.

1714: (January 7th) Baptism of Sampson a Black boy – St. Paul Church, Hammersmith.

1725-1737: Painted between these dates, the painting: The Card Party shows a group of prosperous society people playing cards. A black page is also included in the scene.

1727: Death of Hanoverian King George 1, his son George II takes over. During the reign of George II, there was a substantial extension to the British Empire.

1729: ‘Baptised Bartholomew, son of ‘Tho Ruford’ (a Black and a Drummer) & of Catherine his wife’, 29th August – St. Peter’s Parish Register, Hereford.

1731: Baptised Evan, son of Henry Moore (a Blackmore – belonging to the Regiment of Colonel Evans) and of Mary his wife’ – St. Peters Church Register, Hereford. 

1731: The Lord Mayor of London banned Black people from becoming apprentices to any city trader. He did this to prevent any free Black citizen from making a living.

1731: At the age of two IgnatiusSancho is brought to England by his owner, Ignatius educates himself to become an accomplished writer and composer. His portrait was painted by Gainsborough.

1733-34: Painter and engraver William Hogarth featured a black boy playing a trumpet at London’s Southwark Fair. He used black subjects in over two dozen of his works.

1735: Baptism of Philip Lucy ‘a black child of about 6 years old’ – Charlecote Parish register. 

1736: (July 10th) Baptism of Lydia, a Blackmoor – All Saints Church, Fulham.

1737: Burial of John Clements, Blackmoor – All Saints Church register, Fulham. 

1740: (June 15th) Baptism of Henry Africanus, a Blackmoor – All Saints’ Church register, Fulham. 

1740: (July 17th) Burial of Henry Africanus, All Saints’ Church register, Fulham. (Was Henry Africanus ill and expected to die, is this why is death comes within weeks of his christening? Also note, some churches would not allow those who had not been christened to be buried on hallowed (church) grounds).

1749: (July 2nd)Burial of Maria Richards a black, age 82 – St. Paul Church, Hammersmith.

1750: (July 4th) Burial of Ambrose Bell Chambers a Black (poor), St. Paul Church, Hammersmith.

1750: Francis Barber arrives in England with his master, Captain Bathurst. After the death of the captain, Francis goes to work for Dr. Samuel Johnson the man who compiled the first English dictionary. 

1751-1843: TheMilitary historian John Ellis has identified 41 black and Asian soldiers who were enlisted with the Royal Worcestershire Regiment during these years. Some of thesesoldiers appeared to be the sons of men who had also served the regiment.

1758: Burial ofJai’ Mon’d Deser a Maid servant to Mrs. Casmajor a Black – St. Paul Church register, Hammersmith.

1759: The Worcestershire Regiment got its first Black drummers when Admiral Boscawen procured eight black boys that he brought home from Guadeloupe and gave to his brother as a gift.

1760: George II dies. His grandson is crowned King George III; his wife, Queen Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz is said to be directly descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a black branch of the Portuguese Royal House.

(See: Debretts “King and Queen of Britain” By David Williamson, 1986 Page165) 

In the 1760s, the Edinburgh Evening Courant and Caledonian Mercury published adverts offering slaves to wealthy citizens and rewards for runaway slaves.

1763: Dido Elizabeth Belle was the daughter of navel captain John Lindsay, and a slave. She grew up at the Hampstead home of her Great uncle, the earl of Mansfield.

1764: The black population of London is estimated at 20,000 out of a total population of about 700,000

1764: Captain Stair Douglas of the Royal Navy makes a gift of a little black boy to the Duchess of Queensbury; she accepted him and named him Soubise.

1766: (March 31st) Baptism of George John Scipio Africanus – St. Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton.

1767: (May 22nd) Baptism of Elizabeth, a Mulatto, of a Man & Woman both Mulattos. All Saints Church, Fulham. (This entry is unusual, in the fact that her parents are mentioned).

1768: Black Tom a slave from Grenada arrives in England with his master, Dr. David Dalrymple of Fife, Scotland. Learning that his master intended to sell him, in 1769 Tom got baptised and changed his name to David Spens then declared himself free.  The doctor issued legal writs to recover what he deemed was his property, but died before the case came before the courts.

1770s: Painting by Reinagle of John Molineux of Wolverhampton with a black servant, possibly George Africanus.

1771: Notice for slave auction in Lichfield, advertised in Birmingham Aris’s Gazette:

‘A Negro Boy from Africa, about ten or eleven years of Age, he speaks tolerable good English, of Mild Disposition, fond of Labour, and for Colour an excellent shade of Black’.

1771: (July 8th) Baptism of Richard Crosby Africanus an adult Negro – St. Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton.

1772: Lord Justice Mansfield ruled that Black slaves could not be removed from England against their wishes.

1775: Birth of Joseph Antonio Emidy, an enslaved African who became a celebrated violinist and prominent composer in 19th century Cornwall. He is buried in Kenwyn Churchyard near Truro.

 1775: The American War of Independence (1775-1783); as a result, many American slaves and freemen fight for Britain, or escape here to live. Many ended up in Liverpool.

1778: The owning of personal slaves are banned in Glasgow. This is 29 years before the abolition of the slave trade across Britain.

1780: (October 18th) Baptism of Mary supposed about 33 years of age, Born in Guinea, servant to Mr. Hillock – All Saints Church, Fulham.

1780: the death of Ignatius Sancho.

1780: (11th July) For her part in the Gordon Riots, Charlotte Gardiner a black woman was hanged on specially constructed gallows on Tower Hill, London.

1781: ‘Died at Lord Valentia’s of Upper Arley aged 46 Thomas Otempora (Othello) a native of America, from African parents. He was in a remarkable degree a good servant, and trusty friend. A universal benevolence and fine temper he had the greatest degree; he had an ornament to Christianity…’ Berrow’s Journal (Worcester)

1781: Fearing he would not get a good price for the slaves that were not in peek condition,Captain Collingwood in charge of the slave ship Zong, throws 132 of his captives overboard to drown. 

1781: (August 31st) Baptism of George Atchelor, a Negro from the Coast of Guinea, adult, a servant of Mr. Stephens – All Saints Church register, Fulham.

1785:  The slave trader James Tobin noted that the black population in Britain had greatly increased.1785: (July 3rd) Burial of George Atchelor King (Mr. Stevens’ Black) – All Saints Church register, Fulham.

1785: (January 25th) Baptism of John Towels – Negro man, St. Peters, Collegiate Church, Wolverhampton.

Established in 1786 – The Committee for the Black Poor was later to succeed in exporting some hundreds of Black Britain’s/people of African descent to what became the colony of Sierra Leone.

1787: Ottobah Cuguano was the first African to publicly demand the total abolition of the slave trade and freedom for slaves. His book, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery, was published in this year.

1787: (June 29th) Baptism of John Money, adult Negro from the Coast of Guinea – St Paul’s Church, Hammersmith.

1787: (October 12th) Baptism of John Moor a Black (aged 19) from Bengal – St. Paul Church, Hammersmith.

1788: (6th February) Advertisement for employment in the ‘World’, “A black servant, in a family, or with a single gentleman that travels: can wait at table: understands taking care of horses, and dressing hair in a plain manner for travelling; can have a good character from last place. 

1788: Robert Wedderburn arrives in England. He becomes involved in the Unitarian movement. He goes on to join the Spenceans, a group who press for radical reforms and freedom of speech. William Davidson would also become a member of this movement.

1788: Birth of William Cuffey – political activist. In 1840 he was elected as the Westminster delegate of the Chartist movement, another political group pressing for social and political reforms. This movement can be seen as the fore runner to the Labour movement.

1790: (19th February) Black violinist George A. P. Bridgetower first performs at London’s Drury Lane Theatre. On 2nd June he played at a benefit concert at Hanover Square Rooms. As well as London he also performed in Bath and Bristol.

1791: Violinist George Bridgetower performs at Westminster Abbey, and goes into the service of the Prince of Wales.

1793: Having moved from Wolverhampton to Nottingham, George Africanus sets up his own business – An employment office for servants to register.

1793: (October 13th) Baptism of Phyllis Jane a negro woman of New Providence, Bahama Islands – St Paul Church register, Hammersmith.

1793: (April 5th) Burial of George Carr a Black Man (Work House), St Paul Church register, Hammersmith.

1795: Age 14, William Davidson whose father was a white Jamaican Attorney General arrives in Glasgow to study law.

1796: ‘The London’, a slave transport ship was on its way to Bristol when it went down. In 1997 the ship was located with the skeletons and other cargo still on board.

1796: Born in Norwich, Pablo Fanque became one of the most successful circus owners. A skilled horse rider, rope dancer and acrobat, he sets up his own circus show in 1841.

1801: (April 19th) St. John the Baptist Church, Bishops Castle, Shropshire‘. Here lies the body of I.D. a native of Africa who died in this town. 

1805: Battle of Trafalgar. Black seamen served on board the Victory, Admiral Nelson’s ship. In total 187 able seamen from the Caribbean, 28 from African and 23 Indians were aboard ships in Nelsons fleet. Other countries represented include China, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey.

1805:  Benjamin Silliman, an American visiting Britain noted: Black and Asian faces are not uncommon in the British crowds.

1805: William Wordsworth, returning to London from his three years in Cambridge, looked forward to seeing the cosmopolitan mix of the city; the ‘Moors, the Malays, Lascars and Negro ladies in white muslin gowns’, poem ‘The Prelude’.

(*Lascars a general term used for Indians, sometimes also for Chinese and other oriental’s)

1807: (March 25th) the Abolition of Slave Trade Act makes it illegal to trade in slaves in British colonies. (However, the Abolition Act was not passed until 1833)

1809: Sake Dean Mahomet opens the first Indian Restaurant in George Street, London W1.

1810: (December 30th) Baptism of Marther Young a Creole of St. Vincent, aged 13 – St Paul Church register, Hammersmith.

1811: George Bridgetower receives his bachelor’s degree at Cambridge University.

1812: (March 8th) Baptism of Henry Johnson of Guinea. About twenty years of age – All Saints’ Fulham.

1813: (18th April-Easter Sunday) Baptism of fourteen black parishioners at St. Peters ad Vincula, Tower Hill London.

1815: Many black men fought in the Napoleonic wars, including the battle of Waterloo. Some become Chelsea Pensioners.

Born in St. Kitts in 1779, to a plantation owner and a slave, on the death of his father, Nathaniel Wells inherited the plantation, settled in England and becomes the Sheriff (1818), and then Deputy Lieutenant of Monmouthshire.

1820: Execution of William Davidson for his part in the Cato Street conspiracy. Davidson originally from Jamaica, had a cabinet-making business in Birmingham.

1820: Death of George III; his son George IV becomes king.

1823: Amendment made to the Navigation Act; stipulates that black sailors were to be paid and treated the same as white British seamen.  However, the same rule did not apply to Asians or Orientals.

1824: ‘Eleven vacancies in the band (of the Worcestershire Regiment) are reserved for black boys from Africa’ – H. Everard

1825: American Shakespearian actor, Ira Aldridge arrives in England.

1828: Mary Prince arrives in England with her master and his family. She runs away and seeks help from the Anti-slavery society. In 1831 she publishes her book, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave.  

1830: At the age of 61, William IV (4th) accedes to the throne after the death of his brother George IV. William had 10 illegitimate children with his mistress Dorothea Jordan.

1831: George Rose promoted to the rank of sergeant in the British Army. Until as recently as 2003-4, Walter Tull was thought to be the first serving black Officer in the British Military. The ink is hardly dry, as other names come forward to claim this title.

1833: The Slavery Abolition Act passed, abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire.

1837: King William IV dies and his niece Victoria is crowned Queen.1837: Painter, William Henry Hunt completes the painting titled, Jim Crow. The scene is that of a black boy warming himself by a stove. The suggestion is that, the subject is out of his element (the sun), and being culturally separated. Hunt lived in the area of St. Giles London. This area was known to be racially diverse.

Mid 1800s: Caesar Picton was a successful coal merchant, not only did he own a horse and chaise, with a thriving business; he was able to build himself a house in Thames Ditton for £4,000.  

1848: (March 13th) the Chartist movement’s demonstration for social and political reforms ended in a series of riots, one of which took place in Camberwell (Bowyer Lane, now Wyndham Road). This event included at least two black demonstrators: David Anthony Duffy and Benjamin Prophet.

1850: Capt. Forbes receives a female captive from King Gezo of Dahomey. Given the name Sarah Bonetta Forbes, the child is presented to Queen Victoria, who adopts her as her God daughter.

1850: A fugitive slave from Georgia, John Brown sought refuge in England. Settling in London, Brown later dictates his memoirs. Slave life in Georgia was published in1855.

In the early 1850s The Crafts, a pair of runaway slaves, escape from America and arrive in England.

1851: Ira Aldridge plays the part of Othello at the Shakespeare Memorial at Stratford-upon Avon.

1850-1860: American classical singer Elizabeth Taylor-Garfield, known as the ‘Black Swan’, performed in London. 

1852: Nathaniel Wells dies in Bath. His estate is estimated as being worth £100,000. 

1854: (December) Frederick Douglas, runaway slave, abolitionist and writer, arrives in England. He travelled extensively, giving talks throughout England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. On his return to America, two years later, he became ‘station master and a conductor’ of the Underground Railroad a secret network of people and safe houses for runaway slaves.

1855: James Horton, from Sierra Leone arrives in England. He attends Kings College London and then Edinburgh University. Horton was one of the first Africans to qualify as a doctor and one of the ‘first’ to serve as an officer in the British Army. In 1874, he was made Surgeon Major.

1857: The Strangers Home for Asiatics (Lascars), Africans and South Sea Islanders was opened in Limehouse, London to cater for sailors and dock workers.

1857: Mary Seacole publishes her book,The Wonderful adventures of Mrs. Seacole. A charity benefit is held for her at the Royal Surrey Gardens. (near Walworth Road).

1858: Birth of Andrew Watson the first black international football player. Educated at Glasgow University, he received a Bachelor of Art degree. He went on to become one of the world’s first black football administrators.

1860: Violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower died at Victory Cottage, Bedford Street (now Sandison Street) in Peckham.

1864: Samuel Adjai Crowther, the first black bishop (Church of England)   was ordained in Canterbury Cathedral.

1865: Burial of Catherine ‘Kitty’ Prentice, the servant of Rev. G.A.F Watson. The carved headstone reads, Kitty after years of faithful and loving service in India and England, fell asleep in Christ 27th May, Woodford, near Northampton.

1866: Shakespearean actor, Morgan Smith arrives in England. The 1881 Census shows that Smith was lodging in York with his wife and son, Edgar, who was born in Hammersmith, London.

1879: Birth of Rugby player Jimmy Peters, Salford, Manchester.

1880: Major James Horton (Africanus – added to make a statement of his roots), retired from the British Army, returns home and sets up The Commercial Bank of Sierra Leone.

1886: Arthur Wharton sets a new world record for the 100 yard dash in10 seconds, at Stamford Bridge. The same year, he was assigned to Preston North End football club, and became the first black football player.

1888: The birth of black Footballer Walter Tull. He fought in the First World War and got promoted to Lieutenant. For some time he was thought to be the first black officer in the British Army, this was before information of James Horton Africanus came to light. At the time of writing, a third name – George Rose (1831) appears to pre-date James Africanus.

1890: Violinist Samuel Coleridge Taylor enrolls at the Royal College of Music; he later becomes a celebrated composer and conductor. He also taught at London’s Trinity College of Music.

1892: Sissieretta Joyner-Jones, a celebrated black American Soprano dubbed ‘Black Patti’, performed before the Prince of Wales in London.

1898: The Dr. Barnardo’s Children Charity fundraising magazine ‘Night and Day’ featured an illustration of three black woolly haired children – the Williams sisters. From its early beginnings, Barnardo’s made it clear it would take in all children that were destitute regardless of their nationalities and ethnic origins. This charity opened its doors in 1870. From 1874 printed images were kept in albums of the children in its care. This historical source proves the existence of Black people in Britain.

1899: John Alcindor graduates from Edinburgh University’s medical school. Born in Trinidad, during his time at the university he helped form the London based African Progress Union (APU). After graduation, he sets up his general practice in London. In his spare time Doctor Alcindor wrote and published papers on Influenza, cancer and TB. With the onset of World War I, he gave up his practice to assist The International Red Cross.

1900: London, the Pan-African Conference

1901: Death of Queen Victoria.  At the age of 59 her son Edward VII (7th) becomes king. When King Edward died in 1910, his second son, George V succeeds to the throne, and starts the House of Windsor.

1901-1910: Edwardian entertainers Belle Davis and Connie Smith make regularly appearances at the Camberwell Palace of Varieties.

1902: Edwardian entertainer Belle Davis is one of the first Black women to make a record. The song, The Honey Suckle was one of the most popular music hall songs of the day. Born in New Orleans in 1874, Belle appeared in shows all over England.

1904: Dr. Harold Moody, age 22, arrives in England to study medicine at Kings College. After graduation he sets up in practice at 111 King’s Road (now King’s Grove), Peckham.

1904: The National Archives show that Dr.Allan Glaisyer Minns was elected Mayor of Thetford, in Norfolk 1904; (this was nine years before John Archer – see 1913). Born in Inagua in the Bahamas, Allan Glaisyer came to Britain to study medicine at London’s Guys hospital.

1906: in February of this year, Joseph ‘Joe’ Clough arrived in England with his employer Dr. R. C. White. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1887, Joe became London’s first Black Motorbus Driver in 1908. After passing his Scotland Yard driving test, Clough became one of the main drivers along the London General Omnibus Company’s No. 11 bus route between Liverpool Street and Wormwood Scrubs.

Born on November 12th 1912, Josephine Esther Brice grew up in Fulham. Her father, Joseph was the son of a slave and was originally from Guyana, South America. Affectionately known as Aunt Esther, in 1991 Hammersmith and Fulham’s Oral History Project published Aunt Esther story, the life of a black woman growing up in Britain before the war and the changes that took place after it.

1913: (10th November) John Archer was elected mayor of Battersea. As late as 2007 it was generally believed he is the first black person to hold civic office in London. However we now know that this honour belongs to Dr. Allan Glaisyer Minns.

1915-1916: Seaford in Sussex was used as a training camp for men from the West Indies, in preparation for World War I and fighting in Europe.  

1919: Race riots took place in Glasgow, Liverpool and Cardiff, as whites clashed with black workers and seamen, many of whom were unemployed at the end of the war.

1919: Jamaican poet Claude McKay visits England. He meets the playwright George Bernard Shaw. In World War II, McKay’s poem ‘If We Must Die’ was used by Winston Churchill to instill courage in the British Nation.

1921: Dr. Cecil Belfield Clarke opened his surgery in Newington Causeway.

1922: American singer, actor and political activist Paul Robeson visits England.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the entertainer, Elizabeth Walsh was the most famous black woman in Britain. She starred in a number of West End musicals and revues. She also co-stared with Paul Robeson in the films – Song for Freedom and Big Fellow. Born in New York in 1904, in 1933, Elizabeth made London her home.  

1930: Death of footballer, Arthur Wharton.

1930: (August 2nd), another of England’s early race riots takes place in South Shields, Tyneside. Six white men and two Arabs are accused of causing the disturbance.

1932: Jamaican poet Una Marson moves to Peckham. She later becomes the first black woman programme maker and presenter on BBC radio.

1931: Dr. Harold Moody becomes founder of the League of Coloured People. Paul Robeson also assisted the organisation by helping in its fundraising activities. 

1932: C.L.R. James moved to England from Trinidad. A Marxist and advocate of decolonization, his first novel (the Black Jacobeans-1938), was a historical account of the Haitian slave revolt.

1933: The organisation, the League of Coloured People, puts on a Christmas party for its members and their families, 350 attend.

I934: The BBC gives Elizabeth Walsh (above) her own radio show – Soft Lights and Sweet Music. Elizabeth makes guest appearances in many other top radio shows of the day, including Henry Halls Guest Night, Band Wagon, Monday Night at Eight and Workers’ Play Time.

1935: In self imposed exile, Marcus Garvey settles in Fulham. At the time of his death he lived at number 53 Talgarth Road.

1936: After the death of his father George V, in January 1936 Edward VIII comes to the throne, his reign is short. In December the same year Edward abdicates.

1939: Questions of nationality and race are put aside, and all Commonwealth people are able to join the Royal Air Force on equal terms.

1941: Guyanese band leader, Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson whose band played at the Café de Paris, a famous nightclub situated underground in London’s West End, is killed when two high-explosive bombs crashed through the ceiling. Several other members of the band were also killed.

1942: The minutes of the Birmingham Parks Committee refer to an application for a burial ground for ‘Mohammedans’ in the Lodge Hill Cemetery, Selly Oak. At this time the only separate Muslim burial ground outside London was in Western Cemetery, Cardiff.

1944: New Cross London, Dr. Harold Moody is first on the scene after a German V2 rocket lands in the area. Nearly 200 were killed and hundreds are injured.   

1947: Dr. Harold Moody dies. Thousands attend his funeral at the Camberwell Green Congregational Church.

1949: Paul Robeson made Honorary President of the Birmingham Clarion Singers. He was also a guest of the African Student Union at Birmingham University.