Every October, Black History Month celebrates the culture, history and contributions of British people of colour. So this month, we take a brief look at some of the most influential Black Britons and their achievements.
In 2013, author Malorie Blackman became the first Black Children’s Laureate. Whilst beginning a career as a computer programmer, Blackman has enjoyed great success as a fiction writer and does much to advocate for the representation and inclusion of Black children within fiction. Her most well-known work is the Noughts and Crosses series, which was adapted into a BBC television series, first aired in March 2020.
Trevor McDonald was born in Trinidad in 1939. He worked at local media outlets before moving to London to join the BBC World Service, broadcasting to the Caribbean from the UK. In 1973, McDonald became a reporter, and later presenter, for Independent Television News (ITN). One of very few Black reporters on television (he was ITN’s first), McDonald had the opportunity to interview many influential public figures, from Nelson Mandela to Saddam Hussein, and in 1992 he became the first sole presenter of The News at 10. In 1992 McDonald received an OBE, followed by a knighthood in 1999, for services to journalism, and he has received more awards for journalism than any other broadcaster in Britain. He retired from The News at 10 in 2008.
Footballer Justin Fashanu, born in 1961, began playing professionally for Norwich City Football Club as a teenager. In 1981, he transferred to Nottingham Forest, becoming the first Black footballer to command a transfer fee of £1 million. In 1990, Fashanu revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first openly gay professional football player. Sadly, this resulted in him receiving much homophobic, as well as racist, abuse, something that he battled with for the rest of his career. In 1998, after being accused of sexual assault, Fashanu took his own life. Since his passing, several foundations have been established in his name, campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights: The Justin Campaign and The Justin Fashanu Foundation.
Joan Armatrading is a British blues musician. In 2007 she became the first female UK artist to debut a number one in the Billboard Blues Chart. She was also the first British woman to be nominated for a Grammy in the blues category. Born in St Kitts in 1950, Armatrading moved to the UK when she was 7 years old. At the age of 14 she began to write songs and taught herself to play the guitar. Having enjoyed great success as a recording and touring artist since the 1960s, Armatrading received a lifetime Achievement Award in recognition for her work at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2016.