Last year we teamed up with The Black Cultural Archives to launch the first-ever Black History Tube Map. That is renowned for celebrating the various contribution Black people have made throughout London and is rooted all the way back to the times before Tudors. 🚇
The home of Black British history resides in The Black Cultural Archives and has been there since 1981. Giving them a space to preserve, as well as celebrate and share significant moments in Black British History. This incorporates the influence of African and Caribbean descent here in the UK, which aims to inspire and strengthen the communities and society.
Here we give you a short glimpse of what to expect at this exhibition and spark your interest to go and find out more. Why not go and visit during Black History Month and embrace Black British History. The great thing about this exhibition is how it showcases things from the women who founded the first major Black newspaper 🗞️ and cofound Notting Hill Carnival, to the London-based Georgian entrepreneur Cesar Picton.
Bakerloo line – sports 🤎
Pablo Fanque, 1810 – 1871
📍 Embankment station
Pablo Fanque, born William Darby, was a British equestrian performer, 🐎 tightrope walker, acrobat 🤸♂️ and the first Black British circus owner! 🎪 During the Victorian era, at the time of the golden age for circuses, his circus was very popular for 30 years. 🎠 The Beatles also had a great liking to him and immortalised him in a song, Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite! On their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. 🎶
Central line – Arts ❤️
Cecile Nobrega, 1919 – 2013
📍 St. Pauls station
Cécile Nobrega, née Burgan, was a Guyanese-born British teacher, poet, 📝 playwright, composer 🎼 and community activist. In her time, she was able to lead a 15-year campaign to establish a monument in Stockwell Memorial Gardens, Bronze Woman. This was the first public monument to feature Black women and be displayed permanently in England. 😲 Paving the way for the many Black figure monuments we see today in the streets of London, such as the Mary Seacole in Waterloo, The Network in Old Street and the Murals in Alexandra Palace just to name a few.
Circle line – Georgians 💛
George Bridgetower, 1779 – 1860
📍 Ladbroke Grove station
George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower was a virtuoso Violinist. 🎻 As a child he was already exhibiting astronomical talent, which was illustrated in the successful concerts he played in Paris, London and Bath. This led to the British Prince Regent, the future George IV taking a liking to his musical talent and investing in his musical education in 1791. Through this amazing opportunity, he was able to impress Beethoven so much, that he let him compose Sonata 9 for him. This sonata is still considered today as being the Mount Everest of violin sonatas. With so many achievements, in 1807 he was elected to the Royal Society of Musicians and spent his remaining years living in Victory Cottages, Peckham. His last resting place is in Kensal Green Cemetery. 🎼
Cesar Picton, 1755 – 1836
📍 Blackfriars station
Cesar Picton began life enslaved
– and at the age of 6 was taken from his family and brought to England by an Army Officer and ‘presented’ as a servant to Sir John Philipps, along with the gift of ‘a parakeet and a foreign duck’. Despite this undignified beginning, Picton used a legacy of £100 left to him by the Phillips family to set up in business as a coal merchant in Kingston. 🏭 Picton became a wealthy and respected man and is buried in All Saints Church, Kingston. 💰
District line – Firsts and Trailblazers 💚
William Brown, 1789 – unknown
📍 Barons Court station
William Brown is the first known Black female to serve in the Royal Navy in the early nineteenth, where she disguised herself as a man… 🚢 However, it is very ambiguous about her time on board the HMS Charlotte. As it has been rumoured that Brown joined in her mid-teens and served on board the Queen Charlotte as an elite sailor. Or that she was later discharged after several months once it was identified that she was a female, leading her to be rated as the lowest-grade adult crew member. Despite that, whether one or the other is true or not, it does not change the fact that she was in fact the first biologically female to serve in the Royal Navy. 😲
John Edmonstone, 1820-1890
📍 Upminster Bridge station
John Edmonstone began life enslaved on Scotsman Charles Edmonstone’s Plantation in Guyana. Due to that, it is uncertain what his original surname is. During his time there, he learned about taxidermy and was able to take that knowledge to Scotland once he became a free man. He taught students taxidermy at the University of Edinburgh, some of which included Charles Darwin. It has been suggested that his influence in tropical rain forests in South America was one of the catalysts to encourage Darwin to explore there. These teachings helped Darwin preserve specimens that were fundamental to his ideology of evolution (Darwinism).
Joe Clough, 1887-1977
📍Elm Park station
Joe Clough was born in the Caribbean and arrived in the UK, where his first home was in London and later moved to Bedford. 🏡 He became the first Black motorbus driver in 1910, paving the way for the many we see today. He is known for driving the number 11, which ran between Liverpool Street and Wormwood Scrubs Prison. 🚌 He also drove an ambulance during World War I, 🚑 and later went on to work for the National Omnibus Company in Bedford.
Jubilee line – LGBT+ 🏳️🌈
Barbara Buford, 1944-2010
📍 Bermondsey station
Barbara Yvonne Veronica Burford was a medical researcher, writer and lifelong diversity activist. At the Institute of Child Heath, she was a Professor of Developmental Cardiology, and was awarded a CBE Services to the National Health Service in 2006. 🏥
Meanwhile, as a writer, she was the first Black woman to write an anthology, with her collection of short stories. Threshing Floor, until this day still features in many schools and colleges reading lists in the UK. By 1999, she was appointed Director of Equality for the Department of Health. And In 2017, The Barbara Burford Honour (Excellence in STEM) was founded, by the British Magazine Gay Times, recognising LGBT individuals who have made a difference in their fields. 🏅
Justin Fashanu, 1961-1998
📍 Canada Water station
Justinus Soni ‘Justin’ Fashanu, was an English footballer who had phenomenal talents on and off the pitch. He was the first footballer to ever be worth £1 million transfer fee in 1981, from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest. He then later, publicly announced his sexuality and identified as gay. Making him the first footballer to do that in the premier league. Since then, only one other footballer has taken the step to publicly announce their sexuality in recent years. Jake Daniel’s a Blackpool footballer did so earlier on this year. Unfortunately, Justin died by suicide in 1998. Fashanu was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2002.
Metropolitan line – Physicians 💜
Princess Ademola, 1916-unknown
📍 Rickmansworth station
Princess Omo-Oba Adenrele Ademola was a Nigerian princess and nurse. 👩⚕️ She trained as a nurse in London in the 1930s living in Africa Hostel in Camden Town – an important social and political scene for West Africans in Britain. Her nursing career spanned 30 years, including through World War II. 🏥 She was the subject of a film, Nurse Ademola, made by the Colonial Film Unity. The film was screened across West Africa and is said to have inspired many African viewers for the imperial war effort. Her activity after the 1940s is not known.
Dr Davidson Nichol, 1924-1994
📍North Harrow station
Dr Davidson Sylvester Hector Willoughby Nicol CMG or Abioseh Nicol was a Sierra Leoneon academic, diplomat, physician, writer and poet. At 22 he graduated from Cambridge with a first-class honours degree (the first African to do so), earned his PHD at 34 then went on study for another degree in medicine at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary, University of London’s medical school. One of Nicol’s biggest contributions was to medical science. He was the first to analyse the breakdown of insulin in the human body, a discovery which was a significant breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes.
Piccadilly line – Performers 💙
Evelyn Dove, 1902-1987
📍 Sudbury Town station
Evelyn Mary Dove was a British singer and actress. Born in the Lying-In hospital in London to her Sierra Leoneon barrister father and an English mother, Dove is recognised as a trailblazing performer: making history in 1939 as the first black singer to feature on BBC Radio. 📻
Throughout World War II she enjoyed the same appeal as the ‘Forces Sweetheart’, Vera Lynn. The BBC employed Evelyn all through the war, and she proved to be one of radio’s most popular singers. 🎤 Her brother and sister were also high achievers – her brother served in the Battle of Cambrai and was awarded the Military Medal and her sister was a journalist, politician and writer.
Victoria line – Literary world 💙
Len Garrison, 1943-2003
📍Warren Street station
Lenford Alphonso (Kwesi) Garrison was an educationalist, community activist and historian whose life’s work was dedicated to cataloguing the development of the Black British identity and its history, which significantly contributed to the development of a multicultural curriculum in British schools. 📝 To this end, he set up the Afro-Caribbean Education Resource and co-founded the Black Cultural Archives. 📚
Buchi Emecheta, 1944-2017
📍 Walthamstow Central station
Florence Onyebuchi ‘Buchi’ Emecheta OBE was a Nigerian-born pioneering novelist, based in the UK from 1962. After her husband burned the manuscript of her first novel, she left him, raising her five children alone – working at the British Museum by day and studying for a Sociology degree at night. Emecheta wrote over 20 books exploring sexual politics and racial prejudice, 📚 including Second Class Citizen, The Bride Price, The Slave Girl and The Joys of Motherhood. She has been lauded as the first successful black woman novelist living in Britain after 1948. 📕
Northern line – Community organisers 🖤
Una Marson, 1905-1965
📍 Highgate station
Una Maud Victoria Marson was an influential Jamaican feminist, activist, and writer, producing poems, plays and radio programmes. 📻 She arrived in the UK in 1932 and was helped by founder of the League of Coloured Peoples, Dr Harold Moody. In 1939 she became involved in broadcasting and joined the staff of the BBC. During World War II she became the BBC’s first black woman programme maker, producing Calling the West Indies, a programme broadcasting messages from servicemen and women in England to their families and friends in the Caribbean. ❤️
Paulette Wilson, 1956-2020
📍 Tufnell Park station
Paulette Wilson was an activist who fought her own deportation to Jamaica and brought media attention to the human rights violations of the Windrush scandal. Wilson arrived in the UK aged 10 to live with her grandparents and spent most of her adult life working as a chef, including in the House of Commons restaurant.
Despite arriving in the UK legally, Wilson received a letter from the Home Office in 2016 informing her she was an illegal immigrant and would be deported. She was arrested twice, spending time in a detention centre before a last-minute reprieve thanks to an intervention by her local MP. Wilson’s speaking out to The Guardian encouraged others to do the same, and Wilson spent the last years of her life campaigning for the thousands of people that arrived legally in the UK in 50s and 60s, now being wrong categorised as immigration offenders. She died peacefully but unexpectedly in her sleep in July 2020.