Evelyn Dove was a singer and actress, heralded as Britain’s black cabaret queen. She belongs among such greats as Josephine Baker. The daughter of a Sierra Leonean barrister and his English wife, Dove studied singing, piano and elocution from an early age, and graduated from the Royal Academy of Music.
She joined the Southern Syncopated Orchestra – West Indian, West African and American musicians – but in 1921, 9 of them drowned in an accident at sea. Dove toured Western Europe, the US and India. She was the first black female singer on the BC, and one of her shows was so successful they turned it into a TV show. By the 1940s Evelyn Dove was a household name.
Stella Dadzie cofounded OWAAD – the Organisation for Women of Asian and African Descent – in 1978. She had been involved in the anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, anti-racist organising of the African Students’ Union at university, but had felt it did not take women’s liberation into account.
OWAAD campaigned on immigration and deportation, domestic violence, exclusion of kids from school, strikes by black women, policing and defence, and reproductive health. In 1985 she co-wrote The Heart of the Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain, which won the Martin Luther King Award for Literature. Nowadays she writes about anti-racist learning and strategies in schools, colleges and youth centres.
Zinzi Minott is a dancer and an artist whose work focuses on the relationship between dance and politics. Her work includes dance, objects, writing, song and film, and explores race, class, gender and queer culture.
She is currently Artist in Residence in the Tate Schools workshop at the Tate Modern.
One of her most recent pieces, What Kind of Slave Would I Be? explored this question that Minott asked herself after a visit to the National Gallery’s Tudor collection.
Fanny Eaton was a working class Victorian Londoner and a Pre-Raphaelite painters’ muse. The daughter of an ex-slave, Eaton moved with her mother from Jamaica to London in her 20s, in the 1840s. One of the leaders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, D.G. Rosetti, priased her for her beauty, and Eaton is a central figure in various paintings, such as The Mother of Moses, and The Mother of Sisera Looking Out at a Window.
Widowed in her 40s, Eaton raised her 10 kids mostly by herself, and worked as a model and ‘charwoman’, then servant and cook until she died aged 89.
‘Beachy Head Lady’ was a woman of Sub-Saharan African descent who lived in what is now Beachy Head, East Sussex, in 200-250 AD. Sub-Saharan Africa was not part of the Roman Empire. She may have been born in Africa and then travelled or was brough to the UK at a young age, or she may have been born in England: archaeologists are sure that she grew up in south-east England.
She was about 20 or 21 when she died, her body shoed no signs of wounds or disease, and she had healthy teeth and bones. It is very difficult to draw many conclusions from this other than the certainty that there were black people in Roman Britain, growing up in what is now Beachy Head.
The image above is based on a forensic facial reconstruction.
Kuchenga is a trans woman, a prison abolitionist, a Black Lives Matter activist and a writer. She also organises with Bent Bars, a letter writing project supporting LGBTQ prisoners in Britain.
Kuchenga was recently included amongst many other successful trans women in To My Trans Sisters, a collection of letters by trans women politicians, scientists, models, athletes, authors and activists from around the world.
Ngozi Fulani is the founder member of Sistah Space, a community-based initiative in Hackney, London, that supports African heritage women and girls who are victims/survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. Fulani is an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor and an Independent Sexual Violence Advisort, and the senior member of staff at Sistah Space, which is run by volunteers.
There is a link to donate in the text below if you want to support Sistah Space‘s lifesaving work.