Black History: Olive Morris

Line drawing of Olive Morris. She looks to the left of the page, smiling. She is wearing a t-shirt and jacket. The text in the image is in the body of the post.Olive Morris was an anti-racist, anti-imperialist activist, community organiser and squatter. She was a member of the Black Panthers and co-founded the Organisation for Women of Asian and African Descent with Stella Dadzie.

She was tireless, helping to set up multiple other collectives and organisations, including the Manchester Black Women’s Cooperative, Manchester Black Women’s Mutual Aid Group, Brixton Black Women’s Group and the Brixton Law Centre.

Morris died of Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 27.

The Remembering Olive Morris Collective was established in 2008 to document and make public her story.

Black History: Verna Wilkins

Line drawing of Verna Wilkins. She is looking to the front. Her hair is tied back in a bun at the base of her neck. She is smiling and you can see her teeth. She is wearing a top, necklace and blazer.

Verna Wilkins is the multi-award-winning author of over 50 picture books and biographies for young people, which have featured on the National Curriculum and BBC children’s television.

Wilkins is the founder of Tamarind Books, launched in 1987 after her 5-year-old son came home with a ‘This is Me’ book in which he was coloured in pink. He refused when Wilkins offered him a brown crayon, saying it had to be pink because it was for a book.

Wilkins ran Tamarind Books for 23 years, championing diversity in children’s publishing. It is now an imprint of Random House UK.

Wilkins now runs inclusive programmes in schools across the UK.

Black History: Evelyn Dove

Evelyn Dove

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.

Black History: Stella Dadzie

Stella Dadzie

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.

Black History: Zinzi Minott

Line drawing of Zinzi Minott. She is standing on one leg, leaning right forward with her other leg stretched out behind her. Her hair is up, she is wearing shorts and a cardigan and earrings. The quote reads: "I don't think I can truthfully say that I think any movement of your body, any attempt to own your own body, is ever not political." The rest of the text in the image is in the body of the post.

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.

Black History: Fanny Eaton

Line drawing of Fanny Eaton - she looks off to the left hand side of the page. Her hair is a wavy afro, she weats earrings and a jewelled necklace, and a tunic. The text in the image is in the body of the post.

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.

Black History – ‘Beachy Head Lady’

Line drawing of 'Beachy Head Lady' - a forensic reconstruction of the face of remains from 200-250AD - she has long curly hair, is looking forward with her mouth slightly open.

‘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.

Black History – Kuchenga

Line drawing of Kuchenga - she has braids, has her eyes closed as she is laughing, she is wearing a shirt and triangular earrings. The text in the image is included in the body of the post.

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.


Black History Month: Ngozi Fulani

Ngozi Fulani drawingNgozi 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.