Black History Month

This year for Black History Month we have split the month into four weekly areas of focus, Racism in Sport, Racism and Healthcare, Influential Black Women in British History and the Black Lives Matter movement. 


Here at the Students' Union we have been working with the University library to create reading lists which link with our themes for Black History Month this year. These can be found by following this link: https://rl.talis.com/3/aber/lists/DCAEDC88-18E6-7710-EB88-7CE9A1D95F24.html?lang=en. A blog post on the Black Lives Matter movement by our Welfare Officer Connor can also be found here.

Racism in Sport

Throughout history, black people have been enslaved, pushed down and discriminated against in every aspect of life. This oppression isn’t in the distant past, and partly still continues today. U.S. racial segregation laws being in place up until the mid 50s, black athletes faced countless hurdles, rejections and closed doors. Despite this, the incredible individuals below managed to push the limits of sports achievement and what is possible. They have written their names in history books because of their outstanding abilities and persistence in the face of adversity.


Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens - Movie, Olympics & Quotes - Biography

  • Occupation: Track and Field Athlete
  • Born: September 12, 1913
  • Died: March 31, 1980
  • Nickname: The Buckeye Bullet
  • Best Known for: Winning four Gold Medals in the 1936 Olympic Games

All throughout the sporting history black athletes have faced huge discrimination when they are competing. A particular case of such behaviours was exhibited at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where Adolf Hitler used this as a platform to showcase Aryan ‘superiority’. An amazing athlete named Jesse Owens won four gold medals and set a record that stood for an amazing 48 years. After such an achievement, Owens was not once invited to the White House (normally the case after an such a momentous achievement) and neither was he contacted by the President.


Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson: The pioneering champion America forgot - BBC Sport

  • Occupation: Tennis player
  • Born: August 25, 1927
  • Died: September 28, 2003
  • Known for: Becoming the first African-American to compete in women’s tennis
  • U.S. Singles Champion 1957, 1958
  • U.S. Mixed Doubles Champion 1957
  • Wimbledon Singles Champion 1957, 1958
  • Wimbledon Doubles Champion 1956, 1957, 1958
  • French Singles Champion 1956
  • French Doubles Champion 1956
  • Australian Doubles Champion 1957
  • U.S. Clay Court Singles and Doubles Champion 1957

Known for her exceptional abilities in tennis, Althea Gibson also became the first African-American to compete in national and international competitions. Regarding taking part in a sport known for its racial segregation around the 1950’s, she rose to be the most exceptional female athlete in that discipline. At one point in her career she even thought about dropping the sport altogether to join the US army. A lot of her frustration rose from the fact that a lot of the sport was restricted due to the white-dominated, white-managed industry, which was fundamentally segregated in the US, as was the world around it. Despite this, Gibson would go on to establish an eight-year career in which there were many achievements in the years 1956-1958.


Tommie Smith

John Carlos

Today in sports history: Black Power salute at 1968 Summer Olympics  
  • Occupation: Track and Field Athlete
  • Occupation: Track and Field Athlete
  • Born: June 6, 1944
  • Born: June 5, 1945
  • Best known for: Black power salute at the 1968 Olympic Games
  • Best known for: Black power salute at the 1968 Olympic Games

 

It’s the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico, and three athletes are standing on the podium to receive their medals after the 200m race. Whilst standing on the podium both Smith (Gold Medalist) and Carlos (Bronze Medalist) begin to remove their shoes to protest poverty, they wore beads and a scarf to protest lynchings, lowered their head and then, as the national anthem begins to play to commemorate Smith and John Carlos they both raise black-gloved fist in unity and defiance. Peter Norman, the silver medallist who was a white athlete from Australia participated in the protest by wearing an OPHR badge. The image of them then became one of the most iconic images in the 20th century.


Wilma Rudolph

Moment In Time: Wilma Rudolph is first American to win trio of gold medals  at 1960 Olympics

  • Occupation: Track & field athlete
  • Born: June 23, 1940
  • Died: November 12, 1994
  • Nickname: Skeeter
  • Known for:

The most mesmerising thing about Wilma Rudolph was, as a kid she was told that she would never be able to walk due to polio and scarlet fever. Most of her childhood was spent wearing a leg brace. Despite these adversities, she would go to claim three gold medals and set three world records at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Italy landing her the title of ‘the fastest woman in the world’. Upon her return after winning her gold medals in Rome, she insisted that the celebrations in her home city were to be racially integrated, which was unprecedented at the time. This event was the first of its kind in the city’s history.


Serena Williams

Serena Williams | Biography, Titles, & Facts | Britannica

  • Occupation: Tennis player
  • Born: September 26, 1981
  • Known for:

Serena Williams is arguably one of the all-time great woman tennis players. She started playing tennis when she was only 3. With many achievements throughout her long career, Williams has a record of 23 Grand Slam titles to her name, more than any woman or man. After winning all four of the big tournaments in a row, she even had a tennis term named after her – the ‘Serena slam’. Together with her sister Venus, they have been unbeaten in Grand Slam women’s doubles. Serena Williams was also the highest paid athlete in 2016 and 2017.


Muhammed Ali

Muhammad Ali, 'The Greatest of All Time,' Dead at 74

  • Occupation: Heavyweight Boxer
  • Born: January 17, 1942
  • Died: June 3, 2016
  • Nickname: The Greatest
  • Known for: 

Regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, Muhammed Ali was also a philanthropist and social activist. Ali quickly rose to fame when he won a spot of the US team in the 1960 Olympics in Rome and went on to win the Gold Medal. 4 years later he went on to become the world heavyweight boxing champion. Originally, Ali was born under the name Cassius Clay until he joined the Black Muslim group Nation of Islam in 1964 upon which he changed his name to Muhammed Ali before converting to orthodox Islam in the 1970s. Because of his religious beliefs, he refused military induction and was stripped of his championship and banned from competing for three years, after which he was able to return to the ring. Even after his professional career ended, he remained a prominent figure with his humanitarian work.


Racism and Healthcare


Why do we need anti-racist activism within healthcare?

Skin Conditions

In 1981 Bob Marley died of Acral Lentigious Melanoma a type of skin cancer which is poorly diagnosed within black communities. Despite it being less common in Black communities POC are more likely to die than white counterparts.

Pain threshold

Black people are prescribed on average less pain relief than their white counterparts, due to an imbedded belief that Black people feel less pain than white people. One 2016 study showed that 40% of first and second year medical students in America thought that “Black people’s skin [was] thicker than white people’s”.

Reproductive health

Historically the Depo-Provera contraceptive injection was used as an instrument of power over Black women, who were perceived as ‘incapable’ of taking the pill independent from white medical control.

Psychiatry

In the 1970s African American civil rights activists were incorrectly diagnosed as Schizophrenics. Psychiatrists Walter Bromberg and Franck Simon at Ionia State Hospital even coined the racially charged term ‘protest psychosis’ in an attempt to demonise powerful Black men as innately violent.


Spotlight on Professor Dame Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu

From school nurse assistant to inspirational educator

As a health visitor she came across sickle cell anaemia, a disease which disproportionately effects African and Caribbean communities.

In 1979 she set up the Brent Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Counselling Centre, the first ever UK Sickle cell nurse counselling service.

She also founded the Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing practice

She is now retired, and among other things is an Honorary Advisor to the Chief Nursing Officer for the England’s Black & Minority Strategic Advisory Group.

https://campuspress.uwl.ac.uk/uwlarchives/2020/03/31/professor-dame-elizabeth-anionwu/

https://www.england.nhs.uk/atnhs/curator-archive/professor-dame-elizabeth-nneka-anionwu/


Spotlight on Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner

Mary Kenner - Wikipedia

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was an American inventor from North Carolina born in 1912. She gained a place at the prestigious Howard University, but was unable to stay due to financial pressure. She invented an adjustable ‘sanitary’ belt with a built in moisture proof napkin pocket, which was patented in 1956.

Due to racial discrimination, Mary never earned any money from her invention; the patent expired into the public domain and companies such as the Sonn-Nap-Pack rejected her ideas once they discovered she was African American. She wrote “One day I was contacted by a company that expressed an interest in marketing my idea. I was so jubilant. … Sorry to say, when they found out I was black, their interest dropped.”

This didn’t stop her; over her lifetime she filed for five patents – more than any other African-American woman in history. These focused on accessibility rights and included a back washer, toilet tissue holder and walking frame tray.

https://www.vice.com/en/article/mb5yap/mary-beatrice-davidson-kenner-sanitary-belt

https://face2faceafrica.com/article/womens-history-month-meet-mary-mildred-davidson-inventors-sanitary-belt-tissue-holder


Spotlight on OWAD and Reproductive Rights

Reclaiming our collective past'; meeting Amrit Wilson - Institute of Race  Relations

The Organisation for Women of Asian and African Descent (OWAD) was founded in 1978, by Olive Morris, Gail Lewis and Stella Dadzie. It focused on the intersection of racism and sexism for Black and Brown women in the UK in the 1970s and 80s.

Their campaign ‘Ban the Jab’ focused on the Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection which was disproportionately prescribed to Black and Brown women as a method of contraception.

It had severe side effects including lead to infertility and miscarriages later in life, and OWAD argued it was created with the aim of sterilising Black women. Their campaign aimed to undermine the assumption that the Black population needed to be controlled and that Black women were incapable of taking the pill on a regular basis without white medical control.

https://www.majaseducationproject.com/post/the-historical-roots-of-black-feminism-in-the-uk

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/stella-dadzie-owaad


Influential Black Women in British History


Ivory Bangle Lady (4th century AD)

Roman Britain: the Ivory Bangle Lady / Our Migration Story

In 1901 an ancient grave of a woman was discovered in York. Over a hundred years later they discovered that she was of North African descent. This woman is now known as the Ivory Bangle Lady as she was buried in imported jewellery made of ivory along with other valuable items. This indicated that she was living a life of high social status which archaeologists use as proof that the society she lived in may have been much more ethnically diverse than most mainstream history implies.


Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)

Phillis Wheatley - Malachi Project

Phillis Wheatley was born in West Africa. As a child she was sent to the US on a ship called the Phillis; when she arrived she was sold as a slave to a family called the Wheatleys. This is how she was named. Phillis was taught to read and write whilst she was a slave, which was very unusual at the time. When she was 14, she wrote her first poem. When she was 20 years of age she moved to England with her son and published her first book within a year. In 1773 she became the first African-American poet to be published. Her writing proved that women who were slaves could have intellectual ideas, and her works’ recognition contributed towards the anti-slavery movement.


Fanny Eaton (1835-1924)

PreRaphaeliteSociety on Twitter: "Jamaican-born Fanny Eaton (1835-1924) was  #BornOnThisDay. During the 1860s she modelled for many Pre-Raphaelite  paintings including those by Joanna Boyce Wells, D.G.Rossetti, Simeon  Solomon, Frederic Sandys, Rebecca ...

Fanny Eaton moved from Jamaica to London, and worked at the Royal Academy. She modelled for some well-known Pre-Raphaelite artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti who praised how beautiful Fanny was. Fanny Eaton challenged the status quo, and is recognised as an important figure in the history of art, as at that time black women were not often featured in Western art, let alone seen as beautiful.


Evelyn Dove (1902-1987)

evelyndove hashtag on Twitter

Evelyn Dove was a student at the Royal Academy of Music. Whilst she was there, she performed with some of the world's top black entertainers and she went on to become a star of the 1920s. Evelyn became famous all over the world, at a time when black female performers struggled to get the same recognition as white performers due to racial prejudices.


Claudia Jones (1915 – 1964)

Claudia Jones (1915-1964)

Claudia Jones was born in Trinidad and grew up in New York before moving to London. She was a pioneering journalist and political activist. In 1958, she launched the West Indian Gazette, an anti-racist newspaper campaigning for social equality. That same year, she launched Notting Hill Carnival - the famous Caribbean carnival, which still celebrates the beauty of West Indian culture and heritage to this day. She did this in response to the Notting Hill race riots.


Joan Armatrading (1950 - today)

Joan Armatrading interview: I ignored advice to change my name

Joan Armatrading arrived in the UK at the age of 7, from the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts. She began writing songs when she was 14 years old and taught herself to play the guitar. In the 1970s, she became the first black British singer songwriter to enjoy real success abroad. Joan was the first ever female UK artist to be nominated for a Grammy in the blues category; to date she has been nominated three times. In 2007, she became the first female UK artist to debut at number 1 in the Billboard blues chart.


Diane Abbott (1953 - today)

Labour in migration meltdown as Diane Abbott vows to extend freedom of  movement

Diane Abbott's career in politics began in 1982, when she was elected to Westminster City Council. Five years later in 1987 she was voted into the House of Commons, when she made history by becoming the first black woman ever to be elected to Parliament. It had been almost a century since black and Asian people had sat in Parliament, and back then it was only men. A member of the Labour Party, she served as the party's Shadow Home Secretary from 2016 to 2020.


Dr Shirley Thompson (1958 - today)

Distinguished composer Dr Shirley Thompson becomes a patron at Black  British Academics | Black British Academics

Dr Shirley Thompson was the first woman in Europe to compose and conduct a symphony within the last 40 years in 2004. It was called New Nation Rising, A 21st Century Symphony, and is a piece of music celebrating London’s history. It was composed for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 and was performed and recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. She has also written music which has been used for films, television and stage performances. She’s been named on the Evening Standard's Power List of Britain's Top 100 Most Influential Black People annually from 2010-2016. And recently, Dr Shirley Thompson was named as "one of the most inspirational Black British women" by the newspaper Metro.


Malorie Blackman (1962 - today)

Home page | Malorie Blackman ~ Author of Noughts and Crosses

Malorie Blackman was chosen to become the eighth Children's Laureate; she became the first black person to take on the role in 2013-2015. She is the best-selling author of the Noughts & Crosses, series which has also been adapted for television, and is still available to watch on BBC iPlayer.


Zadie Smith (1975 - today)

Zadie Smith Reads “Now More Than Ever” | The New Yorker

Zadie Smith is a very successful author; she had her first book published at the age of 24 and her books have received numerous prizes. Her books, which are inspired by her experience of issues around race and what society is like, are widely available in most bookshops, and she has written essays and short stories too. Zadie now teaches Creative Writing at New York University.


 

 

 

 

 


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