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5 influential black men and women who shaped Britain

October is Black History Month! Here at The Butterfly Patch, we’re celebrating it by promoting equality and inclusivity in our nurseries. To shine a spotlight on black history, here are 5 influential black figures that helped shape Britain.

Please note there are so many black influential figures, here are just a few picks we think everyone should know about!

We’ve included some additional resources below for you to find out more.

1. Harold Moody

Born in Jamaica Harold Moody was a doctor and activist.

Moody formed the League of Coloured Peoples (LCP), an organization that would petition the government as well as companies to improve their policies towards black people in the 1930s.

The LCP petitioned for hospitals to hire more black nurses, for changes to the made in how textbooks depicted black people, reforms in how the United Kingdom governed its Caribbean colonies and much more.

Harold was an amazing activist who worked towards a Britain where everyone received a fair chance.

2. William Brown

William Brown was a sailor who served in the British Royal Navy.

In 1815 it was discovered that William Brown was a black woman who had secretly disguised herself as a man to serve! This particularly at the time was tough and dangerous work.

There are a few varying accounts of William Brown’s story so we may never know what exactly happened, but we do know that she successfully enlisted and served her country.

She is recorded as the first black female to serve in the British Navy.

3. Charles R. Drew

Charles Drew was a surgeon who discovered a way to store blood, saving countless lives since the 1940s.

This was particularly important during the second World War, when blood had to be shipped overseas to help wounded soldiers but still is a vital tool for saving lives today!

He later resigned from his role as a surgeon and took up mentoring students and advocating for the education and inclusion of African Americans in medicine.

Charles was an amazing person who didn’t just revolutionise the medical field but also stood up for what’s right.

4. Tessa Sanderson

Born in the Caribbean, Tessa is a javelin thrower and heptathlete.

Tessa, a talented athlete, had already won her first javelin championship aged just 16, after moving to the UK.

In 1976 she had earned her spot in her first Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, she also participated in the heptathlon at the Commonwealth Games, becoming the top British woman heptathlete in 1981.

In 1984, she went onto win a gold medal for Great Britain at the Olympics in Los Angeles.

This made her the first British woman to win Olympic gold in the heptathlon, and the first black British woman to win an Olympic gold medal!

Today she lives in London with her two adopted children, Cassius and Ruby Mae, often working as a motivational speaker and tv presenter.

5. Paul Stephenson

Paul Stephenson is an activist, working predominantly in the 1960s.

Inspired by the work of civil rights activists in the United States like Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks, he helped pave the way for equality in the UK.

Most notably fighting against a law that allowed businesses to refuse service (or even to hire them) based on someone’s skin colour.

In 1963, Paul called for a bus boycott as bus companies refused to employ black or Asian drivers. On the same day Dr King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, the bus company announced it would hire black and Asian drivers!

In 1965 the Race Relations Act was passed, making racial discrimination illegal in public places, and Paul’s work helped pave the way for it.

Paul showed that it’s important to stand up for what is right, no matter how big or small the fight.

Like we mentioned there are so many influential black figures and we have only listed a few, so here are some additional YouTube Resources:

For children

CBeebies | Let's talk about Black History

CBeebies Black History Heroes |

CBeebies | Let's Talk About Family & Food

For parents

Black Britons who paved the way

5 Things You Didn't Know About Black History Month

Top 10 Most Inspirational Black British People


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