Black History Month 2017 – Celebrating influential black British figures*

October is Black History Month here in the
UK. The month is dedicated to celebrating influential and successful black
figures who have greatly affected our society. To commemorate the black
individuals whose achievements have impacted upon a variety of industries,
easyESTA created a definitive list of 25 of some of the most successful and influential migrants of all
time. The list features: Barack Obama, the first African American president of
the United States; Lupita Nyong’o, the first Kenyan and first Mexican actress
to win an Academy award; and Gina Miller, the UK’s political heavyweight who
took on the British Government and won.

While the month remembers the achievements of
well-known ‘celebrity’ black individuals, what about those attainments by
lesser-known citizens? These are the people who have achieved so much for our
country, but simply aren’t celebrated enough. Some examples of outstanding
individuals include John Sentamu, Diane Abbott, Mary Seacole OM, Betty Campbell
MBE and Courtney Pine CBE.


John Sentamu made the history books for
becoming the first black Archbishop of York, a title he achieved in 2005.
Sentamu was born in a village near Kampala, Uganda in 1949 however, he later
moved to the United Kingdom as an immigrant in 1974.

He trained for a priesthood at Ridley Hall in
Cambridge and was ordained a priest in 1979 – five years after arriving in the
UK. In June 2005, he was announced as the 97th Archbishop of York, taking over
the role from David Hope.

Sentamu’s views on young people, family,
poverty, slavery and injustice and conflicts abroad are truly inspiring.


The politician made headlines in 1987 when
she became the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons. Diane
Abbott was born in Paddington, London in 1953 to Jamaican parents. She later
went on to study at Newham College, a constituent college of the University of

After starting her career in the media,
Abbott took her first steps in politics in 1982 after she was elected to
Westminster City Council. After losing to Ken Livingstone for a place in Brent
East in 1985, she was later elected to the House of Commons in 1987, making history
as the first black female MP.

She founded the Black Child initiative, which
aims to raise educational achievement levels among black children. Now the
Shadow Home Secretary for the Labour Party, Abbott’s work for the country is

Seacole OM

Mary Seacole OM is one of the most
influential figures of our time. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805, she set up
the British Hotel behind the lines during the Crimean War, assisting to the
sick and wounded military personnel.

After acquiring knowledge of herbal medicine
in the Caribbean, she travelled independently to set up the hotel to assistant
those badly injured on the battlefield. As a result of her kindness and
bravery, she became popular amongst the servicemen, who later raised money for
her when she faced destitution after the war.

After her death, Seacole became largely
forgotten for almost a century, but today she is celebrated as a woman who
successfully combated racial prejudice. She was awarded a posthumous Jamaican
Order of Merit in 1991 and in 2004 she was voted the greatest black Briton.
These are achievements that are still remembered today.

Campbell MBE

Betty Campbell MBE became an influential
figure our education system after becoming Wales’ first black head teacher.
Born in Butetown, Cardiff, she won a scholarship to the Lady Margaret High
School for Girls which help start her career in education.

After discovering that the Cardiff Training
College was taking on female students, she applied to start a teacher training
course, fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. In the 1970s, she
rose to lead a school in Wales as the nation’s first black head teacher,
gaining the title at Mount Stuart. She taught the children the topics of
slavery, black history and apartheid.

During her career, Campbell went on to
further achieve great success.She was invited to meet Nelson Mandela on his
only visit to Wales and was also invited to be part of the Paul Hamlyn
Foundation Commission on Education. In 2003, she was awarded an MBE for her
services to education.

Pine CBE

The talented jazz musician Courtney Pine CBE,
is an iconic figure in the music industry. Born to Jamaican parents in London,
Pine studied classical clarinet and taught himself the saxophone during his
teenage years.

Pine is the principle founder of the black
British band, the Jazz Warriors, which was established through the community
organisation, “The Abibi Jazz Arts”. During his music career, he has released
more than ten albums, including “Journey to the Urge Within” and “Modern Day
Jazz Stories”.

Pine was appointed an OBE in 2000 and a CBE
in 2009 for his services to jazz music. His music is still loved today, with
his new album, “Black Notes From The Deep” released soon.

*This is a guest post