Search for Black Women on The Black Presence in Britain

Mary Prince A Slave

Mary Prince  - BookMary Prince (1788-1833) was a Bermudian woman, born into slavery in Bermuda. The published story of her slavery was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in England and the book had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement.Mary Prince (1788-1833) was a Bermudian woman, born into slavery in Brackish Pond, which is now known as Devonshire Marsh, in Devonshire Parish, Bermuda. The published story of her slavery was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in England and the book had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement.

The parents of Mary Prince were both slaves: her father was a sawyer owned by David Trimmingham, and her mother a house-servant of Charles Myners. When Myners died in 1788, Prince and her mother were sold as household servants to Captain Darrell, who gave Prince to his granddaughter, Betsey Williams.

When she was 12, Prince was sold again to Captain John Ingham, of Spanish Point, but never took easily to the indignities of her enslavement and she was often flogged. As a punishment, Prince was sold to another Bermudian, probably Robert Darrell, who sent her in 1806 to Grand Turks, which Bermudians had used seasonally for a century for the extraction of salt from the ocean.

Salt was a pillar of the Bermudian economy, but could not easily be produced in Bermuda, where the only natural resource were the Bermuda cedars used for building ships. The industry was a cruel one, however, with the salt rakers forced to endure exposure not only to the sun and heat, but also to the salt in the pans, which ate away at their uncovered legs.

Mary returned to Bermuda in 1810, but was sold to John Wood in 1818, and sent to Antigua to be a domestic slave. She joined the Moravian Church and, in December 1826, she married Daniel James, a former slave who had bought his freedom and worked as a carpenter and cooper. For this impudence, she was severely beaten by her master.

Mary Price in London

In 1828, Wood took her as a servant to London. Although slavery was illegal in Britain, she had no means to support herself, and could not have returned to her husband without being re-enslaved. She remained with Wood until they threw her out. She took shelter with the Moravian church in Hatton Garden. Within a few weeks, she had taken employment with Thomas Pringle, an abolitionist writer, and Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society.

Pringle arranged for her narrative to be copied down by Susanna Strickland and it was published in 1831 as the “The History of Mary Prince”, the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in England.

The book had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement. Scandalised by its account, John Wood sued the publishers for libel, but his case failed. Subsequent attempts were made to tarnish Mary Prince’s reputation, particularly by James MacQueen and James Curtin, both supporters of slavery. In turn, she and her publisher sued for libel, which suit they won.

Prince remained in England until about 1833.

Related Websites

The History of Mary Prince A West Indian Slave Related By Herself. – eBook


Posted in Black History Month UK, Black Women, Caribbean History, SlaveryComments (0)

Caribbean Women in WW2

West Indian ATS

West Indian ATS

Caribbean Women in WW2 Britain

There were plenty Caribbean Women serving in WW2. When we think of the British Armed Forces, there is often a tendency to think exclusively of men.  In the past this has been largely due to the majority of Armed forces being made of almost entirely of men.

However, WW2 saw plenty of Women sign up to the British Armed Forces.  The exact numbers of Caribbean women serving in the BritishArmed forces can be difficult to pin down to an exact number.  However, Richard Smith, writing in the Oxford Companion to Black British History. 


About 600 West Indian Women were recruited for the Auxiliary Territorial Service, arriving in Britain in the Autumn of 1943.  The enlistment of these volunteers was accomplished despite official misgivings and obstruction.

Around 80- Caribbean women joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) and 30 joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service.(ATS)


Caribbean Women in WW2

Caribbean Women in WW2 © IWM

Lilian Bader

Lilian Bader

Lilian Bader

Liverpool Born, Lilian Bader is one of three generations of her Family who Served in the British Armed Forces. Her Father had been a Merchant Seaman in the first world war.  She and her brothers were separated after they were orphaned. Stephen Bourne recounts in his book ‘The Motherland Calls’, that Lillian was popular in school but found it difficult to secure fulltime work. After securing a job in the NAAFI at Catterick camp, she was ‘let go’ due to a colour bar that existed in the British Services at the start of the war. Not deterred by the initial knock back, Lillian determined to join the RAF after hearing a groups of West Indian soldiers on the Radio, say how they had been rejected from the Army, but they had better luck with the RAF.

In March 1940 Lillian was accepted into the WAAF, but found herself the only coloured person. Despite the obvious differences Lillian worked hard and soon became an ‘acting corporal’. Whilst in the Services she met her future husband, Ramsay Bader, who was of mixed race, having a White English mother and a Sierra Leoneon father.

Constance Goodridge Mark (Connie Mark)

Constance Goodridge Mark, nee Mcdonald, was another example of  displayed loyalty typical of Caribbean women in WW2, wanting to serve Britain in it’s hour of need.

Born in Kingston Jamaica. She joined the British Army in 1943, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, The Womens royal Army Corps working She later became the Senior Medical Secretary in the Royal Army Medical corps, Where she served for 10 years, working in the North Caribbean.

Many years later she took part in the “Their Past your Future” Campaign run by the Imperial War Museum.

Connie had felt that the contribution of ‘West Indians’ in WW2 was being ignored.She decided to do something to try to educate people about the contributions of Black people in the Second World War. Recounting a story about an Age Concern Meeting, she had taken some photographs of West Indian ex-servicewomen.

quoteThat caused such a stir, people said, “We never knew there were black ex-servicewomen”, and that we even came to England”.

After that she applied to the ‘Greater London Arts for a Grant. She searche ,for photographs in the Imperial War Museum and obtained others from West Indian Ex-Servicemen and Women.  She put together an exhibition for the 5oth Anniversary of the end of WW2.

Listen to a clip of Constance talk

West Indian A.T.S Girls Abused

Whilst the vast majority of reported stories have a lot of positivity, There were of course negative reports to be found. In an Article Called ‘These Coloured “Intruders” ‘ The weekly magazine ‘John Bull’ reported some of the racism that Caribbean service personel had to endure whilst billeted in Britain.

quoteRudeness to colonial Service girls in this country is surprisingly common…
A West Indian girl in the A.T.S. was refused a new issue of shoes by her officer, who added:’At home you don’t wear shoes anyway.’ An Army Officer to a West Indian A.T.S.: ‘If I can’t get white women, i’ll something well do without.’


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Posted in Black History, Black Soldiers, Black Women, Caribbean HistoryComments (3)

Rocky Road to success for Geologist


Consultant Geologist, Toyin Solanke, from West Norwood in London, began a 5½ week Churchill Travelling Fellowship ( to the USA. The aim of her Fellowship was to participate in outreach development and delivery initiatives in the USA, which will contribute to developing the Urban Geology Activity Access Programme here in the UK. Toyin wants to encourage participation and progression in geosciences amongst the Black British youth, who are currently very under-represented in this field.

Toyin reported: “Since 2000, I have worked on widening geoscience education awareness, forming the UGAAP and creating the Geothrillogy CD, writing lyrics on geology & exploration. This serves as a potent outreach tool for engaging Black Minority and Ethnic young people in Earth Sciences. Recent developments address content and social media delivery, presenting BME geoscientists active across academia and industry. Integral to this is the US National Association of Black Geoscientists (NABG) providing 31 years of solid commitment and strategic support by instilling awareness, inspiration and facilitating career opportunities.”

“My Fellowship helped me to explore New York based Flocabulary, an educational learning tool using hip-hop style. I attended the NABG Washington DC conference, the Houston GeolSoc African Exploration and Production conference, and the American Association Petroleum Geologists Expo in Texas, all where graduates exhibited posters, presented talks and secured jobs.”

“In Texas NABG pioneering founders shared experiences and strategies, and geoscientists from ExxonMobile, Camac Energy & Haliburton highlighted routes and resources.”

“At the Directorate for Geosciences, National Science Foundation federal offices in Virginia, I saw activities and agencies tackling disparities in geoscience uptake across communities.”

“I have since shared my findings at the Earth Science Teachers Association conference. I am now creating online content and writing my research report.”

Toyin will be giving a talk on North Sea Oil at 7pm, 13th November 2012 for Ravensbourne Geological Society at Beckenham Methodist Church Hall, Bromley Road, Beckenham.”

Posted in Black Britain, Black History, Black Women, Editors BlogComments (0)

Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis is an English Athlete from the City of Sheffield in South Yorkshire.

Jessica was born on 28 January 1986 is one of two daughters of Vinnie Ennis and Alison Powell and has a younger sister named Carmel.  Jessica is of mixed parentage, her father Vinnie was originally from Jamaica and her mother was a social worker from Derbyshire.

Ennis went to School at Sharrow Primary School and King Ecgbert School in Dore.  Which is on the outskirts of the Sheffield.  Jessica stayed at school enrolling in the 6th Form.  There she took  her GCSEs gaining  three A-Levels, before going on to study psychology at the University of Sheffield and graduating in 2007.

Her Parents introduced her to athletics by taking her to a ‘Start:Track’ event at Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium during the 1996 school summer holidays. Jessica Joked that she thought “I think my mum and dad wanted me out of the house!”. This is where Jessica won her first athletics prize – a pair of trainers.

More significantly, it was where she met the man who was to become her coach, Toni Minichiello.   Jessica proved to be a natural at sport and joined the “City of Sheffield Athletic Club” the following year, aged eleven.  By November of 2000, aged just fourteen, she won the Sheffield Federation for School Sports Whitham Award for the best performance by a Sheffield athlete at the National Schools Championships, where she won the high jump competition.

Charitable Work

Jessica is a patron of the Sheffield Children’s Hospital charity and also of the “Barrie Wells’s sports foundation”. She is also an Ambassador for the Jaguar Academy of Sport. The Times Newspaper asked her to write a column for them.

During the 2012 London Olympic Games Ennis was referred to as the “Face of the games“, her image appeared on all kinds of promotional advertising for the games, particularly notable was the advertising for the British Olympic Kit.

Her looks and physique mean that she is in high demand from corporate sponsors too. Jessica has appeared in advertising campaigns for Aviva, Powerade, BP, Adidas, Omega watches and Olay ‘Essentials’, and was featured on the cover of the August 2012 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.

London Olympics 2012

In August 2012 Jessica Ennis won the gold medal in the heptathlon at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Beating silver medallist Lilli Schwarzkopf by 306 points. Her first-day score included two personal bests: 12.54 seconds in the 100 metres hurdles and 22.83 seconds in the 200 metres. The time she set in the 100 metres hurdles was a new British record and the fastest time ever run in a heptathlon. Ennis achieved another personal best of 47.49 metres in the javelin and won the final event, the 800 metres, in a time of 2:08.65.

Jessica Ennis Commemorative Stamp

Jessica Ennis Commemorative Stamp

The Royal Mail decided to honour Ennis, along with other British 2012 Olympic gold medal winners by featuring them on a special Royal Mail commemorative postage stamp.The royal mail also had a post box on the corner of Division Street and Holly Street in Sheffield city centre painted gold in her honour. Jessica’s efforts and triumphs mean she joins the many other Black British Athletes listed on the Black Presence in Britain.


Posted in Black Britain, Black History Month UK, Black Sports Stars, Black WomenComments (3)

Diane Abbott: Beyond Downton Abbey

Diane Abbott: Beyond Downton Abbey

Diane Abbott: Beyond Downton Abbey

Earlier this year, the Institute of Art and Ideas (IaI) held HowTheLightGetsIn 2012 – the latest instalment of the annual philosophy & music festival. The aim of the festival is to stimulate debate and discussion, and reinvigorate the intellectual landscape. This year one of the invited speakers was Labour MP Diane Abbott, notably the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons.

Diane gave a riveting talk titled Beyond Downton Abbey in which she deconstructed the idealised version of British postcolonial history that it represents, offering instead a more realistic look at black British history. Lamenting the lack of black history in her own university education, Abbott emphasises the importance of understanding our past, even the bits that some might rather forget, and how this can affect our present.

Post-colonial British history has not all been idyllic, and it does damage to pretend otherwise, as Downton Abbeysometimes can do. Diane Abbott convincingly argues that we need a realistic account of our history, black or white, and that sugar-coating the past does more harm than good. She also emphasises how easy it is to let our progress make us forget our past – to allow the last few decades’ improvements in equality to hide the lack of equality before these changes.

If you enjoy the talk, and are interested in watching similar talks and debates, the IaI have videos of events from the last few years of HowTheLightGetsIn, across a variety of topics from philosophy to science.

Posted in Black History, Black History Month UK, Black WomenComments (0)

Poem: There's a first time for everything right?

About a week ago,my father and I went to a bus stop in Hackney to get a 106 to clapton roundabout as I was visiting a friend of mine who lived in Haunault,so we had a long way to go!

We waited for a bus and as I had my 2yr old son with me,and like all single mums can relate,the first bus was full so we had to wait for another bus. So as we struggled with all our belongings we went to find a seat at the main stop and sat and waited for the next one.

As we waited as Im very observant,I noticed a young caucation couple join the bus stop a little way down from the actual stop with thier young child also. So as the next bus came along my father and I got on with all our bags and belongings. Now I noticed the male,was giving some sort of negative attitude that I though was a bit unnecessary?

I had no idea what his issue was? We had a right to get on the bus like everyone else without abusive comments? We were actually there first from the start and had waited like everyone else to get on the bus?

At first I thought,just let it go, he is probably drunk or something? But he was with a young child and kept raising his voice and being very theatening and aggresive and I was with my child and my dad was with me I felt I had to defend myself!!!

There’s a first time for everything right?

You bigot

You rscist thug!

You wanna chat to me?

Make me forget my humanity?

You disrespect my dad! You disrespect me!

Tell him to go bc to his own country?

You are so rude!

How dare you intrude!

So renk and Facesty

who are you?

Yes we are black but that aint the end of dat!……….

Dont forget the years,your forefathers took we inna captivity as unwilling partisipants to isolated foreign lands!

Ripped from the comfort of our mothers land at gun point!

Taken and locked in chains from head to toe,not knowing where we a go?

Packed liked sardines beaten and shamed  treated like cattle regarded worse than dogs! even worse than yu wud treat a hog!!

Sold to the merchant by spies and crooks!

As if we nu deserve a second look!

Then examined like objects hoarded into thier ships with no shame

How can these people be human

and treat we this way?

Then from port to port,some weaker ones dying on the way other slaves wishing they could have gone that way!

I can not believe this happened here

all around england and all over the world

traded like silver and gold as if we nu have no soul?

We were humans we deserved more!

So how da hec can you call me a whore?

…………..Who are you?

Mr jack the lad

you think your so bad coz you got black fren?

get off da bus

you have no sense your judgement is clouded and your sitting near a fence!

you have no idea about my people so dont open your mouth!

if I did not have a mind I would give you a clout!

Dont talk about money coz my dad was told of a land flowing with milk and honey they told us how difficult it would be to gain all this money?

To strive with the cold beating in our face

and on top of that be disciminated beacause of our race!

Dont chat to my dad!

You can not walk a day in his shoes!

coz the work that he did paved the way for all of YOU’s!

Go bc to my own country? One day I will! But Im not finished here yet theres still lots to do!

Dont blood me!

are you god?

can you judge me?

Dont even try to call out my name!

chances are you got africa running through your own veins!

I am black african jamaican!

A girl born here like you!

So dont try to intimidate me

and chat like your crew

dont chat bout your frenzs


Coz tghey neva heard you when you cussed down my dad!

Being a disrespectful yout

tinkin your bad!

I wished they heard you I wish they had!

Coz they would see that your hating

Twisted and bitter!

and Im sure ifyou had your way

You would call me a NIGGER!

It’s not my that you have so much issues

If you want a pity party

Here teck a tissue!

Do you want me to pay coz your insides are hollow

shouting and spitting

What are you thinking?

So go home

with your pickeny

and take all that negativity with ya

You dont know my people!

and our constant battle

To just get thru life from day to day

with every mountain so far away!

I never thought I would ever hear this ting!

But surely

Theres a first time for every ting!

Poem by Sharon Howell

Posted in Black Britain, Black Women, Guest Blog PostsComments (0)

Dounne Alexander

Dounne Alexander

Dounne Alexander

Creator of “Grammas” herbal sources range. Dounne Alexander was born in Trinidad, and immigrated with her parents to Britain in 1962. For 22 years she worked as a Chemical/Bacteriological technician and housing officer. She became a single parent in 1986, and embarked on a new career. She was aware that everyone was getting into health foods, and went to her kitchen and cooked up a batch of concentrated hot pepper herbal sauce using a recipe created by her herbalist/spiritualist grandmother, who swore it could improve your health. She gave it to some friends to try, and they loved it.

With no formal business training or experience, she established her herbal food manufacturing business ‘GRAMMAS’, named in memory of her grandmother. Within three months she had convinced Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason to sell her sauces. She also got her products onto the shelves of the 7 top supermarket chains – among them Safeway, Tesco and Waitrose.

Today, Dounne includes herbal seasonings and a selection of herbal teas and drinks in her range, all available by mail order. Dounne has won 7 national awards, including ‘Women Mean Business’ – most outstanding British small business and ‘Black Businesswoman of the Millennium’.

Dounne Axexander, Related Links
Dounne Alexander, Profile

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Black History Month 2012 – Africa Channel


To mark Black History Month, The Africa Channel will be broadcasting some specially selected documentaries to inform, commemorate, inspire and raise debate. The UK Premiere of the intriguing five part series follows the life of Nelson Mandela, and uses his biography to tell a much broader story about the politics of struggle and reconciliation in South Africa.

Cuba, An African Odyssey is a second addition to the new Africa Channel’s programming this month and brings a transatlantic perspective to the history of Africa’s liberation. This intriguing documentary contains unique interviews alongside rare archival footage.  In addition, a host of inspirational African figures feature in our ‘Great Africans’ series, including Kofi Annan and Wole Soyinka.


A stunning five-part series that casts new light on the life of one of the most revered people of our time. This biographical series charts the life of Nelson Mandela, and begins with his early years in the rural Eastern Cape, and the irresistible lure of the city that increased as he grew older.

Episode two documents the systems of racial oppression so ingrained in city life, and tells the story of Mandela’s rapid politicisation and fervent campaigning against apartheid. Following this, narrator Chris Nicklin takes us through the infamous Rivonia treason trial and the subsequent dark days of political imprisonment.

Finally, the unprecedented series of negotiations that led to Mandela’s release take us on to the story of South Africa’s liberation and first democratic elections.

The strength of this series lies in its ability to bring original and surprising content to this well-known narrative. Through meticulous research and appealing cinematography, Mandela brings a refreshing angle to this iconic period in history, telling a much broader story about the politics of struggle and reconciliation.

> UK Premiere
> Thursdays at 8pm from 4th October.

DOCUMENTARY: Cuba, An African Odyssey

This film unravels the little-known story of Cuba’s involvement in Africa during the independence and post-independence periods, when countries like the Congo, Angola and Mozambique were used as battlegrounds on which the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were played out.

Beginning with Nelson Mandela’s first foreign visit (to Cuba) after his release from prison, the film asks: why did an international icon of freedom make this visit to see Fidel Castroand pay homage to a country that many feel limits the freedom of its own citizens? The viewer is then taken back to the start of Cuba’s long engagement with Africa from 1960 onwards, beginning with independence in the Congo, and the subsequent assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Intriguing interviews with some of the key figures of this period illuminate the narrative, including Fidel Castro, Larry Devlin (the CIA officer in the Congo during the 1960s) and Pik Botha (the former South African Foreign Minister).

> Part one: Tuesday 25th September at 9pm

> Part two: Tuesday 2nd October at 9pm


Wole Soyinka: Child of The Forest
The career of a Nobel Peace Prize winning author and intellectual

>Thursday 4th Oct at 9pm

RFK In The Land of Apartheid
Robert Kennedy’s visit to South Africa in 1966

>Saturday 13th Oct at 5pm

Kofi Annan’s Suspended Dream
An intimate interview with the former Secretary General of the UN

> Thursday 18th Oct at 9pm

Berlin 1885: The Division of Africa
A historical re-enactment of the Berlin Conference

>Tuesday 16th Oct at 9pm

Mwalimu: the Legacy of Nyerere
The architect of Tanzania’s independence

>Saturday 6th Oct at 9pm

Bhambatha: War of the Heads
A remarkable story of resistance in 1905

>Thursday 11th Oct at 9pm

CONTINUING: New Dramas and Wildlife

Jacob’s Cross
Season 7

One man’s quest to build an African empire

> Mondays at 9pm

4Play: Sex Tips for Girls Season 3
Love lives of ladies in Johannesburg

> Mondays at 10pm

Planet Africa
Features dynamic, positive environmental projects.
> Tuesdays at 8pm


For further information please contact Aurelie Brault  T: 0207 148 6919

Posted in African American History, African History, Black Britain, Black History, Black History Month UK, Black People in Europe, Black Sports Stars, Black Women, Caribbean History, SlaveryComments (0)

Dame Jocelyn Barrow

Dame Jocelyn Barrow

Dame Jocelyn Barrow

The Honorary Chair of the Board of the Global Council of Black Women Leaders, Inc. Jocelyn Barrow was born in her mother’s native island of Trinidad with a father from Barbados, moved to London at 29 to become a inspiring champion of social change what lead her to be distinguished as a Dame of the British Empire in 1992 for her outstanding achievements.  The Director for UK Development at Focus Consultancy Ltd. Dame Barrow was a founding member and General Secretary of CARD (Campaign Against Racial Discrimination), the organisation responsible for the Race Relations legislation of 1968.

As a senior teacher, and later as a teacher-trainer, at Furzedown College and at the Institute of Education London University in the ’60s, she pioneered the introduction of multi-cultural education, stressing the needs of the various ethnic groups in the UK.

She was the first black woman Governor of the BBC and Founder and Deputy Chair of the Broadcasting Standards Council. Her equal opportunities and educational expertise is reflected in her many Government appointments to a variety of organisations and statutory bodies. Governor of the Commonwealth Institute for eight years, Council Member of Goldsmith’s College, University of London, Vice-president of the United Nations Association in the UK and Northern Ireland and Trustee to the Irene Taylor Trust providing Music in Prisons. She is National Vice-President of the Townswomen’s Guild and was instrumental in the establishment of the North Atlantic Slavery Gallery and the Maritime Museum in Liverpool.  She was a Trustee of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside and a Governor of the British Film Institute.

In 1972 she was awarded the OBE for work in the field of education and community relations. In 1992 she received the DBE for her work in broadcasting and her contribution to the work of the European Union as the UK Member of the Social Economic Committee.

Posted in Black Britain, Black History, Black History Month UK, Black Women, Caribbean HistoryComments (0)

Valda James

Valda James

Valda James

Valda Loiuse James Became the Mayor Of Islington in 1988. She became the first black woman to be elected to Islington Council.Born in 1928, Valda came to Britain in 1961 and raised her children alone in some condition of poverty. to support her family she was working in the Catering Industry, Nursing and Dressmaking.

Valda James former Mayor of Islington

Valda James former Mayor of Islington

In 1986 she became the first black woman to be elected to Islington Council, where she applied her knowledge and experience of being a single parent to her work on the Social Services committee.

Just two years later she rose to position of Mayor and her daughter took the post of Deputy Mayor.

Posted in Black Britain, Black History, Black Women, Caribbean HistoryComments (1)