Who would have thought a children’s book would contain nuggets of information that are so powerful. This book documents the work of the civil rights movement in Britain, in ways that very few historical books do. Most narratives regarding the civil rights movement in the United Kingdom tend to focus on the 1950s, a period of time when there was mass migration of workers from the Caribbean and Africa, who filled vacancies as transport workers and laborers. Very little is written about the Civil Rights movement following the abolition of slavery in Britain.
It is refreshing to see a children’s book that documents the life of prominent black people such as John Archer (1863-1932) who was the first British black mayor born in Britain. We are often given the impression that people of colour in the early to mid 19th century had no aspirations.
Not much has been written about Dr Harold Moody (1882-1947) who qualified as a medical doctor in 1904 at Kings College London with excellent results but was denied a hospital position because some members of staff at the hospital he applied for work felt uncomfortable having a “colored doctor” working with them. Dr Moody set up a medical practice of his own which became very successful . Its a shame that the personalities mentioned above are rarely remembered as pioneers particularly by main stream historians.
The professional ban of black people in professions like medicine, law and many other sectors explains in part why ethnic minority people gravitate towards certain professions in this country. The impact of the inequalities of the past is still felt today. Furthermore, there seems to be a persistent kind of historical amnesia which casts black people as lazy and always willing to assume the position of victims.
As we celebrate black history month, its important that people from diverse background explore the history of black people in Britain in order to understand why their communities struggle particularly when it comes to social mobility issues. We can not run away from the fact that our past will always influence our present.