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Key figures in our History
Queen Phillipa (1313 - 1369)
The first Black queen of England
Queen Philippa became the English Queen when she married King Edward III in 1328. She was of Black Moorish descent and the granddaughter of Philip III of France, where she was born.
She played a key role as a political advisor to her husband. Thanks to her, the reign of Edward III was peaceful.
Ignatius Sancho (1729 – 1780)
Born on a slave ship Ignatius was sold into slavery. At the age of 2, he was taken to London where he was further enslaved. He escaped, became a prominent cultural and literary figure and iIn 1774, he became the first person of African descent to vote in the UK.
Althea Gibson (1927 – 2003)
She is the first black woman to compete in the national US tennis championships & Wimbledon. In 1956, she was the first black woman to win the Grand Slam. From 1956 to 1958, she won no less than 11 titles, inspiring generations of athletes after her.
Mary Prince (1788 – 1833)
Born to an enslaved family in Bermuda, she was sold to violent owners and escaped in 1828 when she travelled to England with her owners. Shortly after she published “The history of Mary Prince: a West Indian slave”. Alongside being the first Black woman to publish an autobiography, she was also the first woman to present an anti-slavery petition to parliament.
Sidney Poitier (1927 - present)
First Black actor to win an Academy award
The Bahamian American actor was born on February 20th, 1927 in Miami. In 1963, he won the best actor academy award for his role in Lilies of the Field.
Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883)
Advocate of women's right and the first Black women to take a case to court in the US
Truth was bought and sold four times before she fled slavery in 1827. She found refuge at a nearby abolitionist family who bought her freedom and helped her successfully sue for the return of her 5 year old son, who was illegally sold into slavery in Alabama.
Harriet Tubman (1821 – 1913)
Harriett led around 70 fellow slaves to freedom and went on to become an army nurse and an undercover spy.
She is considered the first African American woman to serve in the army.
Lewis Howard Latimer (1848 – 1928)
Light bulb pioneer
Latimer was one of the pioneers who invented the light bulb and contributed to the creation of the telephone.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831 – 1895)
First Black female doctor in the US
Born in Delaware in 1831, Dr. Lee Crumpler graduated from the university of Boston in 1864, thereby becoming the first Black female doctor in the United States.
Shirley Chisholm (1924 – 2005)
Shirley was the first Black congresswoman, elected to the house of representatives for New York in 1968 where she advocated for civil rights and gender equality. She served until 1983 and was also the first black woman to run for presidential nomination.
Billie Holiday (1915 – 1959)
Iconic jazz singer, Billie is remembered for the strength and the emotional charge of her voice. She is considered to be the most iconic jazz singer of all time and her records are still widely sold today.
Hattie McDaniel (1895 – 1952)
She was the first black woman to be awarded the Oscar for “best supporting actress” for her performance in “Gone with the wind”.
Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895)
He was a leading figure in the anti-slavery movement and a former slave himself. He voiced his experiences in a shaking autobiography entitled Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass. This piece of work along with his speeches denouncing slavery were instrumental in changing public opinion.
Jesse Owens (1913 – 1980)
Owens broke all the barriers of his time as he won four gold medals in Hitler’s Olympic games, in 1936 in Berlin.
Thurgood Marshall (1908 – 1993)
Thurgood was an influential civil rights leader who won the historical Supreme court case which ruled that ‘separate educational facilities are inherently unequal’ (Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka). Additionally, In 1967, he became the first African American to be appointed as US Supreme Court Justice.
Haile Selassie (1892 – 1975)
He was the Emperor of Ethiopia who became an inspirational figure in the anti-colonization movement in Africa. By resisting the Italian invasion of Ethiopia during the 1930s, he inspired the continent to reclaim its sovereignty.
Olaudah Equiano (1745 – 1797)
Olaudah was a former slave, who published a book 1789 about his experience as a Slave - The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano. This book played a central role in the shift of British public opinion against slavery.
Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011)
An environmental and political activism, Wangari became the first African American women to win the Nobel peace prize in 2004, due to her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.
Pele (1940 – Present)
Although he is retired since 1977, Pele remains one of the best known football players of all times and he is still an active advocate of overcoming poverty. In 1969, he used his influence to stop the Nigerian civil war. Pele and his team played a friendly match and negotiated a cease-fire for that purpose.
Toussaint Louverture (1743 – 1803)
Louverture was the leader of the Haitian slave revolt in 1791. His military uprising consolidated the power and influence he had, leading to the start of paid labor on the plantations. Thanks to him, the colony abolished slavery in 1804 and declared itself as the independent Republic of Haiti.
Tegla Loroupe (1973 - Present)
Tegla is a long-distance runner and holds the world record for the 20km marathon (2:20:43). She used this achievement to become a global spokesperson for peace and today she runs her own Peace Foundation.