October is Black History Month. This national celebration aims to promote and celebrate Black contributions to British society, and to foster an understanding of Black history in general.
The Liverpool Black Community is distinguished from others by its continuity, some black Liverpudlians being able to trace their roots in Liverpool for as many as ten generations. This community dates back to even before the American War of Independence, which caused numbers of free Black Loyalists to settle in London and the growing township. Early settlers ranged from freed slaves and black servants to the student sons and daughters of African rulers, who had visited the port from at least the 1730s.
The Liverpool Black Community is the oldest black community in Europe and much of the black population of the city settled in the Liverpool 8 area of the city . Over the years many members of the community have made great achievements, jus some of them are listed below.
James Clark - Swimmer
James Clarke is distinguished by being the only black man in Liverpool to have a street named after him. James's great gift was swimming and he was respected by everyone for his skill. As an adult he lived in Elizabeth terrace in the parish of St Sylvesters, where he taught many of the local children to swim.
Samuel Cole - Soldier
Samuel Cole was a seaman from Sierra Leone who settled in Liverpool during the First World War. He has many descendants living in the port with various surnames, obviously according to the marriages of his daughters. Samuel served in the Merchant Navy as a 'donkeyman' one of the most dangerous jobs, as the engine rooms were a prime target for enemy u-boats. he also worked for several shipping firms.
Otto Ephriam - Student
The name of another such student who recieved his education in Liverpool has come down to us as one of the late eighteenth century rulers of the Efik, a people of present-day Nigeria. Calbar, the Efik country of the "Oil Rivers" in the Niger delta, was ruled by a sophisticated hierachy of chiefs who encouraged Europeans to build forts and factories in the area. This Liverpool student received his European education in the most unfortunate of circumstances. In 1767, a number of british ships including the 'Edgar' of Liverpool, became involved in a rivalry between princilpal chiefs ol Old Calabar and the residents of New Town In a letter written by the former Captain of the 'Edgar', in 1733, some six years after this incident, which was to become known as the 'Massacre of Old calabar', we are offered a picture of the early life of the young Ephraim, one of the prisoned survivors:
Marcus Bailey - Sailor
The family of Marcus Bailey, a seaman born in Bridgetown, Barbados, 1883, have an astonishing history of service to what they felt to be their country. Marcus married in Fleetwood and found his way to Liverpool, where his three children were born. He served on no less than 34 merchant ships and ships from the fishing fleet before joining the crew of the Royal Naval vessell HMS Chester as an able seaman after recieving his certificate in 1912. HMS Chester was known for taking part in the famous battle of Jutland during World War 1, during marcus's service.
A beautiful statuesque woman Mrs Emily Orgill, the great grandmother of Mary Jane Sweeting (1912) - (1994) was born in Liverpool in the first half of the ninetheenth century, Emily's descendants know that she was half Portuguese, but are uncertain where her black parent came from. It is possible that he too was Liverpool born.
John Archer, Mayor (1863-1923 )
In 1913 Liverpool born Archer became the first person of African descent to become a mayor in Britain, in Battersea, South London.
Laurence Westgaph, Local historian and Black Activist
Toxteth born and bred Laurence was eight when the 1981 riots broke out and campaigns for the Lodge Lane regeneration group. The ECHO columnist was recently honoured with a Black History Month Achievers Award for his work raising the profile of the history of Liverpool. A writer on the city’s role in the slave trade Laurence was heavily involved in the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of its abolition.
James Brown ( b 1750 )
An early Liverpool black man to have his life and subsequent lineage recorded.
Although the names of many Liverpool black men of the older black community (and it is men rather than women, owing to most early settlers in Liverpool being male) are known to us by being recorded in parish registers, at present we know very little about their lives. James Brown is an early example of a Liverpool black man’s life being archived. Although not much is known about James as an individual, his family and descendants are vey well documented and portray an astonishing Liverpool black dynasty of successful entrepreneurs and academics.
James William Ross Brown ( b 1858 )
Liverpool –born Black barrister and Deputy judge.
In 1888 James William Ross became a lawyer at the age of 30, rising to the position of deputy judge. Practising on the Northern Circuit and London, James, a friend of F E Smith, later Lord Birkenhead, became a Queen’s Council, a bencher of Gray’s Inn and edited a section of Chitty’s Statutes. James relationship with Gray’s began with him studying law in the morning and supplementing his earnings by employment as a House of Commons reporter for the rest of the day into the evening.
John Conteh ( b 1951 )
Liverpool – born Black Commonwealth, European Light Heavyweight, and World Light Heavyweight boxing Champion.
Liverpool-born Black female college principle and Chief Executive of Blackburne House Women’s Technology and Education Centre. For her work, Claire Dove was awarded the MBE and how has the distinction of being the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, assistant to the Queen’s representative in the area.
Howard Gayle ( b 1958 )
First black player for Liverpool Football Club.
Toxteth-born Gayle was the first black player to represent Liverpool FC. He also played for Blackburn Rovers, Sunderland, Stoke City, Birmingham City and Halifax Town. Today he works in youth development and campaigns against racism in football.
“There is one thing I can be pleased with in my life and that is that some of the positive things I have hopefully done and said may have helped some young people playing football after me”.
Cliff Hall (b 1924 )
Black musician and member of the Spinners Folk Group.
Gloria Hyatt (b 1966 )
Headteacher of the Elimu Academy, an independant school for black learners.
Alan Johnson ( b 1960 )
Liverpool –born Black Everton Football Club coach, scout and Race and Diversity Manager.
Christine Margaret Johnson ( b 1961 )
Liverpool-born female barrister
William Masters ( Gordon Stretton ) ( 1887 – 1983 )
Internationally known Liverpool-born musician and composer.
Joan Elizabeth Morton Stober ( b 1928 )
Liverpool-born Black community activist and founder of the Liverpool Black Organisation (LBO).
Glynn Georg Pratt ( 1931 – 2003 )
Liverpool and Merseyside County Council’s first black councillor.
Derry Wilkie ( 1941 – 2001 )
Liverpool-born Black musician. Known as ‘The Black Beatle’.
The above are just some of the famouse names associated with Liverpools Black Community many more have made great and worthy contributions to the city and many more will in the future.
A list of events planned for Black History Month and other information about Black History can be found below by clicking on the link to the Museum Of Liverpool.
You can also visit the Black History Month Website, also linked below.
Dr Ray Costello