Black British Herstory

Black Women in British History
Black British HERstory


For some reason it can be so hard to find information about history or information about Black British women. It’s so bizarre to think that Black women have been a part of British history since the before Tudor times, given our erasure from history. So often black British history seems to begin with slavery and then jump straight to Windrush.

I always envied my friends who studied history at school and university as I always thought it could be such an interesting subject but without realising felt uncomfortable being taught a version of history that I knew was whitewashed and wasn’t inclusive. Thank God for my parents and Saturday school! So I’ve been on a path of discovery to find out more about black British women in history and it only seems right to capture what I find here.

My first post doesn’t travel too far back in time, but it does celebrate one of my ultimate sheroes. Diane Abbott.


A is for Abbott, Diane Abbott

For those of you who don’t know, Diane Abbott is currently the Shadow Home Secretary, a role she was appointed to in October 2016 and is the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. In 1987, just a year after I was born, she was also the first black woman ever to be elected to Parliament. I’m not saying my birth played a role in this but you can’t help but note the coincidence in…

B is for Brown

William Brown is recorded as the first black woman to serve in the British Navy. Dates of service range from between 1804 – 1815. I wish I knew the real name of the woman who went by William Brown. She was by all accounts a real bad ass. She’s also one of my favs when it comes to learning about Black British Herstory because her story takes it back to the 19th century. According to…

C is for Charlotte

I’m not a royalist at all, I wasn’t raised that way, but I cannot pretend that when Prince Harry got engaged to Meghan Markle I wasn’t celebrating. I remember going into work and finding one of the only other black women I work with and doing the most. “Oh my god we’ve made it” “Huh?” “The royal family is going to be black! ”. I’m not going to lie, I may or may not have…

D is for Dido

Dido Elizabeth Belle is the first black British aristocrat, born in 1761. She’s one of my favourites for a few reasons, the first is because history often shows black people as slaves and servants but Dido Elizabeth Belle was an aristocrat. Rumour has it that some visitors were often unprepared to see a black woman dressed in the same clothes as themselves roaming around the house with the freedom that a servant at the time…

E is for Evelyn

E is for Evelyn, Evelyn Dove. Evelyn Dove was born in London on 11 January 1902 and was the first black woman to sing on BBC radio. Although often referred to as the British Josephine Baker, Evelyn Dove replaced Josephine Baker in 1932 as the star attraction at the Casino de Paris and in a career that spanned over five decades she was a star of jazz and cabaret, embraced by the world. Evelyn had…

Study of Fanny Eaton by Joanna Wells. Photograph: Richard Caspole, Yale Center for British Art

F is for Fanny

F is for Fanny. Fanny Eaton, born Fanny Matilda Antwistle on 23 June 1835 in St. Andrew, Jamaica was one of Britain’s first Pre-Raphaelite black models. In 1860 she made her first public appearance as a model in The Mother of Moses by Simeon Solomon which was exhibited at the Royal Academy. Fanny’s mother was born into slavery and there is no record of her father.* Fanny and her mother moved to England in the…