Having just celebrated Black history month in the UK and a being black British women myself I wanted to focus this article on a few black women who have had a significant impact on black british history.
As women we are often taught to be submissive and “act like a lady”. We’re labelled as emotional beings who for the most part are here to be nurturers. A woman’s value is often put on her ability to be a good wife and recreate.
The four women I have chosen showed strength and courage in both the past and present. They did not limit themselves to the stereotypical ideas of being a woman. Instead they fought for what they believed in, broke barriers and made history.
Phillis Wheatley was the first African American published poet born in West Africa before being sold into slavery at a young age.
She spent most of her young life living in America where she learnt how to read and write. Literacy was posed as a threat to racial hierarchy and establishments so not many slaves were literate. Despite this Wheatley wrote her first poem at the age of 14
In a bid to gain more exposure for her poems she moved to London at the age of 20 and became a published poet. Wheatley focussed her poems less on her slavery experience but more on the elite lifestyles and religious beliefs of Europeans.
Wheatley was an example of a Black woman who defined all odds in both the UK and US to become the most popular author of her time.
Olive Morris was a prominent figure in the British Black Panther movement and acted as a community leader in South London.
The marginalisation and discrimination amongst black people was evident and racism was at it’s peak during the 60s and 70s.
Through activism and campaigns Morris worked hard to diminish these issues and founded groups such as Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) and the Brixton Black Women’s Group. Olive contributed to the progression of ethnic minorities in the UK and as a result has a building named after in Brixton, Olive Morris House.
Baroness Scotland attorney general
Baroness Scotland attorney general is a UK politician and barrister. She became the first Black woman to become appointed at a Queens counsel in 1991.
Between 1999 and 2001 Scotland was the parliamentary under secretary of state at the foreign and commonwealth office. During this time she oversaw the UK government relations with North America, the Caribbean, British council, overseas territories and consular division. She was also the administrator of all parliamentary business in the House of Lords. Lastly, she was responsible for the introduction of the international criminal court bill which sought to rectify the jurisdiction of the international criminal court into UK law.
Scotland has also been responsible for international relations at the home office and represents the UK with international negotiations.
Dr Anne Marie Imafidon
Dr Anne Marie Imafidon was a unique brainbox by the time she had entered her final year of primary school gaining a A-level in computer science at the age of 11. When she was 20 she became the youngest woman to receive a masters in maths and computer science from Oxford University. She has worked with major brands which include Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, and Deutsche Bank.
In 2013 Dr Anne put her vision for a more diverse and balanced science and tech community into practice by creating Stemettes. Stemettes is a social enterprise inspiring and supporting young women in STEM.
Dr Anne’s story is a contemporary but one which shares parallels with predecessors such as Katherine Jonson. Studying and working in tech – a very male dominated field countered the stereotypes often associated with women.
The Stemettes initiatives include mentorship programmes, industry experiences, and event organising. Dr Anne’s main aim is to promote diversity and more representation in tech.
These women have all contributed to British history in their respective fields. We hope to see many more representations of Black British women in education, politics, tech, and media.