100 Great Black Britons: Former Hackney councillor relaunches poll, calling it ‘more relevant than ever’

Patrick Vernon OBE.

Patrick Vernon OBE. - Credit: Archant

A cultural historian who led the Windrush Day campaign is bringing back his 100 Great Black Britons project after declaring it “more relevant than ever”.

The only known photograph of Mary Seacole, who died in 1881

The only known photograph of Mary Seacole, who died in 1881 - Credit: Archant

Former Hackney councillor Patrick Vernon first launched the hugely successful survey in 2003, when it was won by Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole.

It was conceived a response to a BBC poll to find the 100 greatest Britons, in which Freddie Mercury was the only non-white person.

Patrick was frustrated at the widespread exclusion of the Black British community from the idea of "Britishness", and in the wake of the EU referendum and the Windrush scandal, feels the time is right to do it again.

Since the last vote, academics and independent scholars have discovered new Black British historical figures, and new role models and icons have emerged.

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Patrick, who was made an OBE for his work tackling health inequality and supporting Black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, said: "It is even more crucial that our history is seen as part of the national narrative, especially in the context of Brexit, as British identity is going through change and we have a legitimate right and voice in the shaping of this economic, social and political transformation which will have an impact on future generations.

"By learning about our shared history and the impact of Black British history and successes, I hope we will no longer be marginalised or erased out of public consciousness for the next generation."

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Patrick, who was successful last year in his bid to make June 22 Windrush Day, says the results of the poll will be announced for Black History Month next year. It will be released alongside a board game and a book, co-authored with Dr Angelina Osborne and published by Robinson, an imprint of the Little, Brown Book Group.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: "Black Londoners have played an important role in the success of our city for centuries, but for too long the contribution of Britons of African and Caribbean heritage have been underestimated, undervalued and overlooked.

"From Mary Prince becoming the first woman to present a petition to parliament to Sir Trevor McDonald anchoring the News at Ten, generations of Black Britons have blazed a trail. It is only right we once again come together to recognise and celebrate them."

Up to six nominations can be made until December 1 across seven categories - female, male, LGBTQ+, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.

A school, young people and teacher's competition is also taking place to help shape how the national curriculum promotes Black British History for Black History Month.

Click here to vote.

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