Black History Makers: Former Hackney councillor documents another ‘100 Great Black Britons’

Patrick Vernon OBE.

Patrick Vernon OBE. - Credit: Archant

A former Hackney councillor’s book, which celebrates the lives, stories and contributions of Black British people, has topped the bestseller lists.

Patrick Vernon co-authored 100 Great Black Britons with historian Angelina Osborne, and it was published in September to coincide with Black History Month, resurrecting a campaign they began 17 years ago.

READ MORE: Campaigner Patrick Vernon calls on MPs to deliver restorative justice through Windrush Compensation Bill

The project was conceived in 2003 following a BBC search for “100 Greatest Britons” which featured no Black Britons whatsoever.

Angelina and Patrick, of Lower Clapton, decided to launch a poll to “raise the profile of the Black contribution to Britain” and asked people to vote for and “celebrate the greatest Black Britons of all time”.

Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole topped the list.


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At the time, Patrick said: “Black history hasn’t been recognised.

“We didn’t come here at Windrush in 1948 – we’ve been here for a thousand years.

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“We’ve influenced and shaped Britain.”

In the wake of the 2018 Windrush scandal, Patrick and Angelina decided to relaunch the campaign, to “ensure recognition of the continued legacy and achievement of Black people in Britain”.

This time, lots of Hackney residents have made the list, including MP Diane Abbott; artist, writer and film director John Akomfrah; author Malorie Blackman, who lives in Stoke Newington; actor Idris Elba; former vicar of Haggerston’s All Saints church Rose Hudson-Wilkin; and author Gary Younge.

Patrick led the campaign for Windrush Day, which was introduced as a day of national celebration on June 2018 on the 70th anniversary of the Windrush migration.

He said: “We have to go with the times and have new heroes as heroes.

“The arrival of the SS Empire Windrush in Britain from the Caribbean has been mythologised as the defining moment that changed Britain from an exclusively white country into a racially diverse one.

“Yet Africans have been present in Britain since Roman times, and there has been a constant Black presence in Britain since the 16th century.”

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