Black History Month : Inspirations from the past – Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham

#BlackHistoryMonth shouldn’t be confined to one month. Instead we want to build on celebrating inspirational figures particularly in #Lambeth, #Southwark and #Lewisham and promote diversity and inclusivity. This blog focuses on some inspirational figures from the past.


Nelson Mandela statue

Bronze statue by Ivan Walters of the African statesman Nelson Mandela on the elevated walkway adjacent to the Royal Festival Hall. Formerly a black freedom fighter who was imprisoned in 1962 for his part in the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa, he went on to become the president of the Republic of South Africa in May 1994. He was later awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1999.

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Brixton rail way statues

These statues are believed to be the first public sculptures of black British people put up in England have been given protected status.

The life-sized bronze figures, called Platforms Piece, were erected at Brixton railway station in 1986 and are based on local residents.

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Olive Morris – Community leader and activist

Olive Morris was a Jamaican-born British-based community leader and activist in the squatters’ rights campaigns of the 1970s. Morris was a key organiser in the Black Women’s Movement in the United Kingdom, co-founding the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent in London and support groups in Manchester. She joined the British Black Panthers and squatted 121 Railton Road in Brixton. Morris died at the age of 27. Her life and work have been widely commemorated, both by official organisations – Lambeth Council named a building after her – and by activist groups.

Read more and see more photos here


Dr Harold Moody – Wartime GP

Dr Harold Moody was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1882, the son of a pharmacist. In 1904 he sailed to the United Kingdom to study medicine at King’s College, London. He finished top of his class when he qualified in 1910, aged 28. Dr Moody started his own medical practice in Peckham in February 1913. Dr Harold Moody was honoured with a blue plaque at his former home and medical practice at 164 Queens Road in Peckham.

In addition to his work as a popular GP, he was a highly respected community leader for Britain’s black community from the 1920s to the 1940s. 

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George Arthur Roberts BEM, MSM

George A. Roberts BEM, MSM served in the British Army in the First World War. According to the wartime magazine, Every Week, he distinguished himself by his “extraordinary” ability to throw bombs a great distance back into enemy lines. George later saved countless lives in Southwark as a firefighter during the Blitz, having completed his training with the fire service in 1939. A blue plaque has been erected in his honour in Camberwell, London Borough of Southwark.

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Marianne Jean-Baptiste – Actress (Southwark)

Actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste who was born in Camberwell in 1967 to a mother from Antigua and a father from St Lucia. She was classically trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and was honoured with a Southwark Heritage Blue Plaque for her work.

In 1996 Marianne was the first black British actress to be nominated for an Oscar for Mike Leigh’s acclaimed film Secrets and Lies, for which she was also nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA.

In 1999 she was acclaimed for her role as Doreen Lawrence fighting for justice for her son’s killing in Paul Greengrass’s TV drama The Murder of Stephen Lawrence.

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Sam Beaver King MBE First black mayor of Southwark

Sam Beaver King MBE (20 February 1926 – 17 June 2016) was a Jamaican-British campaigner. He first came to England as an engineer in the RAF during the Second World War but returned to Jamaica in 1947. Failing to settle there, King took passage to London on the famous 1948 Empire Windrush sailing. He later became the first black mayor of Southwark and a campaigner in support of West Indian immigrants to the country. Sam was also the co-founder of Notting Hill Carnival.

King served as a local councillor for six months before being elected mayor of the London Borough of Southwark in 1983. He was the first black mayor in the borough and was, at the time, the only black mayor in London.

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Ignatius Sancho – Writer and campaigner

After being born on a slave ship in 1729, Ignatius Sancho lived in Greenwich/Blackheath for much of his life and was the first known person of African heritage to vote in a British election.

His continued education would lead to him becoming a respected composer, actor and ‘man of letters’ – someone known for being able to read and write at a time when literacy was not common.

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Lewis Howard Latimer – Patent draftsman for the patents of the incandescent light bulb, among other inventions. (Lewisham)

💡 Lewis Howard Latimer, who supervised the installation of public Electric Lights throughout London, shown at 133 Lewisham High Street, in the Victorian era, 1882. See here.

Over the course of his career as a draftsman, Latimer worked closely with Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, in addition to designing his own inventions.

High Street, Lambeth is the street where Lewis and his wife Mary Latimer lived while in England.

Read more (Lewisham Council)

Thanks for reading!