Cunningham scoring a goal for West Brom

CELEBRATING LONDON’S BLACK HISTORY

When Laurie Cunningham played professional football in London in the 1970s and 1980s, he faced racist chants and protests from the National Front. A blue plaque now recognises his achievements in football, including becoming the first black player to represent England in a competitive match. Below we take a look at the plaques to some of the other pioneering black figures who have helped to shape London’s history.

  • Profile picture of Laurie Cunningham

    Laurie Cunningham

    Laurie Cunningham was the first black footballer to play for England in a competitive match and the first Englishman to play for Real Madrid.

  • A black and white photograph of Kenyatta, looking to right of camera

    Jomo Kenyatta

    Jomo Kenyatta became the first President of Kenya after the country won independence from the British Empire in 1963.

  • A painting of Ira Aldridge as Othello in military costume

    Ira Aldridge

    In 1833 Ira Aldridge became the first black actor to play Othello on a West End stage.

  • A black and white photograph of Coleridge-Taylor, seated and looking straight at the camera

    Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

    The composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor achieved international fame for his trilogy of cantatas, ‘The Song of Hiawatha’.

  • A portrait painting of Mary Seacole, showing her head and top of shoulders in profile

    Mary Seacole

    The Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole set up a hotel in war-torn Crimea to provide shelter, food and treatment for injured soldiers.

  • A black and white portrait photograph of Sir Learie Constantine, seated and looking straight to camera with his thumb hooked in his lapel

    Sir Learie Constantine

    The cricketer and statesman Sir Learie Constantine became Britain’s first black peer in 1969.

  • A black and white photograph of Marcus Garvey sitting at his desk

    Marcus Garvey

    Marcus Garvey was a black nationalist who became an inspirational figure for later civil rights activists.

  • A black and white portrait image of Dr Harold Moody wearing round spectacles and looking straight at camera

    Dr Harold Moody

    The campaigner for racial equality Dr Harold Moody founded the League of Coloured Peoples in 1931.

  • A sepia-toned portrait photograph of Nkrumah looking slightly to left of camera

    Kwame Nkrumah

    Kwame Nkrumah helped secure Ghana’s independence from Britain and became the country’s first Prime Minister and President.

RACIAL DIVERSITY AND THE BLUE PLAQUES SCHEME

The blue plaque to Dr Harold Moody is picture on a white-washed wall behind sunlit foliage

We recognise the need to increase the racial diversity of the English Heritage blue plaques scheme in order to properly reflect London’s cosmopolitan and culturally vibrant history. With this in mind we will set up a working group whose members will focus on nominating Black and Asian figures for blue plaques. 

Public nominatons are still at the heart of the scheme and the new group hopes to work with the public to uncover the stories of those whose achievements have so far been unacknowledged. To find out how to put someone forward for a plaque, please visit our Propose a Plaque page.

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