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.
Laurie Cunningham was the first black footballer to play for England in a competitive match and the first Englishman to play for Real Madrid.
The Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole set up a hotel in the war-torn Crimea to provide shelter, food and treatment for injured soldiers.
Sir Learie Constantine
The cricketer and statesman Sir Learie Constantine became Britain’s first black peer in 1969.
Bob Marley was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. He is commemorated with a blue plaque on the house where he and The Wailers finished recording their iconic album Exodus.
Singer Elisabeth Welch was one of Britain’s best-loved interpreters of popular song. Her recording career spanned eight decades and encompassed New York, Paris and London.
The composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor achieved international fame for his trilogy of cantatas, ‘The Song of Hiawatha’.
In 1833 Ira Aldridge became the first black actor to play Othello on a West End stage.
John Richard Archer
John Archer was the former Mayor of Battersea and the first black person to hold a senior public office in London.
The guitarist and songwriter Jimi Hendrix became an overnight sensation with the release of his band’s first single, ‘Hey Joe’, in 1966.
Dr Harold Moody
The campaigner for racial equality Dr Harold Moody founded the League of Coloured Peoples in 1931.
Cetshwayo kaMpande was king of the Zulus during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. In 1882, he visited London and stayed at 18 Melbury Road in Holland Park
Jomo Kenyatta became the first President of Kenya after the country won independence from the British Empire in 1963.
Kwame Nkrumah helped secure Ghana’s independence from Britain in 1957 and became the country’s first Prime Minister and President.
Marcus Garvey was a black nationalist who became an inspirational figure for later civil rights activists.
Solomon T Plaatje
The South African writer Solomon T Plaatje was a significant campaigner for African rights and played a pioneering role in the emergence of African literature.
Racial diversity and the Blue Plaques Scheme
We recognise the need to increase the racial diversity of the English Heritage blue plaques scheme in order to properly reflect London’s history. With this in mind we have 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.
Pioneering women in London
Take a look at some of the figures in London’s history commemorated by blue plaques who fought to open up new opportunities for women.
Discover which Olympians and remarkable sporting feats from history have been celebrated by the London blue plaques scheme.
Find a Blue Plaque
Discover who has been commemorated by one of the blue plaques on buildings across London.