Image: Stella Thomas (2018) Courtesy of @Vdzo.2 (Instagram) 

04 OCTOBER 2018


Author and Editor Varaidzo's (The Good Immigrant, 4th Estate Short Story Shortlist) new series seeks to highlight the significance of the black British presence prior to 1948 by featuring an culture-shaping individual each day on her Instagram

The series has so far featured Stella Thomas, the first black woman called to the bar in Great Britain, Charles Wootton, the ships fireman whose death sparked the 1919 Liverpool race riots and Scott & Whaley, the African-American music hall double act, and will continue to archive the contribution of the black diaspora in Britain, throughout the month of October, in honour of Black History Month.

You can see day one, on legal pioneer Stella Thomas, below, or catch it in situ 

Instagram caption: 'stella thomas was a nigerian lawyer who came to england in 1926 to study and lived in bloomsbury. in 1928 she decided to pursue law (which was literally unheard of these times) at no less than oxford university!! whilst studying she became one of the first members of the league of coloured people's, a civil rights group set up by harold moody (more on him later in the month) and then through the LCP she met poet una marson (more on her too). stella played the starring role in una's first play 'at what a price', the first show written by a black woman to hit london's west end theatres. reviewed in the guardian in 1933, the critic said 'perhaps the most memorable thing of the evening was the sheer beauty of miss thomas' walk across the stage'. that same year, stella became the first black woman called to the bar in great britain and, returning to nigeria after her studies, she became the first woman lawyer in west africa. she then became west africa's first woman magistrate in 1943.'

Creator of the series, Varaidzo, says: 

“Being a first or second generation black person in Britain can make you feel like black British history begins and ends with you.

It can feel isolating and add to that sense of displacement when you feel like you have no history or connection to the country you live in.

Actually, Britain and the black diaspora have been entangled since our understanding of modern race began, and black people have always played a role in shaping the culture of Britain today.

I wanted to show that black peoples influence in Britain did not begin and end with Windrush, and to challenge the narrative that prior to that the only black British must have been slaves.

This series highlights many black figures who helped shape British culture before 1948, and whose heritages come from all over the world. It’s important that Britain remembers its black figures from the past in order to shape a more honest, representative and respectful future.”


Keep up with the rest of the series by following Varaidzo's Instagram here

Keep up with out Black History Month blog series throughout October on our site