Black History Month - October
In October we celebrate Black History Month which it aims to promote knowledge of Black History and the contribution that people of African and Caribbean origin have made to society.
Black History Month was established in the United States of America was initiated in London in October 1987 facilitated by the former Greater London Council. The first Black History Month celebrations formed part of the African Jubilee celebrations organised by the London's Race Equality Unit. Interest in Black History Month soon spread to other cities in the UK and has gained national profile since 1997.
In the UK, Black History Month has been used to highlight the histories and contributions of the 'black' communities. There has been some debate as to whether or not Black History Month should be exclusive to those from the African Caribbean communities. However, in the UK, Black History Month celebrations have remained inclusive to all black minority ethnic communities. Therefore the word 'black' is used in the generic sense.
See a list of 100 great Black Britons
People of interest with Tameside links
Arthur Wharton (28 October 1865 – 13 December 1930) was the first black professional football player in the world. He was born in Accra, formerly the Gold Coast, now capital of Ghana, West Africa.
Wharton was an all-round sportsman, in 1886, he set the world record of 10 seconds for a 100 yard sprint in the AAA championship. He was also a keen cyclist and cricketer, playing for local teams in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Arthur signed for Stalybridge Rovers in 1895 and after two years, he went to play for Ashton North End but then returned to Stalybridge Rovers in 1899.
Arthur gained a great reputation playing for Stalybridge Rovers and helped the team remain unbeaten in his first three games with them. Rovers’ supporters saw Arthur as a celebrity figure, even naming the team ‘Wharton’s Brigade’, as he transformed them into a good quality team. Arthur’s wages were high compared to others, but some may agree that he was worth every penny.
Arthur continued with his cricket and his running. Even in his 50's, an eyewitness reported that 'he could catch pigeons'. He died in 1930 at the age of 65.
Wharton's story can now be read in detail in his biography, 'The First Black Footballer: Arthur Wharton 1865-1930' by Phil Vasili, published by Frank Cass.
Edward Theophilus Nelson, born in Georgetown in British Guiana, the son of a builder, was a graduate of the Oxford’s Saint John’s College. He qualified as a barrister in 1909 and was probably the first West Indian who was allowed to wear stuff gown in court.
He went on to play a considerable part in the Gorse Hall murder case where he defended Cornelius Howard and Mr Wilde in Stalybridge. After only 50 minutes, the jury agreed with Mr Nelson and acquitted both suspects.
Thanks to Tameside Libraries who researched and identified significant black figures in history who have Tameside links.