Black History Month – Three tales less told

As you’ll no doubt be aware, October is Black History Month, and the time to rightly recognise the outstanding contributions of people of African and Caribbean descent. For the Skout blog team, the question was, how do we contribute to this with genuine authenticity. We decided that as B2B PR is all about the power words, and about finding and telling more unusual stories, we’d do just that. So, we’ve picked three figures from black history who did and said great things but might have escaped the average person’s attention in the world today. We hope you find these vignettes interesting and inspiring. And urge you to do some of your own reading this Black History Month.

Shirley Chisholm – First African-American major party candidate for the US Presidency

Shirley St Hill was born in Brooklyn in 1924 to Caribbean immigrants. She pursued a career in education and became known as an authority on issues involving early education and child welfare. She entered the world of politics around the age of 30 and later became the first African-American woman to be given the opportunity to be successfully elected to the US states congress, serving seven terms. In 1972, she became the first African-American candidate for a major party’s nomination for the US Presidency, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Although she finished in fourth place, Chisholm is quoted as saying she ran for office “in spite of hopeless odds…to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo.” Chisholm is also quoted as saying “In the end, anti-black, anti-female and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing: anti-humanism.”

John Archer – First Black Mayor in London

Born in Liverpool 1863, John Richard Archer was the son of a Barbadian father and an Irish mother. He travelled the world as a seaman then settled in Battersea and married. Archer became involved in local politics and was elected to Battersea Borough Council. He successfully campaigned for a minimum wage of 32 shillings a week for council workers. In 1913, he was elected Mayor of Battersea, despite negative and racist counter campaigns, with allegations that he did not have British nationality. In his victory speech he’s quoted as saying:

“My election tonight means a new era. You have made history tonight. For the first time in the history of the English nation a man of colour has been elected as mayor of an English borough.

“That will go forth to the coloured nations of the world and they will look to Battersea and say Battersea has done many things in the past, but the greatest thing it has done has been to show that it has no racial prejudice and that it recognises a man for the work he has done.”

Onesimus – The slave who brought inoculation to the United States

In the early 1700s, Smallpox hit the city of Boston, brought ashore by docking ships. It was killing 30% of those infected. There was no known medical treatment or understanding of infectious diseases at the time. An enslaved man – Onesimus – suggested a way to stop people from becoming sick, which led to a doctor and a minister trying a desperate experiment.

Onesimus told his enslaver that he had had smallpox but had been cured through an operation which had given him ‘something of the smallpox’ and would forever preserve him from it…and whoever had the courage to use it was forever free of the fear of contagion.”

As reported by History.com “Once the infected material was introduced into the body, the person who underwent the procedure was inoculated against smallpox. It wasn’t a vaccination, which involves exposure to a less dangerous virus to provoke immunity. But it did activate the recipient’s immune response and protected against the disease most of the time.”

Image courtesy of @claybanks

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