Black British

infobox ethnic group
group = Black British

Notable Black Britons (From top left):
Paul Boateng, Naomi Campbell, Olaudah Equiano, Diane Abbott, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
poptime =

Approximatley 1,800,000 (2005)
At least 1,375,230 of any Black background in 2005

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The above figure includes 2005 estimates for Black people of any origin (Caribbean, African or Other) in England [ [ Blacks in England, 2005)] in addition to people belonging to the same group from Scotland, [ [ Blacks in Scotland, 2001] ] Wales [ [ Blacks in Wales, 2001] ] and Northern Ireland [ [ Blacks in Northern ireland, 2001] ] from the 2001 Census, i.e. the above population is less than how many Black people were in the UK in 2005, and is considerably less than how many Black people are in the UK today (2008)
At least 376,109 of any combined Black and White background in 2005

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The above figure includes people of any Black background (Caribbean, African or Other) mixed with any White background (British, Irish or Other), and does not include people of say Mixed Black and Asian backgrounds, which although was featured as an ethnic group in the 2001 Census wasn't released to the public in figures. Please note that the above figure only includes mixed Black and White people in England in 2005, and Mixed Black and White people in Wales in 2001. The Mixed Race ethnic group wasn't subcategorised in Scotland and Northern Ireland, hence no data being available. I.e. even in 2005 there will have been many more people of mixed black and other backgrounds in every UK nation, and in 2008 the number will be even greater

Around 2% of the UK population
popplace = London, West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Sheffield, West Yorkshire, Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Leeds, Liverpool.
langs = English, Caribbean English, African languages, others
rels = Christianity, Islam, Rastafarian, others
"See also: British African-Caribbean community, Caribbean British"

Black British is a term which has had different meanings and uses as a racial and political label. Historically it has been used to refer to any non-white British national. The term was first used at the end of the British Empire, when several major colonies formally gained independence and thereby created a new form of national identity. The term was at that time (1950s) used mainly to describe those from the former colonies of India, Africa, and the Caribbean, i.e. the New Commonwealth. In some circumstances the word "Black" still signifies all ethnic minority populations. [ [ Glossary of terms relating to ethnicity and race: for reflection and debate] R Bhopal. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Accessed "6 October 2006"]

More recently it has come to define a British resident with specifically Sub-Saharan African ancestral origins, who self identifies, or is identified, as "Black", African or African-Caribbean. Black Britons also emigrate from other countries, such as Brazil (see Brazilian British) and the USA (see African American British).

Currently, Black British is used by the British authorities to mean UK passport holders of African or African-Caribbean origin (e.g. the usage of the Commission for Racial Equality).

According to an August 2008 article in the Daily Mail, 5.0% of children born in England and Wales in 2005 were fully blooded (as opposed to mixed race) Black Britons, meaning that by 2031 when the UK is expected to peak in population at 71 million, [ [ UK Projected population] ] there could be in excess of 3,600,000 Black Britons. [ [ Only two in three babies born in England and Wales are white British, Daily Mail] ]

Use of term

Historically, the term has most commonly been used to refer to those of New Commonwealth origin. For example, Southall Black Sisters was established in 1979 "to meet the needs of black (Asian and African-Caribbean) women". [ [ Southall Black Sisters website] ] (Note that "Asian" in the British context means from South Asia only.) "Black" was used in this inclusive political sense [ [,,2238188,00.html "The Guardian" "What the migrant saw" by Jatinder Verma, founder in 1977 of Tara Arts, the first Asian theatre company in Britainndash "Everywhere my friends and I looked, it seemed black people, as we identified ourselves, were victims of white oppression."] ] to mean "not white British" - the main groups in the 1970s were from the British West Indies and the Indian subcontinent, but solidarity against racism extended the term to the Irish population of Britain as well. [ [ What is meant by Black and Asian?] "In the 1970s Black was used as a political term to encompass many groups who shared a common experience of oppression - this could include Asian but also Irish, for example" ] [ [ The term Black and Asian - a Short History] "In the late 1960’s through to the mid 1980’s, we progressives called ourselves Black. This was not only because the word was reclaimed as a positive, but we also knew that we shared a common experience of racism because of our skin colour."] Several organisations continue to use the term inclusively, such as [ the Black Arts Alliance] , [The [ Black Arts Alliance] encourages "a coming together of Black people from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean because our histories have parallels of oppression"] who extend their use of the term to Latin America and all refugees, [Their website intro states "Black Arts Alliance is 21 years old. Formed in 1985 it is the longest surviving network of Black artists representing the arts and culture drawn from ancestral heritages of South Asia, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean and, in more recent times, due to global conflict, our newly arrived compatriots known collectively as refugees." [ the Black Arts Alliance] ] and the National Black Police Association. [ [ National Black Police Association] states that their "emphasis is on the common experience and determination of the people of African, African-Caribbean and Asian origin to oppose the effects of racism."] This is unlike the official British Census definition which adheres to the clear distinction between "British South Asians" and "British Blacks". [ [ Census classifications] ] Note that because of the Indian diaspora and especially Idi Amin's expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972, many British Asians come from families that have spent several generations in the British West Indies or East Africa, so not everyone born in, or with roots in, the Caribbean or Africa can be assumed to be "black" in the exclusive sense; [ [] BBC article on "Multiculturalism the Wembley way"] Lord Alli is a good example.

African British

The term "African British" has grown in popularity as an expression used to describe Black British people of specifically African ancestry. In 2005, a poll conducted by Blacknet revealed that "African British" was the most popular term (40%) for referring to people of African descent in the United Kingdom. Also in a poll carried out by Afford (African Foundation for Development), 50% of respondents agreed that African British should be the term adopted. [ [ African British identity tops poll] ] There is some confusion as to the use of the term between using it as an alternative to Afro-Caribbean or as a term only for British people of direct African descent, who have no family connection with the Caribbean or indeed America.

In the more inclusive sense, "Black British" is being used to mean "non-white British". In the more common, restrictive sense it is a synonym for "African British".

Historical usage: Sierra Leone

Black British was also an identity of Black people in Sierra Leone (known as the Krio) who considered themselves British. They are generally the descendants of black people who lived in England in the 18th century and freed Black American slaves who fought for the Crown in the American Revolutionary War (see also Black Loyalists). In 1787, hundreds of London's Black poor (a category which included the East Indian seamen known as lascars) agreed to go to this West African country on the condition that they would retain the status of British subjects, to live in freedom under the protection of the British Crown and be defended by the Royal Navy. Making this fresh start with them were many white people, including girlfriends, wives and widows of the black men. [ [ National Archives] ]


Roman to medieval times

In "Historia Regum Britanniae", Book IX, Geoffrey of Monmouth (c.1100 – c.1155) describes how the Anglo-Saxons defeated the inhabitants of Britain with the help of Gormund at the head of an army of Africans. However, as this is probably a reference to a Vandal ruler of North Africa, [ [ Gormund the Vandal] ] it is hard to assess to what extent these people can be regarded as "Black", given the fact that the Vandals were a Germanic tribe who merged with the population of North Africa.

In late medieval times, Black people occasionally made their way to the country as traders from seafaring countries such as Zanzibar, as well other places in the Middle East and North Africa. The most likely new arrivals back then would have been the Moors who were already settled in the Iberian Peninsula. One such example is someone who settled briefly in Scotland and was known as Black Morrow, "Morrow" being a Scottish version of "Moor". Shakespeare based "Othello" around the mixed race marriage of a Moor to a white woman.

ince the advent of transatlantic slavery

The involvement of merchants from the British Isles in the transatlantic slave trade was the most important factor in the development of the Black British community. These communities flourished in port cities strongly involved in the slave trade, such as Liverpool (from 1730) ["Black liverpool: the early history of Britain's Oldest Black Community 1730 - 1918" by Ray Costello, Picton Press, Liverpool 2001] and Bristol.

The legality of slavery in England had been questioned following the Cartwright decision of 1569, when it was "resolved that England was too pure an air for a slave to breathe in." From the early eighteenth century, there are records of slave sales and various attempts to capture Africans described as escaped slaves. The issue was not legally contested until the Somerset case of 1772, which concerned James Somersett, a fugitive black slave from Virginia. Chief Justice Mansfield (whose own presumed great-niece Dido was of mixed race) concluded that Somersett could not be forced to leave England against his will. (See generally, Slavery at common law.)

The Black Londoners, encouraged by the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor, decided to immigrate to Sierra Leone to found the first British colony in Africa. They demanded that their status as British subjects be recognized, along with the duty of the Royal Navy to defend them.

The number of people in Britain with Black African origins was relatively small. There were, however, significant communities of South Asians, especially East Indian seamen known as lascars. In short, the links established through the British Empire led to increased population movement and immigration.

In a famous case, an Indian Briton, Dadabhai Naoroji, stood for election to parliament for the Liberal Party in 1886. He was defeated, leading the leader of the Conservative Party, Lord Salisbury to remark that "however great the progress of mankind has been, and however far we have advanced in overcoming prejudice, I doubt if we have yet got to the point of view where a British constituency would elect a black man". [ [ The Capital's history uncovered] ] This led to much discussion about the applicability of the term "black" to South Asians. Naoroji was subsequently elected to parliament in 1892, becoming the first Member of Parliament (MP) of Indian descent.

Twentieth century

Before the Second World War, the largest Black communities were to be found in Britain's great port cities: London's East End, Liverpool, Bristol and Cardiff, with other communities in South Shields in Tyne & Wear and Glasgow. The South Shields community (mostly South Asians and Yemenis) were victims of the UK's first race riot in 1919. [ [ Tyne Roots] ] Soon all the other towns with significant non-white communities were also hit by race riots which spread across the Anglo-Saxon world. At this time, on Australian insistence, the British refused to accept the Racial Equality Proposal put forward by the Japanese at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Australian soldiers placed themselves in the front of the attacks on the Black community in Butetown, Cardiff.Fact|date=May 2008

It was in the period after the Second World War, however, that the largest influx of Black people occurred, mostly from the British West Indies. This migration event is often labeled "Windrush", a reference to the Empire Windrush, the ship that carried the first major group of Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948. [ icons: a portrait of England: SS Empire Windrush] "Caribbean" is itself not one ethnic or political identity; for example, some of this wave of immigrants were Indo-Caribbean. The most widely used term then used was "West Indian" (or sometimes "coloured"). "Black British" did not come into widespread use until the second generation were born to these post-war immigrants to the country. Although British by nationality, due to friction between them and the white majority, they were often being born into communities that were relatively closed, creating the roots of what would become a distinct Black British identity.

Since the 1980s, the majority of black immigrants into the country have come directly from Africa, in particular, Nigeria and Ghana in West Africa, Kenya in East Africa, and Zimbabwe and South Africa in Southern Africa. Nigerians and Ghanaians have been especially quick to accustom themselves to British life, with young Nigerians and Ghanaians achieving some of the best results at GCSE and A-Level.Fact|date=February 2007The rate of inter-racial marriage between British citizens born in Africa and native Britons is still fairly low, compared to those from the Caribbean. This might change over time as Africans become more part of mainstream British culture as second and third generation African communities become established.

Historically significant Black Britons

Well-known Black Britons living before the twentieth century include:

* The Chartist William Cuffay
* William Davidson, executed as a Cato Street conspirator.
* Olaudah Equiano (also called Gustavus Vassa). He was a former slave who bought his freedom, moved to England, and settled in Soham, Cambridgeshire, where he married and wrote an autobiography. He passed away in 1797.
* Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, pioneer of the slave narrative
* Ignatius Sancho, a grocer who also acquired a reputation as a man of letters.


Since the 2001 census the population of the black community has risen, with large-scale migration from Africa, particularly from Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, and The Congo.

In 2005, black people made up 2.0% of the population of the UK, a lower percentage than that of the United States (12.9%). However, as the population of the USA, UK and Canada vary by an order of magnitude, the actual black populations are considerably different. The black populations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are considerably smaller than that of England. As most blacks have arrived in the U.K. recently, Black British people have a much younger population pyramid than either African-Americans or the general British population. This means that even if there was no more immigration, the Black British population would probably still continue to increase.

Population Change

Below is a table showing the population change within each sub group of the Black British population, and the Black British population overall between 2001 and 2008 in England ONLY. [ [ Neighbourhood Statistics Black British population change this millennium] ]


It has taken hundreds of years for the Black British culture to develop and to become accepted in the mainstream. Some black Liverpudlians can trace their roots in Liverpool back as far back as ten generations ["Black Liverpool: The Early History of Britain's Oldest Black Community 1730 - 1918" by Ray Costello, The City of Liverpool, 2001] There are still notable differences between Black Britons of different national backgrounds – but that culture has flourished until it has become an accepted and vital part of the culture of modern Britain, shared by those of all backgroundsFact|date=January 2008.

Black British music

"See also: Caribbean music in the United Kingdom"

Black British music is a long-established and influential part of British music. Its presence in Britain stretches from concert performers like George Bridgetower in the eighteenth century to street musicians like Billy Waters.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, 2 Tone became popular with the British youth, especially in the West Midlands. A blend of punk, ska and pop made it popular with both white and black audiences. Famous bands include The Selecter, The Specials, The Beat and The Bodysnatchers.

Black British music sometimes reflects Caribbean influences or takes inspiration from Black American genres such as hip hop and rap. It has developed its own distinctive identity. Grime music was invented in London and involves a number of artists from Black African and Caribbean communities, most notably Jamaican, Ghanaian and Nigerian. Famous grime artists include Dizzee Rascal, Kano (rapper), Wiley, Lethal Bizzle. It is now common to hear British MCs rapping in a strong British accent. Niche, with its origin in Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds, has a much faster bassline and is often sung in a northern accent. Famous Niche artists include producer T2.

Notable Black Britons

There are examples of Black people who have achieved success in practically every field of British life.

An example from television is reporter and newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald, born in Trinidad, who was knighted in 1999. McDonald is now seen as a part of the broadcasting establishment. His clear, confident delivery and serious attitude have made him one of British television's most trusted presenters, winning more awards than any other British broadcaster. Other examples from television are entertainer Lenny Henry and chef Ainsley Harriott.

In art and film, Steve McQueen won the Turner prize in 1999, he has since directed his first feature Hunger. The film earned him the Caméra d'Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

Michael Fuller, after a successful career in the Metropolitan Police, has been Chief Constable of Kent since 2004. He is the son of Jamaican immigrants who came to Britain in the 1950s. Fuller was brought up in Sussex, where his interest in the police force was encouraged by an officer attached to his school. He is a graduate in social psychology. [ [ Alumni and friends | Notable Alumni | Michael Fuller ] ]

In business, Damon Buffini heads Permira, one of the world's largest private equity firms. Buffini topped the 07 'power list' as the most powerful Black male in Britain by New Nation magazine and was recently appointed to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's business advisory panel.

René Carayol is a successful broadcaster, broadsheet columnist, business & leadership speaker and author, best known for presenting the BBC series "Did They Pay Off Their Mortgage in Two Years?". He has also served as an executive main board director for blue-chip companies as well as the public sector.

Wol Kolade is council member and Chairman of the BVCA (The British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association) and a Governor and council member of the London School of Economics and Political Science, chairing its Audit Committee.

Finally, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones is a businessman, farmer and founder of the popular Black Farmer range of food products. In addition, he is also a prospective Conservative Party candidate for the Chippenham constituency for the next general election.

In 2005, soldier Johnson Beharry, born in Grenada of mixed Black African and East Indian roots, became the first man to win the Victoria Cross, Britain's foremost military award for bravery, since the Falklands War of 1982. He was awarded the medal for service in Iraq in 2004.

In sport, prominent examples of success include boxing champion Frank Bruno, whose career highlight was winning the WBC world heavyweight championship in 1995. Altogether, he has won 40 of his 45 contests. He is also well known for acting in pantomime.

Lennox Lewis, born in East London, is another successful Black British boxer and former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Recently, Lewis Hamilton, who is mixed-race, has created a major impact in the world of Formula One racing, with many comparing his arrival in a largely white-dominated sport to that of Tiger Woods in golf.

Kelly Holmes, who won two gold medals in the 2004 Athens Olympics, is also mixed-race: her black father was born in Jamaica, while her white mother is English.

Black people such as Bernie Grant, Oona King, Paul Boateng, Baroness Amos and Diane Abbott have made significant contributions to politics and trade unionism.

Paul Boateng became the UK's first black cabinet minister in 2002 when he was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Bill Morris was elected general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union in 1992. He was knighted in 2003, and in 2006 he took a seat in the House of Lords as a working life peer, Baron Morris of Handsworth.

Diane Abbott became the first black woman Member of Parliament when she was elected to the House of Commons in the 1987 general election.

Valerie Amos became the first black woman cabinet minister and the first black woman to become leader of the House of Lords.

Numerous Black British actors have become successful in US television, such as Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Idris Elba, Lennie James, Marsha Thomason and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Black British actors are also increasingly found starring in major Hollywood movies, notable examples include Adrian Lester, Ashley Walters, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Salmon, David Harewood, Eamonn Walker, Hugh Quarshie, Naomie Harris, Sophie Okonedo and Thandie Newton.


There is much controversy surrounding the politics of integrating Britain's black community, particularly concerning crime, discrimination in basic services, employment and education.

The poverty rate for Britain’s minority ethnic groups stands at 40%, double the 20% found amongst white British people, according to new research published in 2007 (30 April) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Minority ethnic groups are also being paid lower wages, despite improvements in education and qualifications. The research highlights the differences between minority ethnic groups with 45% of Black Africans and 30% of Indians and Black Caribbeans living in poverty. Over half of Black African children in the UK are growing up in poverty.The research shows that people from minority ethnic groups who have higher educational achievements do not receive the same rewards as those from white British backgrounds with similar qualifications. A wide range of factors are shown to affect different groups and the research highlights how the Government needs to consider and implement more targeted policies.

According to the TUC report "Black workers, jobs and poverty", [ ] people from black and Asian groups are far more likely to be unemployed than the white population, despite having the required skills and qualifications. The rate of unemployment among the white population is only 11%, but among black groups it is 13%, mixed-race 15%, Indian 7%, Pakistani 15% and Bangladeshi 17%. The usual argument to counter high unemployment rates among black and Asian people - namely that they lack the necessary skills and qualifications - does not bear merit, the report states. For example, 81.4% of black and Asian people with degrees are employed, compared with 87.4% of white people. This statistic however does not take account of the qualitative distinction of these degrees, since degrees vary greatly in their employabiilty. Furthermore, a white person whose highest qualification is GCSE’s at grades A-C is more likely to have a job than a black or Asian person with A-levels.

Both racist crime and black on black gang-related crime continues to affect black communities. Numerous deaths in police custody of black men have grown a general distrust of police amongst urban blacks in the UK. According to the Metropolitan Police Authority in 2002-2003 of the 17 deaths in police custody, 10 were black or Asian. The government reports ] the overall number of racist incidents recorded by the police rose by 7% from 49,078 in 2002/3 to 52,694 in 2003/4.

The media has highlighted black gangs and black on black violence. According to the Home Office report, 10% of all homicide victims between 2000 and 2004 were black. Of these, 56% were murdered by other blacks. Given that blacks represent aproximately 3% of the British population, black on black violence is a significant problem.

Black people, who according to government statistics [; accessed 21 May ] make up 2% of the population, are the principal suspects in 11.7% of homicides, i.e. in 252 out of 2163 homicides committed 2001/2, 2002/3, and 2003/4. [Table 3.6 of Home Office publication "Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2004"] It should be noted that, judging on the basis of prison population, a substantial minority (about 35%) of black criminals in the UK are not British citizens but foreign nationals. [Chapter 9, tables 9.1 - 9.4, of Home Office publication "Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2004" ]

After several high-profile investigations such as that of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the police have often been accused of racism, from both within and outside the service. Cressida Dick, head of the Metropolitan Police's anti-racism unit in 2003, remarked that it was 'difficult to imagine a situation where we will say we are no longer institutionally racist'. [ [,,941167,00.html 'Metropolitan police still institutionally racist' | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited ] ]

ee also

Groups included in "Black British"

* British African-Caribbean community
* African American British
* Antiguan British
* Bahamian British
* Barbadian British
* Cape Verdean British
* Dominican British
* Ghanaian British
* Grenadian British
* Guyanese British
* Jamaican British
* Kenyan British
* Nigerian British
* Montserratian British
* Saint Lucian British
* Saint Kitts and Nevisian British
* Sierra Leonean British
* South African British
* Surinam British
* Tanzanian British
* Trinidadian British
* Ugandan British
* Vincentian British
* Zimbabwean British

Black groups outside Britain

* Black Canadian
* African Americans
* African Australian
* Black people in Ireland
* Afro-European

Relevant lists

* List of black Britons
* 100 Great Black Britons
* Ethnic groups of the United Kingdom
* British Mixed-Race


External links

* [ The Black Presence in Britain - Black British History]
*The Scarman Report into the Brixton Riots of 1981.
* The Macpherson Report into the death of Stephen Lawrence.
* [ Brixton Overcoat] , ISBN 978-0-9552841-0-6
* [ Reassessing what we collect website - The African Community in London] History of African London with objects and images
* [ Reassessing what we collect website – Caribbean London] History of Caribbean London with objects and images
* [ "The Contestation of Britishness" by Ronald Elly Wanda]

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