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Black History Month 2023

In this section

  1. Black History Month 2023
  2. Your Stories

Your Stories

Black History Month is a time dedicated to recognising and celebrating the invaluable contributions of black people to British society. It's also about sharing and amplifying the voices of black people in our communities. This pages brings together just some of the fascinating, interesting and often moving stories we've heard from across our city. 

#SalutingOurSisters

Christina Baker - Miss Stoke-on-Trent 2022 - Celebrating Black History as a black woman in today’s society

"As a black woman, the manner in which we show up in the world has to be much more calculated than our non-Black friends. We always feel the need to straddle the fence when it comes to masculine and feminine energy, simply as a means of protection. When a sense of protection or safety is not provided from men in our life. We reverse engineer masculinity as a way to protect ourselves. The reality is, we use our masculine energy as a shield, and our femininity as a weapon.

"Black women on a whole, struggle to feel beautiful constantly in a world that favours a European look over what we have: big lips, a booty, and kinky hair. Where we are told we are not enough but yet we still carve our own space in society proving that we are worthy, we find the strength in each other

"There is tremendous beauty in choosing your family. There is abundant joy in realizing your tribe. There is adventure in exploring new connections. There is peace in unity. There is love in this place

"As black women we need to embrace what makes us unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. I didn't have to become perfect because I've learned throughout my journey that perfection is the enemy of greatness."

Ashleigh Nelson - sprinter. European Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, World Championship silver medallist and Olympian. 

"My name is Ashleigh Nelson. I'm a three-time Olympian for Team Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I compete in the one and two hundred metres as well as the four by one hundred metre relay. I've won medals from the World and European Championships as well as the Commonwealth Games. But, all that aside, I am a proud Stokie. As well as being a proud Stokie, I am a proud woman of colour. My heritage is that my dad is Black British and my mum is White British. My white grandparents worked and fought in World War Two and my black grandparents were asked to move here from Jamaica to help build the Commonwealth. My Black History and Stoke-on-Trent are so inportant to me. I'm so proud of my grandparents moving here in their mid twenties to start a new life and help build this dream of the Commonwealth. They must have been so scared moving from the tiny island of Jamaica, the Caribbean to England, especially the smaller place Stoke-on-Trent. I cannot image how scared they were to just pick up and leave and I'm so proud of them for being so brave to move to a country where, at the time, racism for very, very rife. I just can't imagine what it was like for them.

"As I've just mentioned racism. I went to a predominantly white school and, at my school, if you were non white, you were Pakistani, or at least that's what you were called. It's like people didn't know anything else. Although I had friends of Caribbean heritage like myself, African heritage and Asian heritage, in fact my best friend is Sri Lankan. We were so close at school together because we experienced the shared experiences of racism and the tough times as minority kids really brings you closer. 

"And that's why I think it's so important to have a Black History Month. I think black history should be taught more in schools. I learned about Christopher Columbus and Henry VIII but I was never taught about Harriet Tubman or Rosa Parks. And I really think this is important that those things are taught so there is an awareness.

"Athletics has given me so much. I've been able to travel the world, I've met people of all different races, of social and economic backgrounds and had some incredible experiences along the way. But the best thing it's given me is a platform. I think it's so important to be visible for young people to see, especially the young people of Stoke-on-Trent. Whatever it is that you want to be, whatever it is that you want to achieve, if you're willing to work your socks off you can be it. And especially to the black and brown children because I didn't have anybody to look up to growing up. But I'm a believer if you can see it, you can be it. And that's why Black History Month is so important and that's why it's so important that we share our stories."


The Roberts Family - personal stories of the First and Second World Wars

Black soldiers have been part of British military history since before the formation of a standing army in the seventeenth century. Black soldiers served in the First and Second World Wars in colonial units and British regiments.

John Roberts, settled in Stoke-on-Trent after coming over from Sierra Leone some time before 1914 and, when the First World War broke out, he enlisted to fight. 

His sons, Ken and Leslie, were both keen boxers, with Ken being managed by Jack Fitzgerald who also managed Tut Whalley and Tiny Bostock. Both brothers enlisted to fight in the Second World War, but while Leslie eventually returned home after being part of the D-Day landings and the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Ken tragically died in one of the largest Allied operations of the Second World War.

As part of the 21st Independent Parachute Company, Ken took part in Operation Market Garden, the 1944 offensive into Nazi occupied Netherlands. Ken died at the bridge at Arnhem while rescuing a friend who was trapped on the bridge. He died of his wounds in the Hospital at Jonkerbos on 29 September 1944, aged only 23. He is buried at Jonkerbos War Cemetery, near Nijmegen in The Netherlands.

A plaque to honour Ken was unveiled in the Civic Centre by Lord Mayor Cllr John Birkin in 1996.

Watch the Video

Doug Brown - former Lord Mayor

Doug Brown who served on Stoke-on-Trent City Council for over 20 years. Doug’s father, Eugene came to England from Ghana and served in the British Army alongside his brother, John. During WW2, Doug trained as a physiotherapist to help with the recovery of injured soldiers and then continued this work in the newly formed NHS. In 1960 he became the physio for Stoke City F.C. Doug also set up Ladsandads football which is still going strong all over the city today. He was first elected to Stoke-on-Trent City Council in 1967 and served two terms as Lord Mayor, in 1984 and 1997. During his eras as Lord Mayor he met lots of local residents and civic dignitaries, including King Charles III (then the Prince of Wales) and Princess Diana on several occasions.

"Dad loved his work and the City of Stoke-on-Trent where he was born and raised with his two brothers Eugene and Roy, who also played for Stoke. Dad also won an award for "It's my City" which was presented to him again by the late Princess Diana.” - Doug's son Martin Brown.

Leroy Chax - local barber and businessman

"Hello, my name is Leeroy Chax from Chax Barbers and today, I'm here to celebrate Black History. Black History Month is about encouraging and embracing achievements accomplished by people in our communities. For me, Black History is about empowering each individual around us. So, it's important to explore cultural heritage because you need to understand where you come from.

"You need to know your roots. As a black person, you need to understand who you are. So for me, I'm from Zimbabwe. So I travelled up from Zimbabwe all the way to the United Kingdom as a young kid. And I've seen my parents work so hard from a young age and that's given me the drive to come here and start working hard as well. So, it's very empowering when you see a journey and sort of understanding where you come from and then you see what you have, you have to work for everything in life to get to where you need to be. So, for me, my journey began as a young professional football player, playing for the likes of Port Vale, Stoke City, coming through the ranks and then as I went on to university, I changed my line of path from studying sports science, I decided to go for barbering, so I could help, and touch so many lives, and empower each other in the communities So, having myself and growing to teaching a lot of kids in the community some opening their own shops about over ten, people I’ve trained, and have gone in different ways to open and it's time to help others as well. So, just that journey alone of growing and empowering everyone around me has helped me to get to what I am. Now, I've got like two shops where we’re bringing in more people in from the communities and we're helping and teaching each other to aim for greatness and help each other become successful."

Paul Robeson - Hollywood actor, singer and civil rights activist

Hollywood actor and musician, and civil rights activist Paul Robeson visited Stoke-on-Trent and signed the Lord Mayor's visitor book in 1958 during his last tour of the UK.

Robeson embarked on a world tour using London as his base. In 1958, he gave 28 performances at towns and cities around the UK, in which he performed at the Victoria Hall, Hanley, as part of his final UK tour.

Earlier in his career, in 1939, he had starred in a film that was shot in Silverdale, over the border in Newcastle-under-Lyme, called The Proud Valley that was premiered in London. 

The Proud Valley was Robeson’s last British film. Despite having starred in such successful films as Sanders of the River and achieved best-selling record sales with The Canoes Song from the soundtrack, The Proud Valley was his personal favourite.