This Woman Is Using Instagram To Teach People About Black History
A young woman is using her Instagram to educate people during Black History Month.
Varaidzo has been sharing her illustrations of relatively unknown black people, along with brief profile about their history and contribution to British society.
"I started this series because I had been researching the 1930s for something I was writing and I was surprised to find enter networks of Black people who had been living, working, and studying in Britain," she told Metro.
"They didn't seem to be living these harsh, miserable lives totally defined by racism, which is sometimes the impression I get when I think of Black people from British history."
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my life is so hectic rn you can tell these are getting more and more rushed but look we try push through. i meant to post this yesterday but i forgot. it's probably one of the most harrowing tales of how british people historically saw black people. sara forbes bonetta was born in what is now ogun state in nigeria in 1843, and was a egbado (now yewa) princess named aina. her village was raided in 1848 by the dahomey army on a hunt to find slaves, and both of her parents died. she was sent as a slave and sacrifice to king ghezo of dahomey in what is now benin. a british naval captain called frederick forbes convinced king ghezo 'king of the blacks' to give sara as a present to queen victoria 'queen of the whites' (his words). so he renamed her, forbes after himself and bonetta after his naval ship (literally wtf) and off they went to england. he introduced sara to queen victoria who thought she was very intelligent and decided she would be her goddaughter. the queen sent sara to be educated by christian missionaries, but her health suffered in england's cold so she was sent to sierra leone and was educated in freetown until she was 12, when queen victoria demanded her return to england. she was raised by a couple in chatham and queen victoria would provide her with an allowance and had her as a regular guest at windsor. she was exceptionally clever and gifted in almost all subjects, particularly literature, music and art. at 18, a wealthy, older yoruba businessmen and naval officer named james pinson labulo davies proposed to her. initially, she turned him down, but to persuade her she was sent to live with two women in brighton whose house was so dirty and unkept that she eventually accepted the proposal just to move out. when the guests arrived, they made the white men court the black women and the black men court the white woman (lmaooooo). the couple then moved back to west africa and settled in lagos. #saraforbesbonetta #blackhistorymonth #ukblackhistorymonth #blackhistorymonthuk #britishblackhistory
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okay so scott and whaley were minstrel performers... pause... bare with me. harry scott (1879 - 1947) and eddie whaley (1877 - 1960) were two african-american comedians who were invited to perform in sheffield in 1909 and then basically never left the uk after that. they both ended up settling here and becoming british citizens. minstrel shows were still ~a thing~ in the early half of the 20th century and so it was a popular way for black entertainers to make money. their double act was really successful and they toured europe with whaley playing this smarter, larger, gentlemanly figure and scott in blackface playing the skinnier, cheekier fool. in 1934 they both starred in a film called kentucky minstrels, making them the first black performers to star in a british film. the film had them lead as a minstrel show double act named 'mott and bailey' who run out of work and have to tour the uk trying to book gigs with shifty english brehs. it's very meta and actually a really well crafted film that's an interesting insight into racial dynamics across the uk in the 1930s. it's available to rent on bfi player and i really recommend watching it. but if you don't want to pay, search for 'shooting stars' on the bfi player site and you can watch one of their minstrel performances from 1937 for free (this is less good being that it's literally a minstrel show lmao). #blackhistorymonth #blackhistorymonthuk #blackbritishhistory #ukblackhistorymonth #scottandwhaley
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una marson is one of my all time personal heroes. she did sooo much so im just gonna try give highlights. she was born in santa cruz, jamaica in 1905 and her father was a baptist parson. he was on the trustees board of a private boarding school which una attended. despite being very clever, she didn't go on to attend higher education after school and instead moved to kingston and began volunteering as a social worker. In 1926, the Jamaica Critic appointed her as assistant editor and then in 1928 she began publishing her own magazine, the cosmopolitan, making her jamaica's first woman magazine editor and publisher. una moved to london in 1932 where she lodged with harold moody. despite being an accomplished editor in jamaica she struggled to even get secretarial work in england, so threw her attention towards feminist rights and worked alongside moody at the league of coloured peoples, where she became editor of their journal 'the keys'. she also published several poetry pamphlets and three plays, the first of which, at what a price (1933), became the first play written by a black woman on the west end (starring stella thomas). in 1941 she was hired by the bbc to work on their radio show 'calling the west indies' which recorded west indian's in the british army reciting letters to their loved ones over the airwaves. in 1942 she became the producer of the show, and after the war ended it became 'caribbean voices', a variety show that broadcast new writing from caribbean writers of the time (including OGs like vs naipaul and samuel selvon). una also did a lot of other cool stuff like charity work and activism and, like, having a romance with an african prince (delia jarrett-macauley wrote an amazing biography on her which i now have signed thanks to @roch.rw) and if you search the #veedzoarchives tag ive shared some of her poetry before. sadly bc black women are woefully under-appreciated her plays sit in museum archive vaults instead of being easily available for the public to read, whilst many of the caribbean men writers she put on her radio show now exist firmly in the canon. #unamarson #blackhistorymonth #blackbritishhistory #blackhistorymonthuk
The artist and writer was taken aback when she noticed all these Black people who were activists, entertainers and other prominent figures in history, yet were rarely shown in history books or mentioned in schools.
"Most of Black British history focuses on the Windrush era, their descendants, and the Black communities that migrated after," she continued.
"But Black people have always been here. We're not a new demographic on this island. Considering the British empire was built off the slave labour of Black people, you can't actually separate British history from Black people."
Varaidzo noted how she'd never heard of the communities that existed before Windrush, so figured a lot of other people wouldn't have either.
After researching as many pre-Windrush Black people as possible, she created illustrations of them, along with a short profile detailing their significance in history.
"The illustrations are quick doodles so they take between 10-30 minutes, however, the research is the difficult bit," she explained.
"Most of the people I've focused on haven't had their lives of achievements well-recorded and they haven't been written into our modern digital history. It just contributes to their erasure."
Featured Image Credit: Instagram