To celebrate Black History Month we look back on some of society’s little known but most influential Black trailblazers. 

Ignatius Sancho (c. 1729? – 14 December 1780)

Writer, composer, shopkeeper and abolitionist, Ignatius Sancho was celebrated in the late 18th-century as a man of letters, a social reformer and an acute observer of English life. He is the only Briton of African heritage known to have voted in the 18th century for members of parliament in Westminster. To eighteenth-century British abolitionists he became a symbol of the humanity of Africans and immorality of the slave trade. 

Mary Seacole (23rd November1805 – 14 May 1881)

A British-Jamaican business woman and nurse who set up the "British Hotel" behind the lines during the Crimean War. When the Crimean War broke out, she was one of two outstanding nurses to tend to the wounded, along with Florence Nightingale. Hoping to assist, Seacole applied to the War Office but was refused, so she travelled independently and set up her hotel and tended to the battlefield wounded. She became extremely popular among service personnel, who raised money for her when she faced destitution after the war.

Evelyn Dove (11 January 1902 – 7 March 1987)

A British singer and actress, who early in her career drew comparisons with Josephine Baker. Of Sierra Leone Creole and English parentage, Dove built a solid reputation in Britain through her work with the BBC in the 1940s, and also performed internationally, travelling to France, Germany, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Hungary, the United States, India and Spain.

Stuart McPhail Hall (3 February 1932 – 10 February 2014)

Jamaican-born British Marxist sociologist, cultural theorist and political activist. Hall, along with Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, was one of the founding figures of the school of thought that is now known as British Cultural Studies or The Birmingham School of Cultural Studies. Hall is credited with playing a role in expanding the scope of cultural studies to deal with race and gender, and with helping to incorporate new ideas derived from the work of French theorists like Michel Foucault.