In terms of statues that celebrate Black history, there’s The Bronze Woman next to Stockwell tube station, which was created to honour Black women. There’s also the Mary Seacole statue next to St Thomas’ Hospital. It took 12 years to fundraise for it and there was a lot of opposition. That’s the only named statue of a Black woman in London. When it comes to men, there’s a statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square that was built in 2007. It was supposed to be in Trafalgar Square but Westminster Council said no. There’s also a bust of Mandela next to the Royal Festival Hall. It was put up in October 1985, when he was still in prison, but vandalised soon after, so they had to re-erect it two feet higher. It’s still there now. And there’s a bust of Oliver Tambo, Mandela’s right-hand man, in Albert Road Recreation Ground near Alexandra Palace. He lived in north London for years.
There’s a long history in the UK of Black civil rights demonstrations. All Saints Road in Notting Hill was the headquarters of the west London Black Panthers. They’d meet at The Mangrove, a restaurant run by Frank Critchlow. He was an activist and had a lawyer stationed at the restaurant who’d give free advice to Black men who’d been unfairly arrested. It’s closed now, but there’s a plaque there in honour of Critchlow. It was a centre of political activity and is a landmark for the Black community.
‘Black History Walks’ by Tony Walker (published by Jacaranda Books) is out on Dec 12.