October is Black History Month, which we are marking by sharing suggestions of notable Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people whose stories and contributions could be highlighted in schools, across the eight curricular areas of the Curriculum for Excellence, as one aspect of a whole-school approach to anti-racist education. The final curricular areas we are highlighting are Social Studies, Technologies, Religious and Moral Education and Health and Wellbeing.

Suggested people to celebrate

Engineers and tech gurus

Did you know that Bessie Coleman was the world’s first licensed Black aviator?

Bessie Coleman was the first civilian licensed African-American pilot in the world. She developed an early interest in flying, but African Americans, Native Americans, and women had no flight-school opportunities in the United States, so she saved up money to go to France in 1919 to become a licensed pilot. She soon became a successful air show pilot in the United States. She toured the country barnstorming, parachute jumping, and giving lectures to raise money for an African-American flying school. Bessie would only perform if the crowds were desegregated and entered through the same gates.


Learn more: https://www.nationalaviation.org/our-enshrinees/coleman-bessie/



Did you know that Mary Jackson was NASA's first black female engineer?

Mary Jackson (born 1921, died 2005) was an African American mathematician and aerospace engineer at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which in 1958 was succeeded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She worked at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, for most of her career. She started as a computer at the segregated West Area Computing division. She took advanced engineering classes and, in 1958, became NASA's first black female engineer. After 34 years at NASA, Jackson had earned the most senior engineering title available. She realized she could not earn further promotions without becoming a supervisor. She accepted a demotion to become a manager of both the Federal Women’s Program, in the NASA Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, and of the Affirmative Action Program. In this role, she worked to influence both the hiring and promotion of women in NASA's science, engineering, and mathematics careers. Jackson's story features in the non-fiction book ‘Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race’ (2016). She is one of the three protagonists in Hidden Figures, the film adaptation released the same year.

Learn morehttps://www.nasa.gov/content/mary-jackson-biography


Did you know that Elijah McCoy was a mechanical engineer, certified in Scotland, who had 57 U.S. patents?

Elijah McCoy was a Canadian born African-American inventor and engineer who was notable for his 57 patents, most related to the lubrication of steam engines. He was the son of fugitive slaves who had escaped from Kentucky to Canada through the Underground Railroad. At age 15, in 1859, Elijah McCoy was sent to Edinburgh, Scotland for an apprenticeship and study. He was certified in Scotland as a mechanical engineer:

Learn more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elijah_McCoy


Politicians and scholars

Did you know that Diane Abbott was the first Black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons?

Diane Abbott is a British Labour Party politician who was appointed Shadow Home Secretary in October 2016. She was first elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hackney North and Stoke Newington at the 1987 general election, when she became the first Black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons. Abbott's speech on civil liberties, in a debate on the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 won The Spectator magazine's "Parliamentary Speech of the Year" award and further recognition at the 2008 Human Rights awards.

Learn more: http://www.dianeabbott.org.uk/


Did you know that Kimberlé W. Crenshaw is an academic who was the first person to discuss the intersectionality between different characteristics of those who experience prejudice?

Kimberle Crenshaw is a Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and the University of California, Los Angeles, and has written in the areas of civil rights, black feminist legal theory, and race, racism, and the law. Crenshaw is director of the Law School's Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISPS), which she founded in 2011. She is also co-founder of the African American Policy Forum. She said, “Black women's intersectional experiences of racism and sexism have been a central but forgotten dynamic in the unfolding of feminist and antiracist agendas.”

Learn more: https://www.law.columbia.edu/faculty/kimberle-crenshaw


Sports players/athletes

Did you know that Colin Kaepernick is an American football player who made a stand against racial injustice?

Colin Kaepernick is an American football quarterback who became a national figure when he chose to kneel on one knee rather than stand while the United States national anthem was being played before the start of NFL games, to protest how young Black men were being treated by the police, in solidarity with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.

Learn more:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/sports/colin-kaepernick-nfl-protests.html


Did you know that Kelly Holmes is an Olympic athlete who won Gold for team GB?

Kelly Holmes specialised in the 800 metres and 1500 metres events and won a gold medal for both distances at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. She set British records in numerous events and still holds the records over the 600, 800 and 1000 metre distances.

Learn more: https://www.damekellyholmestrust.org/dame-kelly-holmes


Did you know that Andrew Watson was the world's first association footballer of Black heritage?

Born in Demerara, British Guiana (now Guyana) on 18 May 1857, Andrew Watson was the son of Scottish sugar plantation manager and former slave owner Peter Miller and local girl Rose Watson. He is widely considered to be the world's first association footballer of Black heritage (his father was white and mother Black) to play at international level.  He was capped three times for Scotland between 1881 and 1882. Watson also played for Queen's Park, the leading Scottish club at the time, and later became their secretary. He led the team to several Scottish Cup wins, thus becoming the first player of Black heritage to win a major competition.  

Learn more: https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/bhm-firsts/andrew-watson-first-black-international-footballer/

and https://thesefootballtimes.co/2016/04/19/andrew-watson-the-silent-pioneer-for-black-footballers/


Religious and moral leaders

Did you know that Al Sharpton is an American civil rights activist?

Al Sharpton, an American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, was described by Barack Obama as "the voice of the voiceless and a champion for the downtrodden."

Learn more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Sharpton


Did you know that Bob Marley, the musician, was a committed Rastafari?

Bob Marley was a committed Rastafari who infused his music with a sense of spirituality.

Learn more: http://www.bobmarley.com/


If you have more ideas of BME people whose contribution to Social Studies, Technologies, Religious and Moral Education and Health and Wellbeing may have been overlooked and could be highlighted in schools, please share them with Jenny Kemp (jkemp@eis.org.uk).


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