Celebrating 31 Successful Black People in October

Celebrating the Success of Black People in the UK

Amidst campaigning for Black Lives Matter, lobbying to have Black history acknowledged and taught in schools and fighting for equality of opportunity across the board, we want to stop for a month and celebrate those Black people who have overcome it all to achieve great success in their field. Black people have achieved in every sphere of life in Manchester and across the UK and continue to achieve at the highest levels of society. We want to bring 31 of them to your attention.

Some of them are long gone but while they were alive they changed things in science, music, sport and business. Others are young today and still have many years to achieve even more.

Listen to Legacy 90.1FM for the month of October as our DJs highlight these people and the fantastic contribution they have made to Manchester, the rest of the UK and in some cases, the world.

Here are a few of the people our DJs might decide to talk about out of the hundreds of people our research uncovered.


Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford is a Wythenshawe lad done good. He is living proof that with hard work and ambition young people can achieve anything. He is an English professional footballer who has become one of the best Premier League footballers today. He started playing football at the age of five and was already in the academy at Manchester United by the time he was seven years old. He became the youngest England player to score in his first international match as a senior player in 2016 and was selected for the UEFA Euro 2106. He broke George Best's record as the youngest player to score a goal in European competition and became the youngest player to score in a Manchester Derby in the same year. He was 18 years old that year. He hit the headlines this year when he proved that there was much more to him than an outstanding ability to play football. In the summer, he lobbied for the Government to put more effort into tackling child food poverty and campaigned to have free school meals extended over the summer. He won this campaign and the hearts of the nation with this campaign and looks likely to make a positive impact on society way beyond his footballing years.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (nicknamed the Godmother of Rock and Roll) played a legendary gig in Manchester in 1964 at the at the height of the civil rights era. The gig was part of the American Folk, Blues and Gospel Caravan Tour which played at the Wilbraham Road Station which was out of use at the time. The caravan tour was part of a blues revival that was influencing British music bands such as the Yardbirds, The Animals and the Rolling Stones. Sister Rosetta Tharpe played He's Got the Whole World in His Hands which had been played at Martin Luther King's march on Washington a few months earlier.



Ruth Ibegbuna

Ruth Ibegbuna was originally from West Yorkshire but but as an adult, she has committed herself to Manchester. She started her working career as a teacher and rose to a senior position in a state school in South Manchester. She left that career in 2008 to start Reclaim, a charity that promotes leadership in young people in inner city communities. She got inspired to start the charity when she recognised that young working-class people, no matter what race they were or what town or city they were from, faced an uphill struggle to reach their full potential. Reclaim uses a strength based approach to give a voice to young people across the UK and to help them achieve that potential. In 2016 Ruth was listed as one of the 500 most influential people in the UK by the Sunday Times and today Ruth is a powerful motivational speaker and storyteller and the founder of the Roots Programme which aims to bring people together who are from different lives, cultures and backgrounds to meet, talk and debate the issues that are important to all of us to build understanding and common ground.

Sir Arthur Lewis

Sir W. Arthur Lewis became Britain's first black professor at the Manchester University in 1948. He was 33 years old. In post-war Moss Side and Hulme he established the West Indian Sports and Social Care Centre, among others, so that African Caribbean people would have places to socialise and learn. There was a lot of discrimination and prejudice at that time as new arrivals from the Caribbean came to the UK and he was determined to provide places where new arrivals could meet, learn and train. Lewis was born in St Lucia and lived in Manchester until 1957. He became an expert in developing economies, predicting China's development and advising government across the globe on the costs of racism and exploitation of the poor. He was an Ivy League professor at Princeton and was knighted in 1963. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1979 and The University of Manchester named the Arthur Lewis building after him.

Dr Erinma Bell

Dr Erinma Bell became the first woman to be commemorated with a statue in Manchester Town Hall. The statue is made from 50 confiscated guns. She was the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Manchester and was awarded an MBE in 2010 as well as an honorary doctorate from Salford Univerisity.

She gained these accolades after spending years campaigning for an end to gun violence in inner city communities and setting up the charity, Carisma, in 2002 (now part of Chrysalis, a family support centre). She set up the charity with her husband, Raymond, after witnessing a shooting. She was recognised as one of the 50 most influential women in Manchester in 2017 and now considers herself to be a Community Peace Activist, working as a consultant and speaker, teaching people how to attain peace and resolve conflict within communities using the Peace Toolkit that she developed to reduce gun crime in Moss Side by 93%.

Louise Da Cocodia MBE

Louise da Cocodia MBE was born in Jamaica in 1934 and came to the UK in 1955. She was 21 years old. The NHS was still in its early stages and she was recruited as part of a drive to staff the new organisation.  She became the first black senior nurse in Manchester, being appointed as Assistant Superintendent of District Nurses in 1966. Her experiences of racism from colleagues and patients at work and within UK society in general, spurred her to dedicate herself to equality issues. and she became an anti-racism campaigner. She served on Race Relations committees in the 1960s and 70s and in the 1980s helped to take victims of the Moss Side riots to hospital, later sitting on the Hytner inquiry that investigated the causes of the riots. She later served as a JP and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Manchester, among many other committees and community enterprises. She was awarded the MBE in 2005 for her service to the people of Manchester.

Lemn Sissey

Lemn Sissey is an author, poet and broadcaster who is also the Chancellor of the University of Manchester, patron of AllFM community radio station and patron of Letterbox Club supporting children in care. He was born in Wigan and raised by a foster family until he was 12 when he entered the care system. He penned a drama, 'Something Dark' and made a BBC documentary, 'Internal Fight' about his years in foster care and the formal care system and about his search for his birth mother. At the age of 17 he self-published his first poetry pamphlet 'Perceptions of the Pen' which he sold to striking miners.  He was the official poet for the 2012 London Olympics and was awarded an MBE in 2010. His achievements are too many to mention here and in May this year, he wrote the poem, 'Let There be Peace' in memory of the victims of the Manchester Arena attack. He is living proof of what people can achieve regardless of their start in life.

Diane Modahl

Diane Modahl was born in Manchester to parents who originate from Jamaica. Her career in athletics began when she won 1984 English Schools 800 metres title and she went on to win three Commonwealth Games medals including a gold medal for the 800 metres at Auckland in 1990. She successfully fought against a positive drug test in 1995 when a study by scientists at UMIST supported her claim that the sample taken was flawed. Her life after athletics has been busy with the Greater Manchester Universities conferring honorary degrees of Doctor of Letters on Modahl and three other athletes. She is a non-executive member of the NHS Manchester board and was chief ambassador for StreetGames from 2008 to 2013. She founded, and is still CEO of, the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation in 2010 to give young people, particularly young people in disadvantaged areas, access to athletics coaching opportunities. She also found time to take part in I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! in 2004.

Shevelle Dynot

Shevelle Dynott was born in London. He attended Brixton primary school and when he was seven years old he was chosen to dance by scouts for the 'Chance to Dance' scheme. The scheme aimed to expand ballet's reach beyond it's white middle class base by scouting for dancing talent in inner city schools.  He was the first black child to attend the Royal Ballet School in 1997 and one of the first children to complete the 'Chance to Dance' training and be accepted on the Royal Ballet School's Junior Associates programme. After finishing his training in 2005 he joined the English National Ballet as a company artist, and has appeared in numerous productions: Alice in Wonderland as the Mock Turtle, Puss in BootsThe Nutcracker as the Mouse King and The Sleeping Beauty.

Len 'Benky' Johnson

Len Johnson grew up in working class Clayton, long before the Windrush docked. In an extraordinary life - which began in 1902 - he went from dominating the middleweight boxing division to playing a role in the African independence movements of the forties. Len was the son of a seaman from Sierra Leone and an Irish mum. She was attacked in the street because of the marriage, but young Len experienced little prejudice during his Clayton boyhood - he was just another local kid. It wasn’t until he became one of Britain’s greatest boxers that Johnson was denied his rightful place in history.

Sir David Adjaye

Sir David Adjaye, is an architect who won international acclaim for his diverse designs and innovative use of materials and light. Because of his father’s diplomatic career, he lived in several countries in Africa and the Middle East before the family eventually settled down in London. He started Adjaye Associates in 2000 and after learning his trade on smaller buildings, his work expanded to include large-scale public buildings, such as the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver and the Moscow School of Management. He was selected to work on such prominent projects at a relatively young age which was unusual in the architectural world. He won his most prestigious commission to date in 2009, when he was chosen from a field of respected architects to design the new home of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museaum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC in 2016. Adjaye’s travels as a child allowed him to develop a heightened degree of cultural sensitivity and exposed him to a variety of architectural styles, which he says have influenced his approach to design. That his youngest brother needed the use of a wheelchair was also an influence, as it caused Adjaye to contemplate what he called the “social responsibility” of architecture. Adjaye found time to travel to the capital of every African country, photographing each city. His images were published as a seven-volume set. He also authored or coauthored several other publications,  and received an OBE in 2007. He was knighted in 2017 for his services to architecture.

Charlie Casely-Hayford

Charlie Casely-Hayford is the son of Joe Casely-Hayford OBE, a fashion designer, the great-grandson of politician and writer J E Casely-Hayford MBE and nephew of the cultural historian Gus Casely-Hayford and Margaret Casely-Hayford who is a lawyer, businesswoman and public figure. His family were listed in the 2008 Black Power List as the most influential black family in the UK. Charlie is a menswear designer and founded the international menswear brand Casely-Hayford with his father when he was 22 years old. He was educated at Harrow school and began contributing to styling projects internationally while he was still studying art and design at Central St. Martin's College of Art and Design. He was the global face of Converse's international ad campaign in 2010 and modelled with Coco Sumner as the face of Dr Marten's in 2009. He was chosen by Esquire Magazine as a 'Brilliant Brit', a prediction of 75 young talents who were shaping 2010. He was named one of the most influential people under 40 by GQ magazine.

Arthur Wharton, Sheffield United goalkeeper

Arthur Wharton, who was of royal Ghanaian lineage on his mother’s side, came to the UK to study as a Methodist missionary when he was 17. However, he set the record for the 100 yard dash in 1886 and set a record time for cycling between Blackburn and Preston. He was also a professional cricketer until his 50's and also played rugby union. He is remembered though, for his football achievements. He became a professional footballer in 1889, just months after the Football League was formed, playing as a winger and as a goalkeeper for Ashton North End. He became Stalybridge Rovers player manager and finished his career for Stockport County in 1902. The game was against Newton Health who would later become Manchester United. When he retired he was running a toabcconists in Ashton-under-Lyne, most sportsmen at the time had other jobs to supplement their wages. He was Britain's first black professional footballer and he experienced racism - the press called him the 'dusky flyer' but the fans called him 'Good Old Wharton'. He was in the Home Guard during the 1914-1918 war and was a coal miner when he died in 1930. His legacy is that he helped to increase black participation in football. FIFA have honoured this with a statue at the FIFA headquarters.



Chuka Umunna is a strategic corporate advisor to companies but he is best known for his role as a politician. He was elected to the UK Parliament as the Member of Parliament for Streatham in 2010 and served in this capacity until 2019. He also served as Shadow Minister for Small Business and then as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills from 2011-2015. In this role he was an advocate for responsible capitalism and businesses creating shared value in society. He helped lead a successful campaign against Pfizer's takeover of AstraZeneca to protect the UK's science industry. He instigated establishing an annual Small Business Saturday campaign in 2013 and led trade delegations for business organisations to West Africa and China. He resigned the Labour whip to become an independent MP in 2019 and had a leading role in the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign during the 2016 EU referendum. He co-founded the People's Vote campaign and then joined the Liberal Democrats. He was appointed the party's Treasury and Business spokesperson and Shadow Foreign Secretary leading on international trade. He helped to treble the Liberal Democrat's share of the vote in the 2019 General Election by 19.6%.

Jamal Edwards

Jamal Edwards is the founder of SB.TV which is a youth and music-focused platform. He was only 15 when he founded the platform and he has grown the brand which now has its own record label, Just Jam. He has achieved more than most entrepreneurs in the 10 years between then and now and as well as media, he has published an e-book, dipped into the fashion world, collaborating on a range of caps for Topman and launched a news arm of SB.TV. He was awarded an MBE for services to music. He was born on a West London council estate before becoming a YouTube star as a rapper while he was a teenager working at Topshop. The advertising revenue he earned through his YouTube channel gave him the exposure and finances to start SB.TV - he named it after his rap name, SmokeyBarz. He has worked with Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran and others and his YouTube channel has over 650,000 subscribers. He is also in partnership with another young entrepreneur, Joe Carnell to launch a chain of yoghurt, juice and health bar cafes.  He is the ambassador for the Prince's Trust.


Pablo Fanque

Pablo Fanque was born in Norwich in 1810 but spent most of his life in Greater Manchester. His father was African and his mother was English. He was a master equestrian and tightrope walker who joined the circus as an orphan when he was 11 years old. In his 40's he established stables at Wigan and spent the next three decades travelling around the country with his own show. He often partnered with the famous clown WF Wallett.  He was loved by the press and the British audiences and his generosity was famous. His 'Benefit for Mr Kite' show was memorialised by the Beatles and was just one of many fundraisers he was involved in to raise money for circus people. He established the Knott Mill Easter Fair at the bottom of Deansgate which was a highlight for the people of Manchester. Pablo died in 1871 at the Brittanica Pub, a social end for a man loved by many.

Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE

Maggie Aderin-Pocockis is a British space scientist and science educator. She is an Honorary Research Associate of University College London's Department of Physics and Astronomy. She co-hosts the 'The Sky at Night' with Chris Lintott.  Of Nigerian descent, she was born in London in 1968. She has dyslexia but despite that she gained four A-Levels in maths, physics, chemistry, and biology. She graduated from the Imperial College with a BSc in Physics and completed her PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Aderin-Pocock worked on projects in industry, academia and in government including three years at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency and she was the lead scientist at Astrium which has become the Airbus Group. She is a pioneer in communicating science to the public via her own company, Science Innovation Ltd and she is committed to inspiring a new generation of astronauts, engineers and scientists. Her work with school children has included being a celebrity judge at the National Science and Engineering Competition and she has spoken to around 25,000 children about why she became a scientist. She was the scientific consultant for the mini-series Paradox, appeared on Doctor Who Confidential and presented Do We Really Need the Moon and In Orbit: How Satellites Rule Our World. She has held three fellowships and was awarded an MBE in 2009 for services to science education and was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Staffordshire University the same year.

Dame Sharon White

Dame Sharon Michele White DBE who was born in 1967 is a British businesswoman who is Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership. Before joining John Lewis she had a career in the British civil service, holding Board level positions at the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Internal Development. She was a civil service adviser at the Prime Minister's Policy Unit and in Washington DC, she was a senior economist at the World Bank. She was the first Black person and only the second women to hold the post of Second Permanent Secretary at HM Treasury from 2013-2015 and she ended her civil service career with a role as Chief Executive of Ofcom from March 2015-November 2019. Sharon Studied at Cambridge University and University College London as is an economist and she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2020 for public service. She is a visiting fellow of Nuffield College, University of Oxford and she is a Non-Executive Director of Barratt Developments.


Sir Trevor McDonald

Sir Trevor McDonald was born in 1939 in San Fernando and also has Trinidadian nationality. His started his career in Trinidad employed as a BBC radio producer. In 1973 he became the first Black reporter for the Independent Television News (ITN) where he was promoted to be a sports correspondent and then an international political commentator. In 1980 he joined Channel 4 News and then he returned to ITN in 1989 becoming the presenter of News at Ten in 1992. When that programme ended, he became the presenter of ITV Evening News and from 1999-2005 hosted Tonight with Trevor McDonald. He hosted News at Ten in 2007 but left in 2008 to host The Tonight Programme for ITV. Apart from his presenting roles he also hosted a range of hard hitting 'with Trevor McDonald' documentaries including; The Secret Caribbean, The Secret Mediterranean, The Mafia and Las Vegas. His other programmes include Saturday Night Takeaway, Undercover Customs, the National Television Awards and Have I got News for You, Rose West and Myra Hindley: Their Untold Story. In addition to his very busy career, he is an author. Trevor is considered a national treasure by the UK general public and was knighted in 1999 for services to journalism.


Malorie Blackman OBE

Malorie Blackman OBE was born in Clapham, London in 1962. Her parents were from Barbados. is a British writer of literature and television drama who held the position of Children's Laureate from 2013 to 2015. She uses her science fiction aimed mainly at children and young adults to explore social and ethical issues, for example, she wrote the novel (recently turned into a television drama) 'Noughts and Crosses' which explored racism. primarily writes literature and television drama for children and young adults. She has used science fiction to explore social and ethical issues. Before becoming an author she was a systems programmer and gained an HNC at Thames Polytechnic. She is also a graduate of the National Film and Television School.  She has written over 60 children's books, television scripts and a stage play. She has won over 15 awards for her work. She was the first Black person to write for Doctor Who and her books have been translated into more than 15 languages. Noughts and Crosses was her first book to address racism because, within her writing, she 'wanted to show black children just getting on with their lives, having adventures, and solving their dilemmas, like the characters in all the books I read as a child.' She chose the title Noughts and Crosses for her first book on racism because it is a game that nobody wins. The book was voted 'The Nation's Best-Loved Book' in 2003 with more votes than Lord of the Flies and A Tale of Two Cities. Blackman was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2008.

Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1994 and moved to London with his mother when he was 5 years old. His father remained in Jamaica and was murdered when Raheem was eight. Raheem started playing football at school and joined Queens Park Rangers Football Club in 2003 at the age of 9. He joined Liverpool Football Club in 2010 where he achieved alot, including becoming the youngest player to score a competitive goal for Liverpool, being nicknamed the 'Wonder Boy', winning the Golden Boy award in 2014, debuting in the UEFA Champions League and being named Young Player of the Season and PFA Young Player of the Year. He left Liverpool amidst strong criticism from fans to join Manchester City in 2015. In 2014 he began his England World Cup career. More recently, he has become a key voice against racism in and outside football. In 2020 he has stepped up his campaigning by demanding that Government, social media platforms and football leaders take action to stop racial abuse online.

David Harewood

David Harewood was born in Birmingham. His parents are from Barbados and moved to England in the 50s and 60s. He started at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art when he was 18 years old and made history when he became the first black actor to play the title role in Othello at the National Theatre in 1997. In 2012 he received an Member of the Most Excellent Order (MBE). He has played many roles on TV from Cold Feet to Spooks and The Night Manager and in his films he has played alongside some of the most famous actors. David works to encourage the black community to donate stem cells, to donate organs and blood and to vote in elections. He campaigns for positive mental health and was the Ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation in 2018. He works with UNICEF and was goalkeeper for Soccer Aid in the same year. He has a commitment to black representation in the arts and campaigning for realistic roles for black and ethnic actors and audiences.

Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott was born in 1953 in London. Her parents are from Jamaica and both left school when they were 14 years old. She was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge. After university, Diane became an administration trainee at the Home Office from 1976 to 1978 and then she was a Race Relations Officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties. She left to become a researcher and reporter for Thames Television in 1980 and then TV-am. In 1985 she was a press officer for Ken Livingstone at Greater London Council and Head of Press and Public Relations at Lambeth Council. She became Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in 1987 and has served as Shadow Home Secretary from 2016 to 2020. She was the first black woman elected to Parliament and is the longest-serving black MP in the House of Commons. She voted against the Iraq War and the proposed introduction of ID cards. She stood for the party's leadership in 2010 but lost to Ed Milliband. She supported Jeremy Corbyn's bid to become Labour leader in 2015 and was a key Corbyn ally and backed the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign. She has faced a disproportionate amount of sexism and racism since becoming a public figure, receiving almost half of all abusive tweets directed at women MPs during the 2017 election campaign. Despite that she is committed to speaking up on human rights, civil liberties and women's rights, as well as representing her constituency who have consistently voted for her since 1987