5 Key Black Figures from Greater Manchester

A celebration of 5 prominent black figures who affect our lives through arts, education, law and activism

By Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Salford Quays (21st Century)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Influential Figures

Manchester was recently voted as the 3rd best City in the world by Time Out Magazine. 
Influential Black individuals have played an integral role in helping shape the landscape of Greater Manchester.

Edward Nelson (20th Century)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Edward T Nelson (1874 - 1940)

Edward T Nelson, who was born in Guyana, was one of the first black barristers in England. Having studied at St John’s College Oxford, he became a barrister in 1904 and his legal practice was based at King Street in the centre of Manchester. Picture from Tameside MBC.

Famous Trial

In 1909 he played a leading role in one of Greater Manchester's most infamous criminal trials, successfully defending Cornelius Howard against the accusation of murdering George Harry Storrs of Gorse Hall. 

Arthur Lewis Four (21st Century)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Olive Morris (1952 - 1979)

Olive Morris was a community activist in the 1970s. Despite dying aged only 27, she made a great impact on the rights of black women. While at the University of Manchester she co-founded the Manchester Black Women’s Co-operative and the Black Women’s Mutual Aid Group. 

Olive Morris (21st Century)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Education Campaigner

Olive Morris worked with parents in the black community to campaign for better education provision for their children. She received recognition for her work through the renaming of a council building in Lambeth and the creation of the Olive Morris Memorial Award.

Read another story about Olive Morris Here

Resistance to Bantu Education (1955-06)Original Source: Baileys African History Archive

Nana Bonsu

Also known as Beresford 'Berry' Edwards, Nana Bonsu is regarded as a founding father of Manchester’s African-Caribbean community. He came to Britain in 1960 and fought to better the lives of those in that community through empowerment, better housing and political awareness.

Fighter for Equality

Nana was Manchester branch chairman of the Pan African Congress Movement and regional secretary for the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination. He is recognised in the list of 100 Great Black Britons. Fellow campaigner Whit Stennett shares his memories.

Sharon Amesu 2 (21st Century)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Sharon Amesu

Born and bred in Manchester, Sharon Amesu is a Leadership Speaker and Executive Coach who has influenced business leaders to lead more effectively, more courageously and, importantly, more inclusively. She empowers people to make a difference.

Sharon Amesu (21st Century)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

The Movement

Sharon recognised how coaching can impact lives by supporting individuals to be more effective in their areas of life and work. She decided to focus on coaching leaders as "influencing people at higher levels will help the masses."

Sharon Amesu (21st Century)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Branch Chair of Greater Manchester Institute of directors

Sharon is the first woman to be Branch Chair of The Greater Manchester Institute of directors. In this position she worked with senior business leaders in the region to explore how to enhance productivity with an emphasis on the individual. 

Sharon Amesu 3 (21st Century)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Leadership Qualities

From her plethora of experience, Sharon notes the inherent contradiction when it comes to leadership - "The most effective leaders serve others, enablers, draw up the potential of others." Sharon notes that her strongest attributes are resilience and courage. 

Lemn Sissay Headshot (21st Cenutry)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Lemn Sissay MBE

Lemn Sissay MBE is a world renowned author and broadcaster. He has been BAFTA nominated and is an International Prize writer, who was awarded an MBE for services to literature by The Queen.

Lemn Sissay telling his story (21st Century)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Telling his story

Born in Wigan, Greater Manchester to an Ethiopian Mother, Lemn Sissay took stories from his own life to produce some of his most notable work.

lemn sissay - Olympic poet (21st Century)Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Olympic Poet

In 1995 he made a BBC Documentary called Internal Flight which depicted the early stages of his life. In 2012, he became the official Poet of the London Olympics.


As well as his writing and broadcasting career, Lemn Sissay also serves as Chancellor of the University of Manchester. He is an inspiration to many young people as an established figure who has overcome adversities to thrive in his field. 

Credits: Story

University of Manchester
Mark John Mcguire
Tameside Local Studies Library
Christine Clough (Tameside Local History Forum)
Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council 
Whit Stennett 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Black History and Culture UK
Celebrate Black history with a selection of art and culture in the UK
View theme
Google apps