London Through the Lens of Black British History

Walk through these iconic sites in the capital

By Google Arts & Culture

London is a city filled with history. From the birth of musical legend Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in Holborn to the 1981 uprisings in Brixton, the capital holds some of the most significant moments in Black British History. Take a trip down memory lane through these iconic London sites...

LDN WMN artwork of Olive Morris by Rene MatićOriginal Source: Mayor of London

Holborn

Musical legend Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is one of the most iconic Black British composers in history. Coleridge-Taylor was born in Holborn in 1875 before moving to Croydon with his mother, where he learnt to play the violin and was already singing in his local church choir by the young age of five. 

Hammersmith

Another famous birth in London was the UK’s first hip hop rapper, Derek Boland, who was born in Hammersmith in 1965. Boland later made the move from west to east London and was raised in Woodford by his mother, Jenny Boland.

Notting Hill

If you’re in London on the late August bank holiday weekend, you can’t miss Notting Hill Carnival. This three day annual African-Caribbean event has taken place on the streets of Notting Hill since the post-1948 migration of people from the Caribbean.

King’s College London

The Jamacian-born physician Dr Harold Moody, who established the League of Colored Peoples in 1931, studied for his degree here at King’s College London. After studying, he was denied several jobs on the grounds of race, so took it upon himself to create his own practice in Peckham in 1913 instead.

50 Carnaby Street

The Black British music scene began its journey to creative independence at the Florence Mills Social Parlour, a jazz club founded in 1935 on Carnaby Street. This musical hub saw London’s first steel band make its debut in 1952 and has been known by many names through the ages, including Blue Lagoon, Club Eleven, and Sunset Club.

Trinity Gardens, Brixton

Decades later, the music scene went from the streets straight into people’s homes through the power of the radio. In 1990, Choice FM became Britain’s first licenced 24-hour Black music radio station, broadcasting from studios near Trinity Gardens all across South London.

Brixton

Brixton is a hub for Black British history and has been shaped by the social and political tensions that took place here. In 1981, triggered  by racism and hostility, Black youths took to the streets in what would become known as the Brixton uprising.

Effra Hall Tavern, Brixton

In London’s Swinging Sixties, artist Rudi Patterson was a self-propelled star and his final art exhibition Visions of Color was held in this Caribbean-owned Effra Hall Tavern in Brixton in 2011. 

Windrush Square, Brixton

The Black Cultural Archives (BCA) was established in 1981 but has been based in Brixton’s Windrush Square since 2014. This site for the public institution may be fairly new but the history within its walls goes back decades.

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