GoodGym and Black History Month

How we are hoping to incorporate Black History Month in our sessions at GoodGym

November 01, 2021

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At GoodGym, we take pride in people, places and communities. But how much notice do we really take of the history of the areas in which we run, walk, cycle and volunteer?

October was Black History Month, this year carrying the strapline "Proud to be" as we are encouraged to dig deeper, look closer, think bigger. Black History Month gave us more opportunities to find out about and celebrate the accomplishments of Black Britons throughout our history.

Black heritage is all around us, and Black History Month was a great chance to introduce some of this to group runs and community missions in our areas. In London, TFL and Experience London have produced this fantastic tube map celebrating the rich and varied contribution Black people have made to London and the UK.


(Experience London, 2021)

While this map is a great starting point for GoodGym groups in London, how can other areas get on board and start the discussion that leads to discoveries about history all around us?

Ivo wrote about his experience about uncovering a Black history gem in Tower Hamlets:

"This weekend I spent some time looking into Black history in Tower Hamlets where I live. Despite Black people being a big part of life here since the Romans were here there is a shockingly little documentation and material culture. This made me think it’s even more important to share the Black history we do know. One resident of Tower Hamlets I didn’t know about was Claudia Jones, a feminist, communist activist born in 1915 in Trinidad. She did extensive work on racial equality in the USA for which she was imprisoned and then deported to the UK. Here, she joined the communist party in which she experienced further racism. She became a highly effective activist, founding the West Indian Gazette and campaigned against racism in housing, education and employment. In response to the Notting Hill riots in 1959 she organised a carnival in St Pancras Town Hall and this became an important part of the history of what became the Notting Hill carnival."

Group Operations manager Theresa also shared some fascinating research about the former Mayor of Battersea:

John Archer was the former Mayor of Battersea and the first black person to hold a senior public office in London. He lived at 55 Brynmaer Road in Battersea with his first wife for almost 20 years, during the period of his most significant political achievements. It was from number 55, a terraced house where Archer’s political career from his first election to Battersea Council to his historic elevation to the office of Mayor, took place. John Archer was elected Mayor of Battersea on 10 November 1913 by his fellow councillors. It was the first time that a black man held such a senior position in public office and he won by a single vote.

In his acceptance speech he said, “They will look at Battersea, and say, ‘It is the greatest thing you have done. You have shown you have no racial prejudice, but recognise a man for what you think he has done’.”

Archer, a man of the people was politically active long after his one-year term as Mayor, opposing cuts in unemployment amongst other things. Born in June 1863 to parents, Barbadian ships steward and an Irishwoman in Liverpool. Married to Margaret in the early 1890s and later moved to Battersea where at the time records show that he was a singer although it is believed he was also a student of medicine. But it was not until 1900 when attending the Pan-African Conference held in London where he met leading members of the African diaspora like Henry Sylvester Williams. Later in November 1906 Williams won a seat as a Progressive in Marleybone Borough council , whilst Archer at the same time won his seat in Battersea Borough Council. He held it for a term but then lost it in 1909 only to win it back in 1912, 1919 and finally, 1931 where he was elected as deputy leader of the Labour group. John Archer died on 14 July 1932 in St James Hospital, Balham, after a brief illness.

The funeral was reported by the local press of the time South Western Star and regarded as being 'an elaborate and affecting tribute'. The procession took in some key landmarks in the area and even passed close to where GoodGym Wandsworth would meet to start runs on , “up Latchmere Road, and round Eland Road into Lavender Hill. The Municipal Buildings and Town Hall were passed at a very slow pace. Many of the Borough Council officers were waiting outside the building to see the cortege pass” ( South Western Star, 22 July 1932) The first Black Mayor in Britain was Allen Glaser Minns elected in Theford Norfolk in 1904 . "It would be great to hear some more interesting facts about that", adds Theresa.

There is more potential for us to connect with Black History in our areas for next year's Black history month and throughout the year. Last year in Tower Hamlets we collaborated with Trapped in Zone one to produce a mural and this year there have been local events shared in our community such as the Maryland Primary School Art Exhibition honoring Black Newham Heroes and Celebrating Black British artists.

If we aim to play an important part in our communities we need to understand them and Black history is an important part of this.

We'd love you to share what you found out about Black history in your area this month!

Helpful reading: 100 Great Black Britons

Have your own GoodGym story to share with the community? Email and we'll be in touch.
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