Black History Month

Explore and discover as the next generation of creatives, thinkers and cultural leaders reflect on the sitters in our Collection.

Meet the Artist

Anthony Comber-Badu by Timothy Eliot Spurr

Anthony Comber-Badu

Get to know our Digital Artist in Residence Anthony Comber-Badu. Anthony responds to the Gallery’s Collection, exploring ideas connected to spatial equity and social injustice.

Read more about the artist’s process in this insightful interview.

Re-imagining Toussaint L'Ouverture

Born into slavery around 1743, Toussaint L'Ouverture was a Haitian general who became a leader and figurehead of an uprising of enslaved people that overcame French rule in St Domingue (now Haiti). Though there are historical images of Toussaint, most were made in Britain and France and none are from life. Watch the film below to hear artists Peter Brathwaite and Francois Cauvin reflect on their re-imaginings of Toussaint and why they chose to create these contemporary works.

 

John Blanke and Black art in Tudor Britain

The Westminster Tournament Roll in the College of Arms, London, is a record of the 1511 tournament that King Henry VIII staged to celebrate the birth of his son with Katherine of Aragon. On the roll, two images of John Blanke appear, who was a royal trumpeter in the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII. Blanke is the only Black Tudor for whom there is an identifiable image, with the roll he appears on currently being digitally displayed in the National Portrait Gallery's Tudor rooms.

Find out more about John Blanke and his representation on the roll in our film with Michael Ohajuru, founder of The John Blanke Project.

 

Black History Walks

 


In this first video, we go to Kings College London and Central YMCA to explore the history and work of Harold Moody, whom we hold a bust of in our Collection. Born in Jamaica, Moody came to England in 1904 to study medicine at Kings College. The racism he experienced meant he couldn't find a job as a physician with any existing practice, leaving him with no option but to set up his own practice.

 


In this second video, Black History Walks took us to the Museum of London Docklands and Canary Wharf Pier to share with us the history of the portrait The Secret of England's Greatness by Thomas Barker. This portrait shows Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle presenting an ambassador from East Africa with the Bible in what is likely to have been imagined scene that may have been based on an actual encounter, though it is not known for certain.

We visit Museum of London Docklands and Canary Wharf Pier in this video to unpack the colonial origins of the painting, with both of these areas of London being associated with trade during the Victorian period. The painting itself epitomises the Victorian concept of the British Empire.

 


In this final film, we went to Notting Hill to share the story of Claudia Jones, the mother of the Notting Hill Carnival. Jones helped launch the Carnival in 1959, which was a celebration of the Black community in response to the Notting Hill Riots. Jones also founded Britain’s first major Black newspaper – The West Indian Gazette.

Virtual tour

Alayo Akinkugbe, art historian and founder of @ablackhistoryofart, explores key figures from the Gallery’s Collection.

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    Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,    by Walter Wallis,    1881,    NPG 5724,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, by Walter Wallis, 1881
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    'Sadie' (Zadie Smith),    by Toyin Ojih Odutola,    2018-2019,    NPG 7105,    © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
'Sadie' (Zadie Smith), by Toyin Ojih Odutola, 2018-2019
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    Malick Sidibé,    by Sal Idriss,    March 2003,    NPG x126108,    © Sal Idriss / National Portrait Gallery, London
Malick Sidibé, by Sal Idriss, March 2003
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    Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies)),    by Camille Silvy,    15 September 1862,    NPG Ax61384,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta (later Davies)), by Camille Silvy, 15 September 1862
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    Carlos Acosta,    by Sal Idriss,    2004,    NPG x126372,    © Sal Idriss / National Portrait Gallery, London
Carlos Acosta, by Sal Idriss, 2004