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Worcestershire Celebrates Black History Month

Image of Earl Ferguson sitting in a chair Published Friday, 23rd October 2020

We're celebrating some of the most important people in Black history from Worcestershire for Black History Month.

Worcestershire is celebrating the important people and events in Black history which have helped shape the UK into the country it is today. 
For the past few years, Worcestershire’s Archive and Archaeology Service has been collecting references to Black people living in Worcestershire. 
Over the years, researchers have been letting the Service know when they find any mention of Black people in the records so that it can be mapped and included within exhibitions. There are around 100 references of Black people in the county, spanning five centuries, taken from parish registers, wills, newspapers, posters and other historic records.
Councillor Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Communities, said: “Black History Month is the perfect opportunity for people from all backgrounds to explore and educate themselves on our Black communities and pioneers in Worcestershire, on how they have remarkably contributed to our county.”
“I’d encourage everyone to get online and find out about our county’s rich Black history.”
Around 5% of the county’s population today are non-white but there have been Black people living in Worcestershire for at least 400 years.
For over thirty years, October has marked Black History month in the UK.
Despite Coronavirus restrictions meaning events are limited now in 2020, the celebration still offers a fantastic opportunity to educate people from all backgrounds on Black history.
To mark Black History Month, Worcestershire’s Archive and Archaeology Service is sharing stories from the past including that of Henry Antione Jetto of Holt, the earliest-known Black person to have lived in Worcestershire. 
His Great-Grandson x11 discovered the reference to him in a parish register dating back to the late 16th century whilst tracing his family history at the Worcestershire History Centre. Mr Jetto was baptised as an adult in Holt in 1596 and was a gardener employed by Sir Henry Bromley of Holt Castle. When he died he was buried in Holt in 1627. He was wealthy enough to draw up a will before he died – only a minority of people left one at this time. In his will he left goods to the value of £17, 15 shillings and 8d, the equivalent of £2,234.61 today. 
Another story shared by the Service is that of Earl Ferguson who was born in Jamaica and moved to Britain. After a career in the Army he settled in Worcestershire and became the first Black Justice of the Peace in the county. He arrived in Worcester in 1970, living in Norton Barracks before buying a house in Northwick with his wife. He was connected to St Paul’s Hostel and Maggs Centre, supporting residents and was part of Worcestershire Race Equality Council. He was later invited to apply to be a magistrate, being the first Black person to be one in the county.
Zoe van Well, Archivist at Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology Services, said: “We feel it’s important to celebrate and observe Black History Month in Worcestershire. We want our collections to represent the diversity we have across our county, and we feel it is important to receive record collections from organisations and individuals to help us represent our diverse communities. Thanks to Paul in our Outreach team our Latest News section of our website Explore The Past features a blog about Black history in our records.” 
Elsewhere, the University of Worcester has compiled a Black History month reading list which includes ethnic minority authors and aims to expand the diversity of people’s bookshelves.
There are plenty of historical books, articles, poems and many archives of Black history that can be read at the Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology Service based at The Hive. 

To find out more visit Explore the Past.