Black History Month: Saluting our Sisters
October is Black History Month in the UK, an event that has been celebrated nationwide for more than 30 years.
The month was originally founded to recognise the contributions that people of African and Caribbean backgrounds have made to the UK over many generations. Now, Black History Month has expanded to include the history of not just African and Caribbean people but black people in general.
Why is Black History Month important?
It is held to highlight and celebrate the achievements and contributions of the black community in the UK. Throughout history, black people have made huge contributions to society in the fields of art, literature, music, science, sport, and many more areas.
Although black people have always been present in the UK, there has been a lack of representation in the history books. Contributions made by black people have often been ignored or played down because black people weren't treated the same way as other people because of the colour of their skin.
Here in Shropshire, we have a number of resources to share across the month.
These will build up to our efforts to once again mark Show Racism the Red Card Day on Friday 21 October, with more details on that to come over the next couple of weeks.
This year’s Black History Month theme of “Saluting our Sisters” is very much complementary to the Show Racism the Red Card Theme, “Change hearts, change minds, change lives”, as we think about gender as well as colour.
We start with someone we have featured before: it is a privilege to share her story again, and to look afresh at her achievements, as a woman of colour.
Feature: Lilian Bader: a pioneer with a Shropshire connection
Lilian Bader was born in 1918 in Liverpool and went on to become one of the very first black women to join the British Armed Forces
The reality of being a Mixed Raced Woman, in Britain in the early 1930’s, would be one her intelligence and popularity would never be able to escape and at the age of twenty, Lilian would still be at the Convent she joined as a nine year old, simply because nobody was willing to hire her for work.
However, the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 would be a surprisingly positive point for Lilian who now found herself accepted as a Canteen Assistant at NAAFI, Catterick Camp and away from the convent for the first time. It took only seven weeks for Lilian to be disappointed, as she was sacked from her role due to the fact her father was born outside of the UK.
Determined not to let her background be a stumbling block, Lilian found work again in January 1940. Now working on a farm near RAF Topcliffe, Lilian was once again feeding soldiers who ventured outside of the base. She would leave the farm voluntarily and would take up the role of a domestic servant until 1941, where a chance to join the army once again surfaced.
Lilian was accepted into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force on 28 March, 1941 and was sent to York. She qualified as an Instrument repairer; a relatively new job that had been made available to women in 1940. Her academic prowess and personable nature shone through and after passing several exams, Lilian graduated as a First Class Airwoman and was soon in Shropshire where her skills saw her being promoted to Corporal and leading Aircraftwoman.
Lilian would go on to marry another mixed raced serviceman, Ramsay Bader in 1943 and in 1944; would be granted compassionate leave as she left to start a family with the Tank driver.
Lilian Bader’s achievements do not stop once she left the army. Now a mother of two children, she sought it necessary to go back to school, achieving the necessary ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels to secure a degree at University of London; a degree that would let her go onto be a teacher.
Shropshire Archives operates across Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin. We aim to collect material which relates to the whole community of Shropshire past and present. We are aware that it is hard to find references to men and women of colour in the past and we would be grateful for any help which enables us to build a more complete picture of life in Shropshire.
Many people take the time to do research into their backgrounds or find out more about black people who have made a difference to the UK. In so doing, you could be helping us all to recognise and celebrate the richness and diversity of our collective history.
If people would like to share their knowledge and perspectives about their families, or look into the archives to find out more, the Archives service would be delighted to hear from them and to assist them. In so doing, we can reach a fuller collective understanding of the contributions that people of colour have made to life in Shropshire.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org