Published: 30 October 2020
2020 has been a year of major change. The impacts of COVID-19 and the lockdown that followed it are still being felt, even as the University is starting to open back up.
But the pandemic is far from the only thing that will make this year memorable.
The prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death in police custody of George Floyd and the riots that followed changed the way we talk about systemic racism.
Many of us have taken it as a long-overdue opportunity to reflect more openly and honestly about the contribution people of colour have made to British society.
We want to conclude Black History Month by celebrating a pioneering figure with links not only to London, but our parent city of Sunderland as well.
Celestine Edwards was born in Dominica sometime in the late 1850s. Like many Black people from the time, we don’t have much more information about his early life.
What we do know is that he became a lecturer, writer, editor and anti-colonial campaigner who rose to prominence in 19th-century Sunderland before moving to London to expand his career.
It was in the north-eastern city that he found a receptive audience for his passionate anti-racism speeches.
Known for his well-spoken and engaging debate style, he continued to return to Sunderland throughout the rest of his life.
They have been working with Sunderland Council to commemorate his life and works by placing a heritage blue plague in the heart of the city.
“The day is coming when Africans will speak for themselves. The day is breaking, and the despised African, whose only crime is his colour, will yet give an account of himself.” - Celestine Edwards
Those safety measures include a one-way route around the building, free masks, hand gel and plastic screens.
You can make an appointment for any of these through Compass.
As part of the celebrations around the unveiling of the blue plague, Professors Smith and Chambers sat down University Chaplain Reverend Chris Howson along with fellow staff members, students and guests from across the north-east.
The conversations that followed have been made into a series of podcasts.
They talk about the importance of Celestine’s work and the background to how the blue plaque came to be.
You can read more on the RaCE Network on our Research pages.
If you need to talk about any concerns you have around race and your student experience; you can set up a one-to-one meeting with our Health and Wellbeing team through Compass.