Black History Month
The 1st of October marks the start of Black History Month in Britain (in the USA it takes place in February).
Creating pop art inspired by the popular culture of previous decades highlights the historic lack of diversity but there were pioneering performers who combated bias, made their mark, and created history in the process.
Donyale was also the first Black woman to have a shop-window mannequin created in her image – just after the mannequin of Twiggy in 1966, Adel Rootstein released the Donyale version. As well as her career in fashion, the African American model appeared in films by Dali, Andy Warhol, and Federico Fellini.
Cameron went on to have a long and varied career and was still active in film & television, recently appearing in “Inception” and “The Queen”, up until his death in August 2020. With appearances in the Bond film “Thunderball” and cult projects including “The Prisoner” and “Danger Man”, Earl Cameron was the oldest living actor to have appeared in “Doctor Who”.
Art & Hue has reimagined the poster to make Earl Cameron the star of the film, which he truly is.
Dame Shirl has the unique distinction of singing more than one Bond theme, in fact performing three – Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, and of course the bombastic Goldfinger.
All composed by John Barry, Goldfinger was written by Barry with lyrics by Joan Collins‘ husband at the time Anthony Newley. Packed full of powerful brass, the song ended on such a long note that it was reported that Shirley nearly fainted to sustain it during recording.
Renowned for her glamourous outfits and idiosyncratic hand movements, Dame Shirl had her own prime time entertainment show on BBC1 during the 1970s and she continues to appear in TV specials.
Miss Ross & The Supremes
Miss Ross, Mary Wilson, & Florence Ballard garnered fans worldwide with their successful combination of attractive voices, catchy tunes, stylish looks, and elegant choreography.
Hits came thick and fast including “Baby Love”, “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Stop! In the Name of Love”, “I Hear a Symphony”, “You Can’t Hurry Love”, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, “Reflections”, “I Second That Emotion”, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”, and many, many more…
The Queen of Soul
Her music and performances saw her crowned the The Queen of Soul before the 1960s came to an end, a title she retained all her life.
In later years, she collaborated with contemporary musicians including Annie Lennox and George Michael and was invited to perform at the White House.
One of the few Black actresses to appear in a British saucy comedy in the 1970s, Vikki Richards also appeared in “Black Snake” with Anouska Hempel & David Prowse, “Curse of the Crimson Altar” with Christopher Lee, “Zeta One” with Valerie Leon, James Robertson-Justice, Charles Hawtrey, & Carol Hawkins, “Ghost in the Noonday Sun” with Peter Sellers, “Voyage of the Damned” with Faye Dunaway, “Marty” with Marty Feldman, Michael Palin, & Terry Jones, the TV series “Up Pompeii!” with Frankie Howerd & Valerie Leon, “Return of The Saint”, “The Gentle Touch”, & “Howard’s Way”.
Born as Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a nickname was acquired, and stuck, during his schooldays.
The Brazilian footballer made the pinnacle of his sport, becoming the highest-paid player for a time and scoring a World-record beating amount of goals throughout his career.
Black musicians & performers pioneered during the golden age of jazz, creating new musical forms and gaining worldwide acclaim for their talent and work.
Billie Holiday, Satch, Thelonious, John Coltrane, Nat King Cole, Nina Simone, Dizzy, Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Parker, Miles, Cleo Laine, the Duke, Abbey Lincoln, and Count Basie all get the stylish Art & Hue pop art treatment in the jazz icons collection in tribute to enduring jazz singers & musicians.
Naomi scored her first British Vogue cover in December 1987 and, whilst she is the second Black model to appear on the cover of the magazine, she is the first to not have had her face obscured.
The first Black model on any edition of Vogue was Donyale Luna in 1966, who appeared on the British March issue, but the image chosen had her face partly hidden behind her hand.
30 years on from that famous January 1990 cover of “the big five” supermodels, Naomi is still modelling – on catwalks, in editorial, and in campaigns – as well as contributing to British Vogue under the fresh stewardship of Edward Enninful.
A successful sportsman, singer, actor, and campaigner, Paul Robeson became an honorary Welshman through his close association with the mining community in Wales, visiting frequently to perform and starring in the Welsh film “The Proud Valley” made by Ealing Studios.
When Aneurin Bevan introduced his friend Robeson to the 1958 Eisteddfod, the actor told the audience that “of all the films I have made, the one I will preserve is ‘The Proud Valley'”.
Persuaded by Sammy Davis Jr. to create a Las Vegas show, she quickly conquered the city.
Known as the Queen of Las Vegas, Lola Falana was the highest paid entertainer in the city by the late 1970s.
One of the most powerful and evocative songs of the 1960s, “Be My Baby” was the first song released by The Ronettes and has become widely regarded to be one of the best songs ever produced. It was a prime example of the “Wall of Sound” – blending, echoing, and layering tracks to create a rich result.
Along with hits “Baby, I Love You”, “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up”, and “Walking in the Rain”, The Ronettes capture an exciting moment in music history with innovative production that still inspires to this day.
Baron Learie Constantine
When London’s Imperial Hotel refused to honour Constantine’s room reservation, he successfully took legal action for breach of contract in a widely-reported milestone leading to anti-discrimination legislation.
The Race Relations Act of 1965 established the Race Relations Board, on which Constantine sat as one of three members, to investigate cases of racial discrimination.
Awarded a life peerage in 1969, Baron Constantine was the first Black Parliamentarian sitting in the House of Lords.
In 1939, Headley was the first cricketer to score two hundreds in a Lord’s Test, an accomplishment not repeated until 1990.
Regarded as one of the best ever batsman, George Headley’s 2,190 runs in 22 Tests at 60.83, and a First-Class cricket average of 69.86, stands third in the all-time list of averages of players.
The Jamaican Prime Minister described Headley as “Black excellence personified in a white world and a white sport”.
Old West Icons
It’s now estimated that a quarter of cowboys in the Old West were African American, not they were represented fairly in Western films of the classic Hollywood era.
After the Civil War, a career as a cowboy was one of the few jobs open to African American men who, whilst they experienced widespread discrimination, found respect and equality within their crews.
Originally, the word “cowboy” was a pejorative term used by White cowhands for Black crew members but it’s a testament to the impact made by African American ranch workers that the title of cowboy is the one that prevails.
Design for Diversity
Hopefully the Design for Diversity initiative will help interiors magazines (whose mastheads always seem to have been populated by overwhelmingly white names & faces), and design companies of all sizes, to be more open to style and design from different backgrounds, which ultimately makes for a more interesting design world rather than the same old, homogeneous interiors.
There are plans for new collections inspired by Black icons so sign up to the mailing list to receive news when they’re launched in the future.