Words: Andrew Cattanach
This feature was first published on 26 August in My Mensa Weekly, our exclusive newsletter for Mensa members
This year celebrates 75 years since Empire Windrush passengers arrived in the UK. To mark the occasion, we profile three pioneers who – just school-aged when they came to Britain – helped change perceptions.
More than 1,000 people, mainly from the Caribbean, arrived aboard HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, Essex on 21 June 1948. The Windrush’s arrival has since become a symbol of the generation of Commonwealth citizens who came to live in Britain between 1948 and 1971.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of Empire Windrush’s pioneering voyage, and to mark the occasion, celebrations are taking place throughout the country, including at London’s annual Notting Hill Carnival.
Among the individuals who emigrated from Commonwealth countries during the Windrush era were the children of those who came looking for work and prosperity. Here we profile three trailblazers who, like Geoff Palmer OBE – who we featured in the July/August issue of IQ magazine – arrived here as youngsters and went on to change perceptions.
Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE (main picture)
Born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1949, Floella Benjamin moved to the UK with her family at the age of 10. She is an actress, television presenter, and author, best known for her work on children’s programmes, such as Play School. Benjamin has been a prominent advocate for children’s rights and issues affecting minority communities. Earlier this year, she was selected to take part in the King’s coronation procession, carrying the sovereign’s sceptre with dove.
Baroness Valerie Amos (above left)
Baroness Amos was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1954 and migrated to the UK at the age of nine. She is a British politician and diplomat who served in various high-profile roles and was the first black woman to serve as a Cabinet minister in the UK. She has held positions such as Secretary of State for International Development, and Leader of the House of Lords. Additionally, Amos served as the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations.
Paulette Wilson (above right)
Born in Jamaica in 1956, Paulette Wilson arrived in the UK at the age of 10. Despite living and working in the UK for over 50 years, she was wrongfully detained in an immigration removal centre and faced the threat of deportation. Wilson was later an emblematic figure in the Windrush scandal, which exposed the mistreatment and wrongful detention of individuals who had been living in the UK legally for decades. She died in 2020, after years of campaigning.
Black History Month 2023
Black History Month is an annual event to recognise and celebrate the contributions of black people to British society. Find out more here.