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Discover Black History heroes

Put your detective hat on and learn about famous black people through history.

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You’ll need

  • Device with access to the internet

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Planning this activity

  • Read through the profiles of famous and influential black people. You may want to do your own research and learning, so you can help answer any questions.
  • You may want to bring in some books or resources to help everyone find out some more information. If you’ve access to Wi-Fi, you may allow people to use the internet, with safe search settings, to research their chosen person.
  • If you want some extra support or information on discussing Black History Month with young people, take a look at our Black History Month resources and advice.
  • It’s a good idea to do this before your session so you feel prepared to lead the discussion.

If you’re doing this activity as part of Black History Month, make sure everyone understands that black history is a part of history that people can (and should) learn about all year round. 

This activity has been chosen as it celebrates Black history and people. 

Black History Month encourages people to think about the contributions, achievements and history of black people, originating in the United States. In the UK, we celebrate Black History Month in October.

It’s a time to highlight the achievements and people of the Black community, and celebrate their contributions to the UK.


Who’s who

  1. Gather everyone together and explain you’re going to learn about and research some famous figures from Black history.
  2. People should choose or be given the name of a famous figure from Black history, making sure each person in the group has someone different. They may choose someone they admire or are inspired by to focus on during this activity. People could work in pairs, too. 
  3. Everyone should write down the person they’ve chosen and tell a volunteer, who can make sure lots of people aren’t doing the same person. Remind everyone not to tell anyone else who they’ve chosen or been given.
  4. Once everyone has been given or chosen their famous person, they should do some more research on them. They could use some books you’ve provided or borrowed from a library, or they could also use the internet and magazines, or think of things they already know about the person. 
  5. People should aim to find out two or three facts about the person, then secretly write them down.
  6. Give everyone around 10 or 15 minutes to do their research and fact finding.
  7. When you’re ready, everyone should come back together. Tell everyone you’re now going to play a game and try to guess which famous figure from Black history each person was given or chosen.
  8. Ask for a person or pair who is happy or comfortable to go first.
  9. Everyone else should take it in turns to ask ‘yes or no’ questions about the chosen person to try and guess who they are. People can only ask one question at a time and they can’t guess on the same turn they have asked a question. You could decide an order to ask questions or people could raise their hands.
  10. Once someone’s person has been guessed, they should read out their facts they learned about them. This is a great chance to discuss the famous people. Have people heard of them before? They could ask any other questions they may have too.
  11. After discussing each person, the next person should then answer questions about their person until everyone has had their turn.

Dame Shirley Bassey

  • She was born in Wales in 1937. Her dad was Nigerian and her mum was English.
  • She is a really famous singer
  • She recorded the theme songs to three James Bond films - Goldfinger, Moonraker and Diamonds Are Forever.

Dzagbele Matilda Asante

  • She was born in 1927 in the Gold Coast, which is now known as Ghana.
  • She came to England in 1947 and trained to be a nurse.
  • She experienced a lot of racism in her job. Some people refused to be treated by an African nurse.

Aldwyn Robert (stage name Lord Kitchener)

  • He was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1922 and was on the Windrush in 1948.
  • He was a calypso singer. Calypso is a style of music that began in Trinidad and Tobago.
  • He used to perform on BBC radio. He was an important figure for lots of people who’d left the Caribbean and missed their home and culture.

Daphne Steele

  • She was born in what’s now Guyana in 1929.
  • She came to Britain in 1951 when the British government recruited people to work in the NHS.
  • She experienced racism from white colleagues as well as patients.
  • In 1964, she was the first black woman to become a matron in the NHS.

Kelso Cochrane

  • He was born in Antigua in 1926. He moved to London in 1954 and worked as a carpenter while he saved money to study law.
  • In 1959, he was attacked by a gang of white young people and he died in hospital.
  • It was the first acknowledged racial killing, but no one was ever arrested for his murder.
  • After his murder, the British government organised an investigation into race relations.

Claudia Jones

  • She was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1915.
  • She was granted asylum in England after the United States deported her.
  • She became a leader of the black equal rights movement in London and campaigned against anti-black racism in housing, education, and jobs.
  • In 1959, she helped launch Carnival as an annual showcase for Caribbean talent.
  • In the 1960s she campaigned against a law that would make it harder for non-white people to migrate to Britain.

Paul Stephenson

  • He was born in Essex in 1937 – his dad was West African and his mum was British. He was the only black child in his secondary school in London.
  • In the 1960s, people in Bristol set up an organisation to fight discrimination, including the Bristol Bus Company not employing black people.
  • Paul Stephenson was inspired by American civil rights activists (including Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks) hold a boycott: people protesting by refusing to use the buses.
  • He became the spokesperson for the boycott. Later that year, the bus company let black people work on buses.
  • He continued to stand up against racism throughout his life.

The Mangrove Nine (Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Frank Crichlow, Rhodan Gordon, Darcus Howe, Anthony Innis, Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Rothwell Kentish, Godfrey Millett)

  • They were a group of black activists who were arrested for encouraging a riot at a protest in 1970. The protest was against the police unfairly targeting a restaurant that was important for the black community.
  • Their trial lasted 55 days and they challenged the legal process, including by asking for people in the jury to be black.
  • Their trial was the first time a judge said there was racial prejudice in the Metropolitan Police.
  • The Mangrove Nine inspired other civil rights activists to take on the legal system and led to the government changing the way they put juries together.


  • He was born in London in 1982 and is a British rapper, songwriter and record producer– his parents are Nigerian.
  • In an interview, he talked about being at school and said that the African kids used to lie and say they were Jamaican and he used to try to say his Yoruba surname before the teacher got it wrong.
  • Later, his lyrics said things like ‘I make Nigerians proud of their tribal scars’ – he was talking about confidence and fighting back.

Darcus Howe

  • He was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1943 and moved to England when he was 18.
  • He was a member of the Mangrove Nine in 1970.
  • In 1981, he organised a black People’s Day of Action where 20,000 people marched across London to try to get justice for 13 young black people who’d died in a fire.
  • He was also a chairman of the Notting Hill Carnival and a television broadcaster.

Stephen Lawrence

  • He was born in London in 1974 – his Jamaican parents came to London in the 1960s.
  • When he was 18, he was at college and he wanted to be an architect.
  • He was killed by a gang of five or six white young people in a racist attack in 1993.
  • A few years later, a report found that the police investigation had made lots of mistakes and that the Metropolitan Police were ‘institutionally racist’, which means that racist attitudes and beliefs were seen as normal in the police and they affected how the police investigated Stephen’s murder.
  • The report said people needed to make changes in places like the police, the NHS, and schools to stop them being racist.
  • Stephen’s death was a tragedy. His dad (Dr Neville Lawrence) said that his son’s murder ‘opened the country’s eyes’ to racism – both the attack and the way the police responded showed that there was still a lot of racism in Britain.
  • In 2012, two people were found guilty of the murder.
  • You can find out more about Stephen Lawrence on BBC Newsround or the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation website.

Doreen Lawrence

  • She was born in Jamaica in 1952.
  • Her son, Stephen Lawrence, was killed in 1993.
  • She spoke up when the police were racist and fought for changes to the police service.
  • Her campaigning led to an important report in 1999.
  • She also started the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which works with young people to try to make the world a fairer place for everyone.

Diane Abbott

  • She was born in London in 1953 – her parents were Jamaican.
  • In 1987, she became the first black female MP and she still represents the same area of London in 2020.
  • She’s been responsible for her party’s response to things like children’s health and nursing.
  • She also supported people form the Windrush generation who were given the right to live in Britain in the 1970s but hadn’t been given any documents to prove it.

Patricia Scotland

  • She was born in Dominica in 1955.
  • She became a member of the House of Lords in 1997.
  • In 2007, she became Attorney General: the most powerful lawyer in the country and the chief legal adviser for the Queen, parliament, and government.
  • She was the first woman to be the Attorney General after 700 years of men.

Nicola Adams

  • She was born in West Yorkshire in 1982.
  • She was a professional boxer and retired with an undefeated record.
  • She won gold medals in the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics and was the first openly LGBT person to win an Olympic boxing gold medal.

Mo Farah

  • He was born in Somalia.
  • He won gold medals in the 5,000m and 10,000m races in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
  • Mo Farah is a Muslim; in 2012, he observed his Ramadan fast later in the year so he didn’t fast during the Olympics.


This activity was about understanding parts of history that aren’t always talked about. It’s important to talk about these parts of history to understand society today. What did people learn? People may have learned about people they didn’t know about, or they may have learned something new about the successes of black people and the contributions to Britain, regardless of the struggles they have faced (and continue to face today). Part of being a Scout is being an active citizen and making a positive difference in the world. Knowing about people’s history and the challenges and inequities they face today can help us to support other people and see the world from their perspective.

Why are these people famous or influential? People could think about how the reasons are different – some people were strong political activists while others tackled racism or achieved amazing things in sports or the arts. Black History Month is about celebrating and understanding the diverse history and achievements of black people across all areas of society.

This activity may also encourage conversations around fairness and people coming together to reject racism. More information on how to hold these conversations can be found in the Black History Month resources. These discussions are important throughout the year, not just in Black History Month. Think about how you could keep the conversation going – could you bring news articles or stories to future sessions and use them to spark further discussions? 


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe. Take a look at our online safety or bullying guidance. The NSPCC offers more advice and guidance, too. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection CommandAs always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare, including their online experiences, follow the Yellow Card to make a report.

  • People could work in small groups. Older or more experienced young people (or Young Leaders) could work with younger or newer young people – this is a great chance for everyone to work on teamwork and leadership skills while learning about black history.
  • You could challenge people to add more information to their profile or present it in a different way like a presentation, drama, or poster. 

If meeting online, people could type in the chat if they’d prefer not to chat out loud.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Anyone who’s interested could go away and learn more about historical and important black people. They could create a presentation or report to bring back or share what they find with their family or friends.