Black mailboxes unveiled by Royal Mail for Black History Month

British’s Royal Mail has unveiled four black mailboxes that will be used throughout October to mark Black History Month in the United Kingdom.

With one in each of the United Kingdom’s four countries (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), they are similar to the Royal Mail’s traditional red pillar boxes but are painted black with gold trim.

Each of the mailboxes highlights a prominent Black Briton, including:

  • comedian Sir Lenny Henry, appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1999, who’s featured on a box in Belfast;
  • nursing pioneer Mary Seacole, who treated wounded soldiers during the Crimean War from 1853-56 and is on a box in Cardiff;
  • British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, appointed a CBE in 2019, who’s featured alongside his painting Queuing at the RA on a box in Brixton; and
  • footballer Walter Tull, the first Black player signed by the Rangers football club, who’s on a box in Glasgow.

English stand-up comedian, actor, singer, writer and TV host Lenny Henry is among four honourees featured on the Black History Month postboxes.

‘NEGRO HISTORY WEEK’

Black History Month traces its roots to 1926, when the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History Carter G. Woodson – a Black historian, author and journalist who spent much of his life in Washington, D.C. – established Negro History Week.

He chose the month of February, which was when both U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and prominent Black social reformer Frederick Douglass were born.

Eventually, the idea travelled north to Canada, where the first celebration of February as Black History Month was at Toronto’s British Methodist Episcopal Church in 1950 (the church was located at 460 Shaw St. before being lost to fire in April 1998).

The efforts of the Canadian Negro Women’s Association kept Black History Month alive since it was first celebrated in Canada in 1950, according to Black History Canada.

In 2012, a gold postbox erected in England celebrated Sarah Storey’s trio of gold medals at the Paralympic Games. That year, Royal Mail celebrated every gold medal won by a British athlete during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by repainting their iconic red pillar boxes gold. (Photo by David Dixon)

In the 1970s, the Ontario Black History Society presented a petition to the City of Toronto to have February officially declared as Black History Month. In 1979, the first-ever declaration of Black History Month in Canada was made by Toronto.

In 1993, the society successfully filed a petition proclaiming February as Black History Month across Ontario.

Finally, on Dec. 5, 1995, the motion to declare February as Black History Month across Canada was carried unanimously by the House of Commons. Canada’s first Black History Month was eventually declared on Feb. 1, 1996.

The United Kingdom first celebrated Black History Month in October 1987.

For the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Royal Mail also painted pillar boxes gold in each British gold medalists’ hometown.

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