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Black History Month

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In the UK, the scale and impact of institutionalised racism has been laid bare, with young Black men stopped and searched 20,000 times in London during the coronavirus lockdown, along with Black MPs, barristers, senior police officers, sportspeople and many more.

The 2020 race protests both in America and the UK following the tragic death of George Floyd and racial inequalities highlighted by Covid-19 give this year’s Black History Month added importance.

Black History Month was originally founded to recognise the contributions that people of African and Caribbean backgrounds have made to the UK over many generation.

Johnson Astills continue to make headway in terms of inclusion and diversity. Aside from our work on race, Johnson Astills also have the highest proportion of female lawyers and support staff all of whom are from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds.

It is therefore fitting that during the month of October we are recognising black achievement within the legal profession with a man who accomplished not one, but two, significant firsts.  Born in Sierra Leone in 1852, Christian Frederick Cole was the first black African student at the University of Oxford, and went on to become England’s first black barrister, called to the Bar in 1883.

Cole’s journey to Oxford and the Bar was not without its setbacks, however, his story is rendered all the more compellingnot just due to his determination, intelligence and talent, but because of the strength of support from his family and friends – both in Sierra Leone and England.

It’s important to take a moment to reflect on these important parts of history to reflect on how far we have come in terms of equality. However, Johnson Astills along with many others accept we still have far to go as an industry and as a society.

Black History Month 2020 is a time for people to come together and hopefully learn lessons for the present and the future. Johnson Astills continue to join many others within the legal sector by standing united against racism.