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Black History Month and the River Thames

Tideway staff mark Black History Month and the significance of the Thames

To celebrate Black History Month, Tideway staff joined Black History Walks for an insight into Black history in London and the part played by the River Thames.

Founded in 1926 in the USA, the month was designed to address the misrepresentation and stereotypes about Black people in US society. It became part of UK history in 1987 and was born on the riverside site of County Hall, then headquarters of the Greater London Council.

Tony Warner, who leads the Black History Walks, told Tideway participants how the River Thames is directly connected to the Nile valley, history and culture in Africa. The old name for London’s biggest river was Isis named after the ancient Egyptian goddess.

Walkers on the guided tour learned that not far from Tideway’s Blackfriars site there is a 3500-year-old piece of African architecture on public display. “The obelisk nicknamed Cleopatra’s Needle weighs 180 tonnes is 68 feet tall and was carved out of a mountain of pink granite”, informed Tony.  

“It was built in Africa by Africans 1500 years before Londinium was founded by the Romans. It is still standing now and is a testament to Nile valley culture construction techniques. One can only imagine how those engineers created it without cranes, bulldozers and computers.”

Staff also heard how, often incorrectly described as a ‘gift’, it was removed from Africa and at great expense re-erected on the Embankment in 1878. There are similar African obelisks on public display in Paris next to the Louvre, in Rome outside the Vatican and in New York’s Central Park near the Met Museum.

Participating in the tour, Tideway’s Kieran Buffong said: “The Black History Walk with Tony Warner was an insightful experience. It was great walking through London's back alleys and learning about London's rich black history. Tony was very friendly and spoke passionately about things we simply never heard about in school.”

Throughout the month, Tideway staff have also been learning about the achievements of Black people who have inspired others in fields such as science and entertainment, while, through the company’s Encompass network, in previous years, guest speakers to staff have included Dr David Olusoga and Afua Hirsch.  

Coinciding with last year’s Black History Month, at Tideway’s Blackfriars Bridge foreshore site photography on the hoardings commemorates the Black People’s Day of Action in 1981, the UK’s biggest anti-racist demonstration of the 20th Century, when approximately 20,000 people marched from New Cross to Hyde Park calling for racial justice and equality. The hoardings include information gathered from Black History Walks and the George Padmore Institute, to tell the story of the day of action and events that led to it.

Black History Walks run walks, talks, films bus tours and river cruises all year long. Find details here: