Throughout October Black History Month will acknowledge the contributions made by black people to local, national and world history and culture.

Among those recognised in Wales is Betty Campbell who in the 1970s became the country’s first black head teacher with her post at Mount Stuart Primary in Butetown, Cardiff.

More than 100 guests at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea guests rose to applaud as the MBE recipient was handed her latest accolade on September 25 – an award for her lifetime contribution to Black History in Education in Wales.

A lifetime in education

Having made her name at Mount Stuart Primary Mrs Campbell later became known outside Wales as an important authority on education and a leading academic.

Her contribution was noted when she was invited to be part of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Commission on Education, which produced numerous papers on education, including the well-received book Learning to Succeed which included examples of excellent practice at Mount Stuart .

Pupils who attended the school have spoken of how every month at the school was Black History Month.

The curriculum included, wherever possible, references to and examples of black people’s experiences and positive contribution to British society.

‘Children should be made aware’

Mrs Campbell herself has said: “When I was a head in my school I looked at Black History, the Caribbean, Africa and slavery and the effects.

“That was just a junior school but there were people that said ‘You should not be teaching that’.

Betty Campbell, head teacher at Mount Stuart Primary School with the Prince of Wales on a visit to Butetown on St David's Day 1994
Betty Campbell, head teacher at Mount Stuart Primary School with the Prince of Wales on a visit to Butetown on St David’s Day 1994

“Why not? It happened. Children should be made aware.

“Even now I have ex-pupils in their 60s saying ‘Thanks for the black history that you taught us’.

“What should come out is that you can eventually rise up from these depths.”

More achievements

It’s no coincidence that a number of children left Mount Stuart with a reading age of 13 and above.

During the 1980s Mrs Campbell became a member of the board at BBC Wales, overseeing editorial and production issues.

Read more: Teach Wales’ schoolchildren the truth about slavery, says nation’s first black headteacher

In 2003 she was made an honorary fellow of Uwic – now Cardiff Metropolitan University – for services to education and community life for which she was also awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Mrs Campbell has also stirred up local politics by representing Butetown for both Labour and as an independent.

Black History Month

Today she continues to run her Saturday classes for local young people at the old Slipper Baths in West Close.

She has planned a series of workshops there for Black History Month.

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They will raise awareness of the role people in Butetown played during the World War Two and the involvement of the countries from which they came.

The month-long programme will also inspire children to find out more about the involvement of the Commonwealth in the war and to find out how Butetown families suffered.

‘Not enough importance paid’

“Not enough importance is paid to the commitment of black servicemen and women in World War Two and there has been very little information for children,” said Mrs Campbell.

In fact Black History Month in the UK, which now sees more than 6,000 events taking place annually, can be traced back to trips, class assemblies and workshops organised by Mrs Campbell in 1973.

Retired headteacher Betty Campbell
Retired headteacher Betty Campbell

As a result she was presented with her lifetime achievement award by Kebba Manneh, chair of Unison Cymru Wales’ Black Members Group, who said: “We are very proud to be working closely with Black History Month in Wales again this year and it is pleasing to see the events and activities are growing stronger each year, it is something our members identify positively with.

“Celebrating the role of black history in Wales as a union is key in our objectives and working towards shared goals for the Unison membership and wider community will ensure that we enhance and maintain a vibrant multi-cultural Wales.”

Speaking at the event Mrs Campbell added: “It is not often that I am lost for words – thank you so much.

“I‘m so proud of my pupils – this award means more to me than my MBE.”
Post originally appreared on http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/lifetime-achievement-accolade-betty-campbell-10183522