Tony Warner guided tours on contributions of people of African descent in London.

Tony Warner is the founder and director of Black History Walks (BHW), guided tours that highlight influences and contributions that people of African descent have made over the centuries to some of the most popular places in London.  Black History Walks is the quintessential way to discover the hidden African heritage in the sites, institutions and architecture in and around England's great metropolis capital city.  The only tour of its kind in London, Warner has identified a sector in the city’s tourism industry that has unwittingly excluded African Britons. BHW tours are designed to bring this forgotten part of history to life by doing walks in the city.  It is an excellent way for school children, family, friends, couples and tourists from around the world to enjoy the summer while learning about important aspects of the city’s history. Warner, who has been a community activist for many years, believes that including contributions made by Black Britons add to the fullness of the history and culture of London and its vicinities. Some walks uncover the black presence and influence from long ago times of African princes and generals, and some reveal the presence of Africans in London during Roman times. Black History Walk tours include information about modern-day professionals such as pilots and doctors as well as civil rights leaders and others who have made imprints on history in and around London.

A knowledgeable historian, Warner has also designed courses for school children to help improve their self-esteem and school performance using interactive history sessions combined with information on peer pressure and media analysis. Warner's courses as well as his tours are based on research from libraries and various educational sources. His passion for sharing his knowledge makes for enlightening and enjoyable tours. ADT talks with Warner about his work with Black History Walks.

1) ADT: When did you start Black History Walks and why?  

Warner : Black History Walks was started about 5 years ago after I'd done a number of the 'official' walking tours of London and in one case walked for 2 and half hours and heard one mention of black people and that was because there is a statue of Martin Luther King above the entrance the Westminster Abbey. I knew there was more to the history of African/Caribbean people, and that our contributions to this city go back centuries. Millions of people walk through WC2, Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square area every day and yet have no idea of the centuries of African history under their feet. So I figured I had to do something about it.

2) ADT: How did you got interested in conducting outdoor walking tours?

Warner: I was always interested in history since school age. Having run film shows on history, I noticed how audiences always declined with good weather (a rarity in England). I figured another way of carrying on the educational process was by doing it in the open air using the very streets of London.

ADT: What has been the response of the people who do the tours?

walking_tour_groupWarner: The response from those who have done the walk has been ecstatic.  One college professor said that it was his tour of a lifetime and that he now understood how ancestors and countries have contributed to the grandeur of the British Empire. Another lady said that it was an enjoyable and wonderful tour. She said that after walking around the city’s landmarks, icons, churches, and streets for thirty years, this was one of the most beautiful walks she ever had. People often tell me how they are astounded by how much they don’t know especially when they walk through the areas every day. Some people repeat the walks as there is so much information to process.

4) ADT: Tell me more about the Black History Walks project and what it entails.

We also offer films, talks and workshops on a variety of related topics all year long in addition to events in October, black History month. The talks are interactive multi-media presentations designed to suit, schools, colleges, universities, tourists, staff associations, community groups and public events such as product launches or seminars. The talks and film topics cover African martial arts, US civil rights, black women hair skin and beauty, black fighter pilots of World War 2, medical apartheid, black superheroes, education and the black child, understanding racism and black women freedom fighters.  Black History Walks also offer teacher and parent training, and we work with at-risk children. In addition to all of this, we have an online resource for Black History Walks where there is a mini video series. Our future plans include expanding the online TV from four episodes to about 400.

Black History Walks offers guided walking tours of the African history of London in areas including St Pauls/Bank, Docklands, Trafalgar Square, Elephant & Castle and Notting Hill areas from March to November. The tours last about two to two and a half hours. The most popular walk is the 'Square Mile' that is in the oldest part of London where it is explained how Africa helped to create the wealth in the city.  Another popular walking tour is in the Dockland are where you can visit the Museum in Dockland and Trinity Square Gardens where there is a memorial to merchant seaman who lost their lives including African sailors.

The unique St Pauls/Bank walk takes in side streets and back alleys is not seen from the main road. Here is where Black History Walks uncover the hidden connections between Africa, the Diaspora and the infrastructure of ancient and modern London. In the Trafalgar tour, the links between Africa, China, India and the Caribbean are highlighted. The Elephant & Castle tour links the Imperial War Museum with the Cumin Museum both of which have excellent collections on the black presence in World War 2. The Notting Hill tour shows how there is much more to this area than Carnival and explains how pioneering African/Caribbean literally fought for equality and helped to lay the foundation for modern multi-cultural London.

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