In July 2022, Getty Images revealed its Black History & Culture Collection — a remarkable archive of almost 30,000 rarely-seen images of of the African/Black Diaspora in the US and UK.
Among the collection are some absolute gems depicting the lives of Black Londoners through the decades, underscoring the trials, tribulations and joys of life in the capital.
In an image from 1948, a smartly-dressed man pens a letter home, from his temporary lodgings in a deep level shelter in Clapham — one of the original Windrushers who ventured to British shores in search of prosperity.
Sometimes, that joy is found — such as in the marvellous capture of cricket fans knocking back tinnies and blowing celebratory horns at an Oval test.
But the hardships of life for Black people in London are also laid bare: a middle aged woman in a cluttered Notting Hill bedsit stares forlornly at the camera, head rested on fist; while a young man walks past graffiti that optimistically — and somewhat sarcastically — announces there is no colour bar (in which white and black people were afforded different rights and facilities) YET.
What's clear in almost all of these images is that the people in them make London the place it is; from 'Norwell Gumbs' — London's first black police officer — directing taxi cabs and double deckers outside Charing Cross station, to the dungaree-wearing woman vacuuming out train carriages in Willesden Depot.
Perhaps no photo gives a greater sense of this than the man working on the construction of the Fleet (later Jubilee) line — one of the very arteries that keeps London pulsing.
The Black History & Culture Collection, says its creators, allows us to see a broader history of Black people. Putting its money where its mouth is, Getty Images has said that images from the collection are free for educators, researchers and content creators to use.
You can browse the collection and request access to photos on Getty Image's website.