Black History Month: Delving into Norfolk and Suffolk's diverse past

Norfolk and Suffolk have both long been accused of a lack of diversity - but as the counties celebrate Black History Month, historians are keen to point out how wrong that view is.

From migrant seamen travelling up from the Mediterranean in the 15th century, via circus owner Pablo Fanque, and on to Britain's first black mayor, the region has been a welcoming home to all for hundreds of years.

Abraham Eshetu moved to Norfolk from Ethiopia when he was a teenager and has since taken on the job of organising the area's Black History Month events.

He is proud to be part of a long list of immigrants who have chosen to make the county their home.

Norwich and Norfolk has always been very diverse and we've got a history of Strangers coming to Norfolk, receiving all kinds of immigrants from around the world. The Greek Cypriots who made Great Yarmouth home. We also have a history of new immigrants coming over the last few years.

Abraham Eshetu, Black History Month Norfolk organiser
A UEA history lecturer has been researching the lives of immigrants in Norfolk over 400 years Credit: ITV News Anglia

At the University of East Anglia, history lecturer Richard Maguire has found archives documenting the stories of hundreds of Africans in Norfolk and Suffolk dating back to 1467.

They married here and had children christened in local churches.

Despite the UK's historic links with slavery, Richard says the stories he has found are overwhelmingly positive - showing families who integrated into their communities and played important roles in the areas they lived.

They include the family of Allan Minns. He is believed to have been the first British mayor of African descent - taking up the role in Thetford in 1904.

Allan Minns was the first British mayor of African descent. He served Thetford from 1904 to 1906.

His grandmother was a slave and he was born in the Bahamas before moving to Breckland in 1885.

As a qualified doctor, he was chief medical officer of the Thetford Workhouse.

His story is one of many told in this year's Black History Month programme. To find out more about Norfolk Black History Month, visit the website here.

Black History Month runs throughout October Credit: ITV News