Two men who had a significant impact on the profile of black people in Bristol, the UK and beyond were honoured in a special ceremony to mark Black History Month.
Paul Stephenson, who led a boycott in 1963 of the Bristol Omnibus company, and George Odlum, who was the first black president of a Students’ Union anywhere in the UK, both had rooms named after them in the University of Bristol’s Students’ Union (Bristol SU) building.
Paul Stephenson led a boycott when the Bristol Omnibus bus company refused to employ black or Asian drivers. He also refused to leave a pub in 1964 when he was refused service. These campaigns were instrumental in the development of the Race Relations Act 1965 and he was later awarded an OBE as well as travelling to the United States to talk about his experiences.
George Odlum went on to become Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of St Lucia following his studies at the University of Bristol, where he was the Students’ Union president. He was also a United Nations ambassador and died in 2003 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
The event, attended by BCfm Radio took place in the Richmond Building on Queens Road on 13 October and was attended by Paul Stephenson, who is now 78, and members of George Odlum’s family.
Samantha Budd, Chief Executive of Bristol SU, said: “Stephenson and Odlum, in different ways, made a real contribution to improving the lives of black people on a global scale. Bristol SU still believes in equality and diversity and so we thought this a fitting way to mark their legacy and reaffirm our commitment to the values they championed.”
The University awarded Paul Stephenson with an honorary degree last year in recognition of his dedication to fighting for equality and civil rights across Bristol and around the world for over 60 years.