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England: New Exhibition Celebrates Black and African Caribbean Miners at Northumberland Museum



By Kris Jepson

October 8, 2020 - A new exhibition is running during Black History Month at Woodhorn Museum in Northumberland, England to celebrate Black and African Caribbean miners.

The Digging Deep Exhibition is curated by the Black Miners Museum Project and has collected over 240 names of black miners who contributed to the industry across the UK.


The display of photographs, artwork and memories focuses on 60 miners, including Abiodun MacDonald Williams (aka Mac) who worked as the Colliery Ventilation Officer at Dawdon Colliery in County Durham for 11 years.

He told ITV News he is "very proud that this is happening" and that "it’s all about equality".

Mac worked as an Assistant Ventilation Officer at Dawdon Colliery, Seaham in 1961. He went to Durham Technical College and qualified to be a Ventilation Officer. In 1968, he was appointed the Colliery Ventilation Officer.

He said seeing the photographs of black miners brought back fond memories of his time down the mines."

I had some magnificent times at the Coal Board. Team spirit, companionship, it was brilliant. I could maybe travel two miles underground on my own, you know, I didn’t see anybody until I came to certain areas and if that pit lamp went out that was it, you know I couldn’t… I wouldn’t be able to test for gas in the return airways.

"We used to have to work in hot conditions, damp conditions. Sometimes I would leave timber in. Not very often. Bags of stone dust which we used to spread about on the girders in the floor. I’m very proud that this is happening and I was proud to see my photograph in there and the words and, as I say, it’s all about equality."

It needs, it needs to be ingrained into people. People are all the same. Might not look the same, but all our blood is the same colour. We need equality all the way through life."


The exhibition forms part of the Black Miners Museum Project, led by Nottingham News Centre CIC.

It aims to grow lasting partnerships with mining museums across the UK by celebrating and remembering coal miners of Black and African-Caribbean heritage, as well as sharing collections, research and resources to educate and to inform.

"We really wanted to share the diversity of the workforce just to show that the economy and the mining industry was made up of lots of different ethnic groups that contributed to Britain’s economy over many years and centuries," said Norma Gregory, Curator.

'Digging Deep, Coal Miners of African Caribbean Heritage' opened at Woodhorn Museum on Saturday October 3 and runs until Sunday November 1.


Visitors to the exhibition will be able to experience 27 different accounts of life in the mines. Museum bosses want people with other stories of black miners to contact them and said the stories of three people have already been unearthed since the exhibition began.

"Now that there’s a tangible example on the walls, there are lovely photos that you can see and art works, people are really starting to come forward now, so we’ve got the names of three people in the community over the last 150 years and we’re hoping for many, many more," said Rowan Brown, Museums Northumberland.