Black History Month

October marks Black History Month, the annual celebration of the history, achievements and contributions of black people in the UK. Events celebrating African and Caribbean cultures will usually take place across the UK until October 31.

Black History Month was first launched in London in 1987 where the aim was for the local community to challenge racism and educate themselves and others about the history that was not taught in schools. 

With Black History Month now in full swing, the Town Council wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on an icon of the sporting world, whose visit to Hedge End caused quite the stir back in the day. We are of course talking about the boxing superstar Muhammad Ali whose appearance in 1971 made national news. Nicknamed “The Greatest”, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century and as one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Why you might ask was Muhammad Ali visiting Hedge End…? Great question! The answer being as part of a nationwide campaign to promote the malted milk drink Ovaltine. He visited the former Fine Fare supermarket on his tour (now Cotswold Outdoor retailers) and was met by a crowd of fans who turned out in their masses to greet the boxing legend. 

It has been said that he told the crowd how Ovaltine was the first thing he had ever promoted, saying: “I don’t promote alcohol, cigarettes or beer – nor do I make any movies. I have turned down offers of 10 million dollars to advertise things I do not believe in.”

Ali died in 2016 at the age of 74 after a long battle against Parkinson’s Disease. A plaque was funded that year by Black History Month South and unveiled by the then Mayor of Eastleigh, Cllr Des Scott at the 2000 Centre in Hedge End. 

The plaque can still be seen outside Cotswold Outdoor retailers to this day. Have you seen it?

Mayor Des Scott and Lou Taylor from Black History Month unveil Hedge End’s Muhammed Ali Plaque
Plaque now above Cotswolds