Our venues


Remembering Dorothy Kuya

2 January 2014 by David Fleming

Today I’d like to pay tribute to leading anti-racism campaigner Dorothy Kuya who died following a short illness on 23 December, 2013. Dorothy’s impact and influence stretched far beyond the L8 streets were she was raised.

Dorothy was one of life’s big characters. When I first came to Liverpool as Director of National Museums Liverpool in 2001 I was told that Dorothy wanted to meet me, and this was put to me in such a way that a) I had better not refuse, and b) I had better be on my guard because she’s tricky!

In fact, Dorothy wanted to find out about me and to establish whether or not I was likely to be an ally in combatting racism. As it happens, we always got on very well, and I remember how touched I was to be invited to her 80th birthday celebration in March 2013. I shall always treasure the card she sent me, with the photograph of herself as a baby. But she certainly kept me on my toes.

There are two things I shall remember about her primarily: first, she said what she thought – she held strong views, she was outspoken and she feared no-one; and secondly, she acted as a conscience for all those of us in public life in Liverpool – for me, Dorothy was one of those people of whom I think when considering what decision to make: “what would Dorothy think, what would Dorothy want me to do?” would often pass through my mind when International Slavery Museum business was on the agenda. So, should we invite Martin Luther King III to Slavery Remembrance Day? What would Dorothy think?

I once read somewhere that one of Dorothy’s proudest moments was the opening of the International Slavery Museum in 2007. She never said that to me, but I remember thinking that this was the best possible endorsement of the Museum, and I was so pleased that we had actually done something of which Dorothy was proud!

I wouldn’t want to give the impression that Dorothy was dogmatic. She was tough and passionate, yes. She was a courageous fighter.

But she was also kind, thoughtful and generous; and she was pragmatic – she understood that sometimes you’ll make more real progress by giving way on the small things, and that you should save your real energies for the big things.

I admired Dorothy and I shall miss her. Liverpool will be a poorer place without her.

You can read more about Dorothy in this tribute by writer Angela Cobbinah.



  1. Steph Courtney says:

    Dorothy was my mum’s cousin and all her family adored her. We are devastated to lose someone so special.

  2. Kate Rodenhurst says:

    I was very sorry to hear that Dorothy had passed away. I worked with her over several years on the development of Slavery Remembrance Day events. She was a determined campaigner, had a wealth of knowledge, and was a plain speaker – I definitely felt the pressure to live up to the standards she expected. As David also says above, one of the first things I thought when I heard the news was ‘she always kept me on my toes’. Once you got to know her, she was very warm, with a wicked sense of humour and some great stories to tell. I’ll never forget visiting her home, which was packed full of fascinating books, pictures and memorabilia. Liverpool 8 will be much the poorer without her.

    • David Fleming says:

      Thanks to both of you for your comments. Over the past couple of years I got into the habit of pulling Dorothy’s leg by addressing her as “great lady”, as in: “Hello, great lady”. This was said affectionately, because I knew it would unsettle her a bit to be singled out as “great” anything, and probably to be called “lady” too, to be fair, but I thought I could just about get away with it! She challenged me once when I called her that: “why do you call me great lady?”. “Because you are” I said. And she was.

  3. Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera says:

    I met Dorothy a number of times as a result of her work with the International Slavery Museum and also as a result of the work that she did in empowering BME communities in Liverpool.

    Dorothy was and remains an inspiring person who was proud of all of her roots and even more so of Liverpool and Toxteth where she lived. As for being a ‘Great Lady’, I could not agree more. She was in fact a giant of humanity albeit in a small package.

    I will fondly remember my meetings with Dorothy at her home where I listened to her wisdom whilst eating cake, as well as at the museum. I wish to pass my sincerest respect and sympathy goes out to her family, friends and all of the people who had the privilege of meeting this ‘Great Lady’ for her loss will be felt by them all.

(Comments are closed for this post.)

About our blog

Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.




We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.