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Baartman, Sarah  

John Gilmore

Also known as Sara or Saartjie, and as Bartman (1788?–1815/16), a member of the Khoisan people of southern Africa, exhibited as a ‘freak’ in 19th‐century Britain. Her original name is unknown, but when she was employed by a Dutch farmer called Peter Cezar, she was given the Afrikaans name of Saartjie [Little Sarah] Baartman, and this was later Anglicized in various forms. In 1810 she was brought to Britain by Peter Cezar's brother Hendric [or Henrick], a Boer farmer at the Cape, and Alexander Dunlop, a British army surgeon. Dunlop soon sold his interest in the enterprise to Cezar, who made money by exhibiting Baartman in London and elsewhere in Britain under the name of ‘the Hottentot Venus’. ‘Hottentot’ was a traditional derogatory term for Khoisan people, while ‘Venus’ appears intended to refer to the idea of ‘the Sable Venus or more generally ...

Article

Bonetta, Sarah Forbes  

Jeremy Rich

Atlantic slave-trade survivor presented as a gift to Britain's Queen Victoria, was born in the early 1840s in or near the southern Beninese town of Okeadon. Her birth name is not known, but her marriage certificate would list her name as Ina Sarah Forbes Bonetta, perhaps indicating that her original name was Ina. Southern Beninese states had fought for years against the inland kingdom of Dahomey for autonomy, as the slave-trading empire sought to force its southern neighbors to pay tribute and accept Dahomean control over the slaves that were often sold to European and South American merchants. In 1846 Dahomean soldiers seized her and killed her parents during the Okeadon War between Dahomey and its enemies in the Yoruba city of Abeokuta after a traitor had allowed Dahomean troops entry to the town Bonetta was fortunate she did not join the 600 or so town residents ...

Article

Bonetta, Sarah Forbes  

Jane Poyner

Orphan from Dahomey (now Benin) reputed to be of royal lineage, who was brought as a slave to England, where she became Queen Victoria's protégée. Sarah was named, ignominiously, after the ship Bonetta on which she was transported to England. Ironically, she was given to Captain Frederick Forbes by King Gezo of Dahomey in a conciliatory gesture following Forbes's unsuccessful attempt to persuade the King to give up trading in slaves. Forbes, in his account of his travels Dahomey and the Dahomens (1851), used Sarah as an example of the potential for progress in the intellect of the African at a time when pseudo‐scientific enlightenment theories of race were rampant: as Forbes noted, ‘it being generally and erroneously supposed that after a certain age the intellect [of the African] becomes impaired and the pursuit of knowledge impossible’.

Sarah was presented to Queen Victoria and thereafter raised under her ...

Article

Brown, Henry ‘Box’  

Ana Raquel Fernandes

Prominent 19th‐century African‐American abolitionist who escaped to England. Brown was born into slavery on a plantation in Richmond, Virginia. After having been forcibly separated from his wife and children, Brown and a white friend, Samuel A. Smith, conceived an ingenious plan for his escape from slavery. In March 1848 Brown hid in a wooden crate supposedly containing dry goods, and had himself shipped via the Adams Express Company to William H. Johnson, an abolitionist sympathizer. Having arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a free state, Brown claimed his freedom and thereafter took the name ‘Box’ as his own. With the help of anti‐slavery friends, he became an abolitionist lecturer and author. In 1849Charles Stearns wrote and published ‘Box’ Brown's narrative of his daring escape. A year later, however, with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 fearing possible capture and return to slavery Brown fled instead ...

Article

Colston, Edward  

Madge Dresser

Controversial philanthropist and merchant involved in the slave trade. He was the Bristol‐born son of a Bristol merchant who spent his early life in London, but it is in Bristol that he is most famous. A staunch Anglican and Tory, he was briefly MP for the city in 1710. His huge donations to church renovation and school building projects, mainly but not exclusively in Bristol, ensured his reputation as the city's greatest benefactor, as his major statue in the centre and his fine tomb by Michael Rysbrack attest. Several Bristol streets, schools, buildings, and venerable local charities still bear his name, and his birthday is still honoured in civic celebrations.

Colston s relevance to black history lies in the fact that he was involved in the British slave trade and in the trade of slave produced goods By the 1670s he was a City of London merchant trading ...

Article

Elizabeth I  

Cecily Jones

Queen of England and patron of slave‐trading ventures.

1.Genesis of the British slave trade

2.Africans in Elizabethan England

3.Scapegoating ‘Blackamoors’

4.Attempts to expel Blacks

Article

Gladstone, John  

David Dabydeen

Slave owner, instigator of the ‘coolie trade’, and father of the British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809–98). Sir John Gladstone was a leading member of the West Indian Association of Liverpool, a group of plantation owners and merchants trading with the West Indies in slave‐produced commodities. He owned sugar estates in Jamaica and British Guiana and was a passionate opponent of abolition. In 1830, in a series of last‐ditch attempts to persuade the government not to end West Indian slavery, Gladstone (then a member of Parliament and spokesman for the West India interest) argued that slavery was normal in primitive societies, and that West Indian Blacks had peculiar constitutions, enabling them to work easily under a tropical sun. He held up the dreadful prospect of freed slaves slaughtering the smaller white populations.

In 1833 Gladstone was deputed by Liverpool's West Indian interest ...

Article

Hawkins, Sir John  

Erin D. Somerville

The first Englishman to transport African slaves across the Atlantic. The son of a sea merchant and Mayor of Plymouth, Hawkins inherited the family sea business after his father's death. After early voyages to the Canary Islands, he moved to London in 1560 to seek support for voyages to the West Indian colonies, then under tight Spanish control.

Hawkins's first slave trading voyage departed for the west coast of Africa in October 1562. Upon arrival in Upper Guinea, Hawkins raided Portuguese ships for African slaves and other merchandise. Three hundred slaves were brought to Hispaniola, where he illegally sold them to English planters. The financial gains of the expedition were so extensive that Queen Elizabeth I supported an equally profitable second voyage in 1564, which moved over 400 slaves from Sierra Leone. A third slaving voyage in 1567 also supported by the Queen was not as successful ...

Article

Jea, John  

David Dabydeen

African preacher who travelled around England and Ireland sermonizing. Jea was born in Old Callabar, Africa, and at the age of 2½ was taken, along with his family, to North America, where they became the slaves of Oliver and Angelika Triebuen. They were ill‐treated and not properly clothed and fed. Working hours were long and intense, as Jea records in his narrative The Life, History, and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher (1815).

The text captures his life as a slave his rebellion against Christian hypocrisy the finding of his faith his travels and the significance of his sermonizing Laden with quotations from the Bible it is itself a piece of Jea s preaching often questioning the virtues and beliefs of his readers Following his discovery of Christianity at the age of 15 when as he writes the Lord was pleased to remove gross darkness superstition ...

Article

Lindsay, Dido Elizabeth  

Leslie Primo

Reputed daughter of Sir John Lindsay, then in the Royal Navy, on duty in the West Indies about 1760–5. Sir John discovered Dido's mother, a slave, on board a captured Spanish ship. She was brought to England, where it was speculated that a brief relationship between them resulted in Dido's birth. Soon after her birth, and for reasons unknown, Dido (also known as Belle) was taken to Kenwood House to be brought up with her ‘cousin’ Lady Elizabeth Murray by Lord and Lady Mansfield, Sir John Lindsay's uncle. Lord Mansfield was the Lord Chief Justice who would later be responsible for the landmark ruling of 1772 that freed the runaway slave James Somerset (see Somerset case). Sir John Lindsay died in 1788, when Dido was 25, leaving £1,000 in his will to share between Dido and a mysterious ‘brother’.

Dido lived at Kenwood for ...

Article

McCoy, Millie‐Christine  

Cecily Jones

Conjoined African‐American twins who became successful performers. Born into slavery in North Carolina, Millie‐Christine, as the girls were known, were often referred to as one person, and, indeed, often referred to themselves as such. While still in their infancy they were stolen from their parents, sold three times, kidnapped, and displayed as curiosities at fairs and shows across America. Their ‘owner’, the showman J. P. Smith, first exhibited Millie‐Christine as a ‘freak of nature’ to an American public avid for glimpses of this biological phenomenon. At each new venue the girls were forcibly and humiliatingly stripped and examined by physicians to prove to sceptics that the ‘two‐headed girl’ was no fraud.

A rival show owner stole Millie Christine and for two years he too toured America exhibiting them Fearing that they were about to be recaptured from him their new owner fled with them to Britian where they were ...

Article

Newton, John  

John Gilmore

Clergyman of the Church of England who led what he later considered to be a reprobate youth and worked in the slave trade. It was while on a slaving voyage (1748–9) that he experienced a religious conversion. Nevertheless, he continued to work in the slave trade, and made three more voyages before retiring from the sea in 1754. He became widely known as an evangelical Christian, and was eventually ordained as a clergyman of the Church of England in 1764, serving first in the parish of Olney in Buckinghamshire, and later, from 1780 until his death, at St Mary Woolnoth in London.

At Olney, Newton became a close friend of the poet William Cowper, and together they wrote the collection known as the Olney Hymns. Newton's own contributions include the words to some of the best known hymns in the English language ...

Article

Sancho, Ignatius  

David Dabydeen

Africanwriter whose letters, published posthumously in 1782, became best‐seller, attracting 1,181 subscribers including the Prime Minister, Lord North.

Sancho was born on board a slave ship en route to the West Indies. His mother died soon after, of a tropical disease, and his father chose to commit suicide rather than endure slavery. Sancho was brought to England by his master, at the age of 2 or 3, and given to three maiden sisters living in Greenwich. The sisters named him Sancho, thinking he resembled Don Quixote's squire. They kept him in ignorance, not teaching him to read or write. He was rescued by the Duke of Montagu who lived nearby in Blackheath The Duke encountering the boy by accident took a liking to his frankness of manner and frequently took him home where the Duchess introduced him to the world of books and of high culture He ...

Article

Skelton, Elizabeth Frazer  

Bruce L. Mouser

trader and matriarch active in Guinea/Conakry, was born to John Frazer at Bangalan Town on the Rio Pongo in Guinea/Conakry. Her father, from Scotland, was associated with Glasgow and Liverpool trading firms along the Windward Coast. He married Phenda, African widow of another trader, at the Isle de Los in 1799. Elizabeth was one of six children (James, Margaret, Elizabeth, Mary Ann, Nancy, and Eleanor). John Frazer maintained residences in both the Pongo and South Carolina, but moved his major center to Charleston in 1807 and then to Florida in 1811 where he died in 1813 Phenda remained behind in the Pongo to manage the Pongo property James and Margaret were sent to England for studies Elizabeth boarded with the Church Missionary Society s mission 1808 1817 in the Pongo and then traveled to Liverpool where she lived for four years in the household of Thomas Powell who ...

Article

Soubise, Julius  

Erin D. Somerville

Equestrian and man of letters, favourite of the Duchess of Queensberry and contemporary of Ignatius Sancho and Olaudah Equiano. Born on the Caribbean island of St Kitts, he was brought to England at the age of 10 and given to the Duchess of Queensberry as a gift. Under the Duchess's direction Soubise became an accomplished fencer and equestrian, serving as assistant to the Italian fencing master Dominico Angelo Malevolti Tremamondo.

Soubise is best remembered as a fop in London high society. Claiming to be an African prince, he was known for entertaining audiences in fashionable London clubs with comic songs and amateur theatre. He often escorted aristocratic women to the opera and was rumoured to be sexually engaged with the Duchess—a relationship depicted in an engraving by William Austin of the pair fencing (1773).

While Soubise regarded himself as a talented letter writer and poet of ...

Article

Williams, Francis  

John Gilmore

Poet born in Jamaica, the son of John and Dorothy Williams, who were free black people. John Williams was a former slave who had been freed by the will of his master, Colonel John Bourden (a prominent local figure who died in 1697), and who subsequently became a successful merchant, whose activities included moneylending on an extensive scale, and trade between Jamaica and Britain.

As a young man, Francis Williams lived in Britain, possibly for several years, and may have been entrusted with the British end of his father's business concerns. On 8 August 1721 he was admitted as a member of Lincoln s Inn while there is no evidence to suggest that he was ever called to the Bar or practised as a lawyer the Inns of Court often functioned in this period as a sort of finishing school for young men of gentlemanly status who ...