Friday, October 03, 2008

Black History with Tony Warner

I went to a Black History lecture last Friday night, by Tony Warner of 100 Black Men of London. He was speaking at Dr. Lez Henry’s BLAK Friday event.

The talk was on the Black history which is all around us in London. As usual, Brother Tony told gave us lots of useful information – and it’s often right in front of us. Black people have done so much to be proud of. I could not note down every bit of information he gave us, but here are a few examples:

A Black man, Bill Richmond, owned a pub in Leicester Square in the early19th century and owned his own gym in Trafalgar Square in 1810. In those days, boxing was all the rage amongst the aristocracy, who were his clients. His was the London’s first boxing academy.

Many African people resisted slavery, including:

Robert Wedderburn, a free Black man who
- saw his mother and grandmother, who were enslaved, whipped for being rebellious
- saw women who fought against rape be whipped, have their ears cut off or be

starved to death.

He wrote a book called The Horrors of Slavery and was an active speaker against slavery and economic oppression.

Ottobah Cuguano, who
- was one of the leaders and spokesmen for London’s Black community
- wrote a pamphlet in 1787 calling for the total abolition of slavery
- sent it to the King although the Royal Family were pro-slavery
- advocated for Black schools in 1794 – Black children were facing some of the
problems we are seeing today
- proposed making war on the slave trade by using the Navy.

The Sons of Africa, who
- were a group of African men who wrote to the newspapers in 1787
- protested against slavery and racism.

Mary Prince, whom I am sure you have heard of:
- was born into slavery in Bermuda in 1788
- fought back against frequent rapes
- was whipped, then sold
- was sexually abused by her new master
- was whipped for marrying a free Black man
- was sent to the UK to keep her away from her husband
- wrote The History of Mary Prince, which was published in 1831
- was sued for libel by her former owner but won the case because of her scars and


Mary Prince’s story in some ways echoes that of Harriet Jacobs, the subject of my choreopoem, Harriet. Although Jacobs was not raped, she resisted sexual exploitation by her master for many years. Her book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, gave some of the few published accounts of the pressures women were under during enslavement.

Then, there was Ukawsaw Gronniosaw
- A prince from Chad
- a loyal soldier
- racially abused and ripped off by his landlady in London, as well as his employers

and the general public
- published his book in 1770, A narrative of the most remarkable particulars in the

life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw

And finally,

Thomas Peters
- a loyal British soldier in the Revolutionary War
- along with many other loyal soldiers and civilians, dumped in Nova Scotia, a rocky

island where they had no land for planting, after the war
- got 15 ships from the British and equipped them with African captains
- got the government to pay for the former slaves to travel; and
- sailed with them 5,000 back to Sierra Leone.

As I said, there is much more information but I cannot even include here everything I wrote down.

Some of the people spoken about were loyal soldiers who fought for the British which raises other questions for me. Brother Tony spoke about some of these issues in another talk, "Where Does Your Allegiance Lie?" I will be posting about this.

One thing Brother Tony did not mention was that because of people such as Mary Prince, Robert Wedderburn, Olaudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass, amongst others, who published their own eyewitness accounts of slavery, and who did speaking tours in Britain, an antislavery movement grew. Many white people were appalled when they learned some of the details of what happened on board slave ships and on plantations, even if these were sanitised versions. These people were quite rightly appalled, and as a direct result, the abolitionist movement in Britain grew.

Every Tuesday this month, I will be doing Black History shows on the radio. To listen to them, and to hear the recordings of previous shows, visit:

Brother Tony will be one of my guests, so check the website for details.

See also:

Soul Survivors
German Death Camp in Namibia
Wordpower Literary Festival

1 comment:

My Captivating Capiz Blog said...

You must be lucky to have the chance to be in an event like that. here in my country, we don't have much like those so I feel deprived sometimes. i like being with people and I even tried once to work with farmers and see how they live and eat everyday for 2 months which has taught me a big lesson in life...I'm glad to fell the agony of living in the farmlands when we have nothing to eat each day but rice and raw banana mixed with coconut milk.