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Olaudah Equiano-Abolitionist


Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano, later to be known as (Gustavus Vassa) was born in what is today, Nigeria. Kidnapped from his African village at the age of eleven, and sold to a Virginia planter.

He was later bought by a British naval Officer, Captain Pascal, as a present for his cousins in London.

Equiano bought his freedom after ten years of enslavement throughout the North American continent, where he assisted his merchant slave master and worked as a seaman.

At the age of forty four he wrote and published his autobiography, ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African. Written by Himself,’ He registered it at Stationer’s Hall, London, in 1789.

More than two centuries later, this work is recognised not only as one of the first works Published in England by an African.

Equiano recalls his childhood in Essaka, where he was adorned in the tradition of the “greatest warriors.”

He is unique in his recollection of traditional African life before the advent of the European slave trade.

Equiano was extremely well travelled for his time. He not only traveled throughout the Americas, Turkey and the Mediterranean; but also participated in major naval battles during the French and Indian War (Seven Years’ War). He also took part in the search for a Northwest passage led by the Philips expedition of 1772-1773.

Equiano also records his central role, along with Granville Sharpe, in the British Abolitionist Movement.

As a major voice in this movement, Equiano petitioned the Queen of England in 1788.

He was appointed commissary of provisions and stores to the expedition to resettle London’s poor Blacks in Sierra Leone, a British colony on the west coast of Africa.

Related Links

St Andrews Church, ELy – Plaques to Gustavus Vassa’s child

Read Equiano’s book

Posted in African History, Black Britain, Black History, Black History Month UK, Black People in Europe, Caribbean History, SlaveryComments (1)

Black British Timeline


Black British Timeline

Black Sailor at Waterloo

Black Sailor at Waterloo

First era of large scale settlement of blacks in Britain. Spans period of Britain’s involvement in the tri-continental slave trade. Black slaves were in attendance as sea captains sauntered through the streets. In Tottenham, All Hallows Church baptismal register records “John Cyras, Captain Madden’s black” in March 1718, and at St Mary’s Church, Hornsey “John Moore, a black from Captain Boulton’s” 8th October 1725 and “Captain Lissle’s black from Highgate” in 1733.

1760s
Black Londoners number 10,000-15,000 of the nation’s 20,000 black people. Evidence appears in registered burials. The status of Black people in society becomes part of public debate. Widespread view that blacks were less than human expressed in slave sales and advertisements.

1756

Mounting black response to slavery through covert means, resistance and flight. Notable Black activists are: Oluadah Equiano; Ignatius Sancho; and Ottobah Cugoano. Movements among Britons to demand black freedom from slavery. Supporters include workers and urban poor who themselves suffered under the ruling classes of the day.

Mid-18th century
London Blacks vociferously contested slavery and the slave sales widespread in Britain. The legal status of these practices were never clearly defined. Slavery of whites was forbidden Free blacks could not be enslaved. Blacks who were brought as slaves to Britain were considered bound to their owners.

1772
Lord Mansfield court ruling that a slave who has deserted his master could not be taken by force to be sold abroad. Verdict triggers black flight from their owners, the decline of slavery in England, and calls by Equiano and others for the abolition of the slave trade. Clandestine Black quarters develop.

1775-83
In the wake of the American revolution hundreds of “Black loyalists” , the African-American slave-soldiers who fought on the side of the British, arrived in London.? Deprived of pensions many of them became indigent and begged in the streets of London.
1786
London’s Blacks and Asians (Lascars) lived among whites in such areas as Mile End, Stepney, Paddington, and the St. Giles areas. The majority were living, not as slaves and Servants in wealthy homes, but as free men, householders or tenants.? Many became the Black Poor: ex-low-wage soldiers, seafarers, and plantation workers, but with few desirable skills in an evolving urban capitalist economy.

1789
Blacks and south-east Asian Lascars did not fit easily into the Poor Law welfare strategies of the period. A special ‘Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor’ laid plans for the Settlement of Blacks in Sierra Leone, West Africa.? Publication of the memoirs of Equiano, the chief Black spokesman of Britain’s Black community, “The Interesting Narratives of the Life of Olaudah Equiano”.

1792-1815
Further groups of black soldiers and seamen settle in London after services in the Napoleonic wars.

Late 18th century
The slave trade declines greatly in economic importance to Britain with the evolution of industrial capitalism. Resurgence of intolerance buttressed by “scientific racism”. This effectively ends the first period of large-scale black immigration to London and Britain. Decline in immigration and gradual absorption of blacks and their descendants into the white population occurs.

1807
The British slave trade is abolished

1834
Parliament abolishes slavery throughout the British Empire. Steady decline in numbers and visibility of London’s black population as fewer blacks were brought by West Indian planters and restrictions on immigrants from Africa.

1880s
New build up of small black dockside Communities in London’s Canning Town, and in Liverpool and Cardiff.

20th century
London-born Black people begin to make a mark in London life. Continuous influx of African students, sportsmen, students, and businessmen. Caribbean professionals gain positions as doctors, politicians and activists.

World War I
Black communities grow with arrival of black merchant seamen and soldiers. They survive as the oldest black communities. Continuous presence of small groups of students from Africa and the Caribbean.

World War II
Caribbean and West Africans arrive in small numbers as wartime workers, merchant seamen and servicemen in the army, navy and air forces. Perhaps 20,000 blacks in Britain concentrated in dockside areas of London, Liverpool and Cardiff. Learie Constantine, welfare officer in the RAF, refused service in a London Hotel and later wins damages.

Post-war period

1948
Britain’s first group of post-war Caribbean immigrants come to London on the SS Empire Windrush. Many of the 492 passengers settle in Brixton now a prominent black district.

1950s to 1960s

Mass migration of workers from all over the English-speaking Caribbean, particularly Jamaica They are “invited” to fill labour requirements in hospitals, transport and railways and contribute to rebuilding the post-war urban economy.

1962
Commonwealth Immigrants Act and a succession of laws in 1968, 1971, and 1981 severely restrict Black entry to Britain, and brings this period to an end. Emergent Black and Asian struggle against race prejudice and intolerance.

1975
David Pitt brings a new popular voice to the House of Lords as one of the first black Peers.

1987
Black population, workers, and community activists aid election of four Black Members of Parliament.

1991-98
Black Londoners numbered half a million people in the 1991 census, of which an increasing proportion were London- or British-born. Despite modest socio-economic gains, discrimination remained a problem, even where skill deficiencies were being overcome. Black Parliamentarians increase to six in 1992 and nine in 1997 elections.

Further reading: Sources

Banton, Michael (1955), The Coloured Quarter. Jonathan Cape. London.

Collicott, Sylvia L. (1986), Connections. Haringey. Local-National-World
Links. Haringey Community Information Service, London.

File, Nigel and Chris Power (1981), Black Settlers in Britain 1555-1958.
Heinnemann Educational.

Gundara, Jagdish S. and Ian Duffield, eds. (1992), Essays on the History
of Blacks in Britain. Avebury, Aldershot.

Merriman, Nick ed. (1993), The Peopling of London: Fifteen Thousand
Years of Settlement from Overseas. Museum of London, London.

Scobie, Edward (1972) Black Brittania: A History of Blacks in Britain.
Johnson Publishing. Chicago.

Shyllon, F.Q. (1977), Black People in Britain 1555-1833. Oxford University
Press.

Shyllon, Folarin, “The Black Presence and Experience in Britain: An
Analytical Overview,” in Gundara and Duffield eds. (1992), Essays on the
History of Blacks in Britain. Avebury, Aldershot.

Walvin, James (1971), The Black Presence: A Documentary History of the
Negro in England, 1555-1860. Orbach and Chambers.

Walvin, James (1973), Black and White: The Negro and English Society
1555-1945. Penguin, London.
1807
The British slave trade is abolished1834
Parliament abolishes slavery throughout the British Empire. Steady decline in numbers and visibility of London’s black population as fewer blacks were brought by West Indian planters and restrictions on immigrants from Africa.

1880s
New build up of small black dockside Communities in London’s Canning Town, and in Liverpool and Cardiff.
20th century

London-born Black people begin to make a mark in London life. Continuous influx of African students, sportsmen, students, and businessmen. Caribbean professionals gain positions as doctors,politicans and activists. World War IBlack communities grow with arrival of black merchant seamen and soldiers. They survive as the oldest black communities. Continuous presence of small groups of students from Africa and the Caribbean.

World War IICaribbean and West Africans arrive in small numbers as wartime workers, merchant seamen and servicemen in the army, navy and air forces. Perhaps 20,000 blacks in Britain concentrated in dockside areas of London, Liverpool and Cardiff. Learie Constantine, welfare officer in the RAF, refused service in a London Hotel and later wins damages. Post-war period 1948 Britain’s first group of post-war Caribbean immigrants come to London on the SS Empire Windrush. Many of the 492 passengers settle in Brixton now a prominent black district. 1950s to 1960s

Mass migration of workers from all over the English-speaking Caribbean, particularly Jamiaca They are “invited” to fill labour requirements in hospitals, transport and railways and contribute to rebuilding the post-war urban economy.

1962
Commonwealth Immigrants Act and a succession of laws in 1968, 1971, and 1981 severely restrict Black entry to Britain, and brings this period to an end. Emergent Black and Asian struggle against race prejudice and intolerance.

1975

David Pitt brings a new popular voice to the House of Lords as one of the first black Peers.

1987

Black population, workers, and community activists aid election of four Black Members of Parliament.

1991-98
Black Londoners numbered half a million people in the 1991 census, of which an increasing roportion were London- or British-born. Despite modest socio-economic gains, discrimination remained a problem, even where skill deficiencies were being overcome. Black Parliamentarians increase to six in 1992 and nine in 1997 elections.

The nine Black MPs clockwise from top left – Dianne Abbott, Paul Boateng, Bernie Grant, Piara Khabra, Keith Vaz, Marsha Singh, Mohammed Sarwar, Ashok Kumar, and Oona King . http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Crete/9145/www.thechronicle.demon.co.uk/

Further reading: Sources

Banton, Michael (1955), The Coloured Quarter. Jonathan Cape. London.

Collicott, Sylvia L. (1986), Connections. Haringey. Local-National-World
Links. Haringey Community Information Service, London.

File, Nigel and Chris Power (1981), Black Settlers in Britain 1555-1958.
Heinnemann Educational.

Gundara, Jagdish S. and Ian Duffield, eds. (1992), Essays on the History
of Blacks in Britain. Avebury, Aldershot.

Merriman, Nick ed. (1993), The Peopling of London: Fifteen Thousand
Years of Settlement from Overseas. Museum of London, London.

Scobie, Edward (1972) Black Brittania: A History of Blacks in Britain.
Johnson Publishing. Chicago.

Shyllon, F.Q. (1977), Black People in Britain 1555-1833. Oxford University
Press.

Shyllon, Folarin, “The Black Presence and Experience in Britain: An
Analytical Overview,” in Gundara and Duffield eds. (1992), Essays on the
History of Blacks in Britain. Avebury, Aldershot.

Walvin, James (1971), The Black Presence: A Documentary History of the
Negro in England, 1555-1860. Orbach and Chambers.

Walvin, James (1973), Black and White: The Negro and English Society
1555-1945. Penguin, London.

Posted in African American History, African History, Black Britain, Black History, Black History Month UK, Black People in Europe, Caribbean History, SlaveryComments (2)


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PHN0cm9uZz53b29fdmlkZW9fY2F0ZWdvcnk8L3N0cm9uZz4gLSBTZWxlY3QgYSBjYXRlZ29yeTo8L2xpPjwvdWw+