Tag Archive | "Sierra Leone"

Black Loyalists in 18th Century London


Image: Courtesy of Kurt Miller – KMI Studio Website: www.kmistudio.com

It was during the War of Independence in the colony of America that Britain gained herself these unlikely allies. Black loyalists fought for Britain against the American colonists. Free blacks were joined by thousands of slaves who had been promised freedom and land by Britain if they joined in this battle. The idea of British freedom, i.e. complete freedom in the shortest possible time, was appealing to the escaped Africans who in the 1770s made their way to the British army position to fight for Britain and for freedom.

In September 1783, the independence of the United States and the formation of its boundaries were formally recognised. The new country was founded by an egalitarian movement and based on the philosophy of ‘equal rights’ for all.  After this treaty had been signed, the whole British faction had to leave the United States. In the eight months between April and November 1783, over 3,000 black people leaving the country on British ships for destinations as varied as Nova Scotia, the West Indies, England, Germany, Quebec or Belgium, were recorded in the Book of Negroes .

Black Loyalists in 18th Century London

London had a severe poverty problem in the 18th century. This became more pronounced as growing numbers of African-American loyalists arriving from America ended up living on the streets. The black and white loyalists had all been promised compensation for their losses in the War of Independence, however, the majority of claims from the black loyalists were denied or they were given derisory amounts condemning them to lives of destitution. The Parliamentary Commission Compensation Board reviewing the claims stated, on several occasions, that they believed the black claimants were being deceptive in claiming they were free men with property and should adopt a state of gratitude that they were now at liberty rather than pursue applications for financial assistance. In 1786 there were over 1,000 black loyalists living in London. As the negative sentiment regarding the presence of Africans in England increased there were suggestions of where to relocate these black people; the main areas proposed where the Bahamas, where other loyalists had moved to or Sierra Leone, on the West African coast.

The following year around 200 of this impoverished group migrated to Sierra Leone with government assistance; the government wanted to remove the problem of black poverty and the presence of large groups of free black people from the streets of England. There were 344 poor black people on the ship Myro that sailed from London in 1787.  The plan was to move the burden of the ‘troublesome’ black person from the attention of the public, forever . This was an indication of the racially nationalist philosophy that was to perpetuate the abolitionist movement.


Further reading and research

The Book of Negroes – that listed all the Black Loyalists evacuated from America – can be found in the archives at Kew (Public Records Office).

There is also a copy available online here

The National Archives contain records, that can only be viewed in the reading room, about the Committee for the Relief of Poor Blacks and their emigration to Sierra Leone; this covers the details of events between May 1786 to April 1787.

This article was contributed by Marjorie Morgan.Writer, Researcher. © 2013 | Blackpresence has special permission to publish this article.

Related Link: Black Loyalists

Posted in African American History, African History, Black Britain, Black History Month UK, Black People in Europe, Black Soldiers, Guest Blog Posts, SlaveryComments (5)

Captain Paul Cuffe



(NEW BEDFORD, Mass.)  — It took nearly two hundred years but New Bedford now has a lasting tribute to Captain Paul Cuffe in the form of a park, dedicated today in his honor at the southern foot of historic Johnny Cake Hill.

Paul Cuffe (1759-1817) was the free-born son of an African father and a Native American mother. A skillful mariner, he was also a successful merchant, philanthropist, community leader, civil rights advocate and abolitionist. In 1780 he petitioned for the right to vote as a landowner and taxpayer. He established the first integrated school in America and became an advisor to President James Madison.
More than 120 guests and the public joined in the dedication ceremonies under a tent on the upper terrace of the Whaling Museum campus overlooking the park, which is sited on the southwest corner of the Museum grounds. The site is also adjacent to the location where Cuffe once kept a store in New Bedford, Cuffe & Howards.
Guests included Cuffe descendants and Native Americans representing several tribes in Southern New England. A traditional Native American smudge ceremony was performed by the members present to bless the park before local and state officials cut a ribbon opening the new park.
Native American song began the program with the Nettukkusqk Singers – Wampanoag and Nipmuc women from Rhode Island and Massachusetts  – performing women’s drumming and singing traditions from their tribal communities.
Students of the Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School of Providence, Rhode Island, read brief essays on the life and work of the Captain.
Cuffe descendant Robert Kelley, Esq., was keynote speaker on behalf of the Cuffe family.
The Rev. Pam Cole offered an opening prayer and reflected on the faith of the Quakers – the Society of Friends – the of tenets of which Cuffe and his family practiced.
Other speakers included: James Russell, President & CEO, New Bedford Whaling Museum; James Lopes, Esq., Vice President, Education & Programming; Daniel Dilworth, Acting Superintendent, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park; Lee Blake, President, New Bedford Historical Society; and New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang.
The Dedication was the concluding event of “Old Dartmouth Roots,” a free two-day genealogy and local history symposium at the Museum, and was funded in part by Mass Humanities
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world’s most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of whales, whaling and the cultural history of the region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city’s historic downtown and is open daily. For more information visit: www.whalingmuseum.org

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John Conteh-Boxer

John Conteh - Boxer

John Conteh - Boxer

John Conteh was born in Liverpool in 1951, to an Irish mother and Sierra Leonean father. He was raised in a rough neighbourhood, and his father encouraged him to box at the Kirkby Athletic Club when he was 10 to keep him from joining the local gangs. John excelled in boxing,

As an amateur boxer, John remarkably notched up wins against the world’s best at the 1970 Commonwealth Games. He won a record three Gold Medals at the Commonwealth Games and quickly followed up by winning ABA titles at middleweight in 1970 and light-heavyweight in 1971.

The early promise shown by John as an amateur soon blossomed and developed into a prolific career at a professional level. Taking on the world’s best, he defeated at light heavyweight, British, European and Commonwealth champions before becoming the (WBC) World Boxing Councils World Crown Holder in 1973,defeating Jorge Ahumada of Argentina.

After successfully defending his world title three times he eventually lost his title in 1977. John tried in vain to regain his title three times.

He was rightly hailed as the most talented British boxer for many years, however, persistent hand injuries and unsettling relationships with various managers unfortunately shortened John’s boxing career.

As his all round ability showed by winning the all sport British Superstars TV competition in 1974, John is no slouch when it comes to playing other sports. he is a serious golfer Playing off a handicap of eight. John is Asked regularly to play on celebrity golf days, John always puts a smile on everyone’s face with his own brand of jokes, observations and hilarious stories.


Related Links
John Conteh – Official Site

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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

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