Black History News & Notes – April


Monday 13 April. 6.30-8.30pm. Highlighting Marcus Garveyism UNIA & Garveyism Through Film 

If you’ve ever wanted to find out about Marcus Garvey and the UNIA-ACL organisation in an accessible manner – this event is for you. In one evening, you will find out all you need to know through a special remix by history consultant Kwaku of film footage, followed by Q&A. Part of Harrow BHM Group’s African History Season 2014/15 It’s inter-generational, and open to all sections of the community. Harrow MENCAP (1st floor, ring middle buzzer), 3 Jardine House, Harrovian Business Village, Bessborough Road, Harrow, London, HA1 3EX. (It’s a 3 minute walk from Harrow On The Hill tube/bus station): Free, but subject, to pre-booking
via or via email:

Monday 27 April. Marcus Garvey/UNIA & The Importance Of Music & The Arts 

Talk by Dr Cecil Gutzmore. For venue and booking details see 13 April above.

Saturday, 2 May. 3-4.30pm. Caribbean Soldiers on the Western Front 

Talk by John Siblon. African Heritage Forum. Black Cultural Archives, Windrush Square, Brixton, SW2 1EF. To book:

Monday 11 May. 6.30pm. Re-interpreting The Quotes Of Marcus Garvey

Talk by Kwaku. For venue and booking details see 13 April above.

Monday 25 May. 6.30pm. Putting Marcus Garvey/UNIA Words To Music. 

Talk by Keith Waithe. For venue and booking details see 13 April above.

Legacies of British Slave-ownership Workshops 

The LBS project at UCL is planning a series of all-day workshops which will include a presentation from LBS about our latest research, contributions from local historians and break-out groups for more informal discussion. The dates and venues are:

Glasgow. Saturday 12 September The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane

Nottingham. Saturday 19 September New Arts Exchange, 39 Gregory Boulevard

Manchester. Saturday 24 October Central Library, St Peters Square

Exeter. Saturday 14 November Venue to be confirmed

London. Saturday 5 December UCL, Gower Street, Bloomsbury


The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir  

New book my Michael Bundock (Yale University Press, 1 March). It ‘chronicles a young boy’s journey from the horrors of Jamaican slavery to the heart of London’s literary world, and reveals the unlikely friendship that changed his life. Francis Barber, born in Jamaica, was brought to London by his owner in 1750 and became a servant in the household of the renowned Dr. Samuel Johnson. Although Barber left London for a time and served in the British navy during the Seven Years’ War, he later returned to Johnson’s employ. A fascinating reversal took place in the relationship between the two men as Johnson’s health declined and the older man came to rely more and more upon his now educated and devoted companion. When Johnson died he left the bulk of his estate to Barber, a generous (and at the time scandalous) legacy, and a testament to the depth of their friendship. There were thousands of black Britons in the eighteenth century, but few accounts of their lives exist. In uncovering Francis Barber’s story, this book not only provides insights into his life and Samuel Johnson’s but also opens a window onto London when slaves had yet to win their freedom.’ 

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography to reflect slave-owners

‘The ODNB is planning a series of updates to reflect the importance of slavery and slave-ownership in shaping British history and culture. There are over 100 people in the ODNB who also feature in the slave compensation records, but their connections to slavery are often omitted or referred to obliquely, reflecting the obfuscation employed by the slaveowners themselves. As part of this project, Rachel Lang is reviewing existing ODNB entries to take account of the results of our LBS research. In addition, the ODNB has commissioned a number of different authors to produce around 30 new entries for slave-owners and their offspring whose contribution to British public life has not been fully recognised. The new entries will be published early next year. (From LBS newsletter March)

Jamaica Hidden Histories

Jamaica Hidden Histories is an educational project by Full Spectrum Productions, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It aims to unearth and communicate information to diverse communities to understand the history of Jamaica, its distinctive cultural identity and links with Britain. The project will explore how Jamaican culture has become a recognisable and global brand.

Albert Huie, Jamaican artist

The world implications of the Jim Crowism 

‘By the turn of the century, with the acquiescence of the Supreme Court, a comprehensive system of racial, political and economic inequality, summarized in the phrase Jim Crow, had come into being across the South. At the same time, the supposed horrors of Reconstruction were invoked as far away as South Africa and Australia to demonstrate the necessity of excluding non white peoples from political rights. This is why W.E.B. Du Bois, in his great 1935 work “Black Reconstruction in America,” saw the end of Reconstruction as a tragedy for democracy, not just in the United States but around the globe.’ – From Eric Foner’s article Why Reconstruction Matters (New York Times  Sunday Review 28 March:

Mattie Lawrence 

As research continues into this member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers in the 1880s Jeff Green is posting the latest information on his entry on her at

Books you may have missed

  • Slave Ships and Slaving. George Francis Dow (Courier Corporation. 2013). Collection of commentaries by ships’ doctors and captains, as well as written testimonies for a parliamentary committee investigating the slave trade. Accounts relate horrifying events and conditions: the holding pens or “factories,” living conditions aboard ships, mutinies and their suppression, and more. 54 period engravings and other illustrations accompany the grim record.
  • Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity. Monica Miller (Duke University Press. 2010). A ‘cultural history of the black dandy, from his emergence in Enlightenment England to his contemporary incarnations in the cosmopolitan art worlds of London and New York.

 African Twins 1855-7 

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries African and pseudo-African performers were displayed as curiosities throughout Europe and America. Appearing in circuses, ethnographic exhibitions, and traveling shows, these individuals and troupes drew large crowds. As Bernth Lindfors shows, the showmen, impresarios, and even scientists who brought supposedly representative inhabitants of the “Dark Continent” to a gaping public often selected the performers for their sensational impact. Spotlighting and exaggerating physical, mental, or cultural differences, the resulting displays reinforced pernicious racial stereotypes and left a disturbing legacy. (Early African Entertainments Abroad: From the Hottentot Venus to Africa’s First Olympians (University of Wisconsin Press, November 2014.) Two such individuals were African Siamese twins whose tour around the country was reported in local newspapers. Their story has been written up by Joanne Martell in Millie-Christine (John F. Blair). Here are three pieces about them from the Croydon Chronicle 1855-7.

‘THE SIAMESE TWINS OUTDONE.- The twin niggers, who are joined together at the lower part of their backs by a ligament of flesh 16 inches in circumference, have been shown by Mr. E. T. Smith, the English Barnum, to a number of medical gentlemen and persons connected with the press, in the saloon of Drury-lane Theatre. The children, it must be avowed, do not seem at all the worse in health, intelligence, or happiness, for the extraordinary bondage in which they have been placed by the caprice of Nature. They run to and fro. They talk, laugh and sing, and are pleased with the notice of strangers. One of the them exclaimed, in answer to a remark she overheard, “I don’t look like a nigger.” Their pulses do not beat together, and all the internal organs are believed to be quite separate; and it is satisfactory to learn that there may yet be a chance of releasing them, before they grow up, from the inconvenient situation in which they now are. Their parents are negroes in slavery, in one of the Southern States, and the first profits of their exhibition in England will be devoted to purchase the liberation of their father and mother.’ (15 September 1855)

‘THE AFRICAN TWINS. – Mr. E. T. Smith the English Barnum, is not very secure it seems, in his possession of these marvellous twins. The Dundee Courier says, “We understand that in consequence of a representation made to the Home Secretary, through Mr Duncan, member for the burgh, the violent abduction of the twins will form the subject of an investigation by the Lord Advocate. It is due to the feelings of the public that a searching investigation should be made. We do not recollect of a similar outrage; and there is an end of all personals security, if a band or powerful men are to be permitted to carry off by force, in broad day, from the midst of a peaceful assembly, two children – whether white or black – without challenge.’ (22 September 1855)

‘The AFRICAN TWIN MONSTROSITY.- Two lively, active, intelligent black girls, now about 51/2 years old, are united inseparably together dos a dos by the terminations of their back-bones. This freak of nature is attracting much attention in Edinburgh, and is certainly one of the most extraordinary living specimens to be met with. The children are named respectively Christiana and Milley Makoi; they are gaily dressed, and converse frankly with their visitors and sing to them little songs in duet sweetly enough. On the occasion of our visit to them the stouter one, in reply to a question, announced that she is considered the prettier one, but her sister very quickly put in the claim of being the gooder one. Although so closely combined, they have their likes and dislikes, and, like other children, occasionally a bit of a quarrel, which they can carry on by heel-kicking, finger–pinching, elbowing, and punching heads; but they seem on the whole good-tempered creatures, and soon make amends with a mutual kiss.’ – Scottish Press. ( 31 March 1857. p.2)

English Medieval slave  trade  banned by Henry 1

‘SLAVERY IN ENGLAND. – At a synod held in the third year of the reign of Henry 1; it was agreed, among other things, “that there should be no more buying and selling of men used in England, which was hitherto accustomed, as if they have been Kline or Oxen.’ – Holinsshed’. (Croydon Chronicle.  16 August 1856)

Tudor Negro Needlemaker

‘THE NEGRO AND THE NEEDLE. – It is not generally known that in the early progress of needle manufacture we are indebted to the negro. The earliest record of needlemaking in this country is in the year 1545 in the reign of Henry VIII, and it is supposed that this useful branch of industry was introduced by a Moor from Spain. The historian Stowe tells us that needles were sold in Cheapside, and other busy streets in London, in the reign of Queen Mary, and were at the time made by a Spanish negro, who refused to discover the secret of his art. Another authority states that the art of making steel needles was lost at the negro’s death, but was afterwards revived by a German in 1566. Probably these facts may account for the crest of the needlemakers’ coat of arms being the head of a negro. – History of Needlemaking’ (Croydon Chronicle. 19 January 1856)’ 

The History of Needlemaking does not appear to be Michael T. Morrall. The History and Description of Needlemaking (Manchester. 1862)  which mentions the story on pages 3 &4.  Mention is made of the needlemaker in:

  • James Petit Andrews & Robert Henry. History of Great Britain, from the death of Henry viii. to the accession of James vi. of Scotland to the crown of England, a continuation of dr. Henry’s History of Great Britain(1796); footnote referencing Stowe (p. 230)
  • Imtiaz H. Habib. Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500-1677: Imprints of the Invisible. Ashgate Publishing 2008. (p. 44)
  • The Missing Tudors: black people in 16th-century England. BBC History Magazine. July 2012
  • A. Roger’s Britain’s Black Background. The Crisis. February 1940. p. 40

Ira Aldridge 

‘ANOTHER INFANT ROSCIUS.” – a curious case was tried in the Bail Court, London, last week, which excited considerable interest. The plaintiff – a Mr Stothhard, sought to recover damages from Mr. Aldridge, the actor, better known as the “African Roscius,” for the seduction of his wife. It appears that Mr. Stothard having become “stage struck,” gave Mr. Aldridge a sum of £50 to learn him the profession, which engagement the African on his part fulfilled. In a short time Mr. Stothard was “brought out;” but being on a theatrical tour, and having left a fair young wife at home, the African conceived that the lady was placed under his protection, and their intimacy in due course resulted in the birth of another infant Roscius, whose “colour” gave unmistakable evidence of its parentage. As there was proof of neglect on the part of the husband, the jury returned a verdict of only 40s. damages for the plaintiff.’ (Croydon Chronicle. 19 January 1856) 

Queen Victoria threatens to sack Lady in Waiting over slavery views 

‘HER MAJESTY AND AMERICAN SLAVERY. – The Inquirer newspaper, of Saturday, narrates the following: – A lady in this country, who has travelled lately in America, has issues a book containing her impressions of what she had seen. This lady, the Hon. Miss Murray, has lately travelled in the southern states of America, and has adopted the tone of the society she found there, and agreed heartily, not only in what was said of the white slaves in England, but also in what was said of the black-slaves in Carolina. She has, therefore, not hesitated to publish in her book opinions favourable to Negro slavery, saying that God created Negroes to live under restraint, and that slavery is a means, ‘designed by Providence for the making of some good Christian men and women.’ As one of the Queen’s Ladies in Waiting, Miss Murray wished to dedicate the book to her Majesty. It is understood, however that on seeing the proof sheets her Majesty not only refused the dedication, but required that Miss Murray, if she published it, should resign her place at Court.’ (Croydon Chronicle.  26 January 1856)

Escaped woman slave reaches Liverpool 

‘A FUGITIVE SLAVE IN LIVERPOOL. – The American ship Asterion, Captain Day, which arrived in the Mersey on Saturday evening, bought to the free shores of England a slave woman, under rather peculiar circumstances. It appears that, while the ship was loading at New Orleans, the poor creature made her escape, whereupon her master offered a reward of 500 dollars to anyone who would restore to him his “property.” The police, as is usually in such cases, made strict search throughout the city and on board the vessels in the harbour, but she eluded their vigilance, and found a friend in the ship’s boatswain, who secretly conveyed her on board the Asterion, and kept her in his berth during the whole of the passage, which occupied about 25 days. The strangest part of the affair is, that, with the exception of the liberator, the boatswain, her presence in the shop was unknown to the captain, officers, and crew. When the ship anchored in the Mersey, the Custom-house officers went on board, and whole one of them was rummaging in the boatswain’s berth, he found her concealed among the bedclothes, in a state of nudity, having on only a waistbelt and a turban. Wearing apparel was soon provided, and she was removed on shore, and taken to a boarding-house in Queen-street; a free woman. She is a mulatto, about 20 or 25 years of age, was tidily attired, and appeared to have been well treated during the voyage. The boatswain and the whole of the crew of the Asterion are coloured men. – Liverpool Albion.’ (Croydon Chronicle. 23 February 1856)

Lewis the African Mesmerist

Lewis gave a lecture in the Lower Hall on Crown Lane (Lambeth).  “The audience was not very numerous, and but few persons came forward to be acted upon, and over those Mr. Lewis had but little power, sending a few to sleep, but operating successfully on a little boy. In justice to Mr. Lewis it should be mentioned, that he conducted his experiments in a fair and  straight forward manner, clearly showing that to the science alone he was  willing to trust.” There was singing by Mr and Mrs Brady. (Croydon Chronicle. 15 March 1856)

Duleep Singh Visits Coal Mine

‘AN INDIAN PRINCE IN A COAL-PIT. – His Highness the Maharajah Duleep Singh, who is now on a visit to Lord Hatherton, the Lord-Lieutenant of the country of Stafford, at Teddesley Park, Staffordshire, has, in the past week, been conducted to different points of interest in that county,  under somewhat distinguished guidance, Wearing an elegant silk head-dress, and massive ear-rings, he was conducted by the Earl of Dartmouth into the Assize Court, where Baron Bramwell was presiding. The learned baron received him respectfully, and afterwards conversed with his highness, One another day the Maharajah, under the guidance of the Right Hon. the Earl Granville, who had also been visiting at Teddesley, inspected the iron-works of the noble-earl, at Hanley and Shelton. At Hanley, his Highness, accompanied by Sir John Login, descended the shaft of the big coal-pit, which is 510 yards deep. His Highness prolonged his subterranean visit some time, taking considering interest in examining the workers.’ (Croydon Chronicle. 29 March 1856)

Mrs Stowe’s new book 1856

‘Mrs Stowe, authoress of “UTC,” has arrived at Liverpool from New York. She will bring out her new book, “On the Influence of Slavery upon the White Population” during her absence, both in England and the United States.’ (Croydon Chronicle. 23 August 1856)

Slave whip found in cotton bale 

‘In a bale of cotton opened at Blackburn a slave whip has been found. It was formed of plaited hide, and resembled an ordinary dog whip. It was five foot six inches in length; that portion which may be termed the handle being about twenty-two inches in length, constituting it an instrument of punishment truly formidable.’ (Croydon Chronicle. 24 January 1857. p. 3)

Liverpool Fight 1857 

‘At Liverpool, Thomas Parnell, a  negro, in a quarrel with another negro, drew his knife, and all but cut off four fingers from his right hand.’ (Croydon Chronicle. 18 April 1857. p. 3)

Demerara Riots 1856 and attack on Governor 1857 

‘With the lower classes on Demerara Governor Wodehouse has been very unpopular, and as he was leaving for England with his wife a most outrageous attack was made upon him by a rabble of low women and boys.’ (Croydon Chronicle. 5 September 1857. p. 3) There had been riots in 1856 which were subject to a question in the Commons on 6 June. ( The Legacies of British Slave-ownership website states: ‘Sir Philip Edmond Wodehouse (1811–1887) was governor of British Guiana (1854-1858): his policies of ‘stabilizing’ the economy the cause in part of two serious riots, which were put down forcefully.’ (

West India Regiment to India 1857 

‘A REGIMENT OF NEGROES FOR INDIA – We are able to state that the 2nd West India Regiment (composed of African negroes) is under orders for Bengal, and has probably ere this embarked at Kingston, Jamaica. Indian News.’ (Croydon Chronicle. 24 October 1857. p.2 

Morrison millions in US 

‘THE CAREER OF A SELF-MADE MILLIONAIRE. James Morrison, Basildon-park, Berkshire ‘one of the richest merchants in the City of London’ died 20 October age 68. He was a Liberal, pro-free trade. He left over £4m ‘a considerable sum of this prodigious fortune is invested in the United States.’ (Croydon Chronicle.  7 November 1857. p. 2)

About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly, and am a member of the latter's Environment Forum. I am a member of the 5 Norbury Residents Associations Joint Planning Committee, and a Governor of Norbury Manor Primary School. I write for Croydon Citizen at I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and advise the North East People's History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s