Exploring the Existence of Black Aristocracy in the UK During the Tudor/Stuart Period
The Emergence of Black Elite Society in the USA & UK & Africa
The request for the subject of this podcast came from a Subscriber to the channel. The Subscriber had heard and read about some tales of the existence of people of colour during that period, but as I also found out from my short research, and using a phrase used by the present British Royal Family, when a situation is uncomfortable to talk about or to admit that a particular situation or approach to people of colour moving in such circles, the phrase “recollections may vary” seemed to be prevalent in the limited research material I could find.
This weeks podcast highlights and gives examples of non white people living in Tudor and Stuart times in the UK, and who were not yet classed as slaves. People of colour were part of the population, mainly living in the countryside, and working on the land or employed in areas where their specialist skills were needed. Black Tudors were deemed no worse off than many white ones. Black people were acknowledged as citizens rather than loathed as outcasts. It is significant that black people were baptised and married and buried within church life.
I will touch upon the treatment of the few historians who researched this topic and how researchers of today have been vilified for writing about the determination of many historians to erase black people from UK history – both in written records as well as paintings from that period in history. I explore the rise of black elite, particularly in the UK and the USA, and the discomfort by some to accept people of colour occupying certain spaces. History books of the future will be well documented. A notable series of history books will contain the treatment of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex into the British Royal Family, and the global growth of hate groups set up and financed to spread lies and misinformation about the Duchess and the emerging risks to her life and that of her husband and children as a result
It is also notable that it was members of USA & UK black elite that have come to the rescue of many people, who would otherwise been left to suffer, if reliant on the existing apparent facilities. One of those black elite billionaires came to the rescue of the Sussex family in providing accommodation, and security for as long as they needed it whilst trying to form a plan of action for a life outside of the UK. That angel on earth was Tyler Perry, who recognised the danger that the Sussexes were in after the UK Royal Family pulled finance and security without warning in an effort to force the family to return to the abusive environment in the UK. The irony of how it was a black man who did what the UK Monarchy refused to do, and ensured that the Sussexes were taken to a place of safety and supported until they were able to support themselves. Similarly in the UK, another member of the black elite, a successful footballer Marcus Rashford, began championing and giving and raising funds to feed UK children and their families who were going hungry on too many days each week. All whilst the government of the country denied that such a problem existed and reported in all kinds of self inflicted behaviour and attitudes of the adults in the families concerned as being the cause of the hardship etc etc. That is another ‘badge’ the UK can now add to its collection, i.e., the one of denial that hardship exists in a place such as the UK.
Methodology of Research
A topic such as this one would take years to research in depth, so let’s be clear, I did my overview research in less than a month. I initially searched for authors who had written books on this topic. I then did a general search on the net for evidence of the existence of these groups as mentioned above, around the 1500s, and then where I found evidence of particular people, either from information about marriages or deaths and places of burial, or particular skills which were valued at the time, and the societal hierarchy between even people of colour. I looked at information on records held as to how POC arrived in Britain at that time, or how it was assumed they arrived at that time- some indicators of which came from the surnames that were given, and who it was based on during that journey to Britain, or to the places in which they eventually settled, and how “black” appeared in the description or name in some way.
As I came across more authors, and how they conducted their research for their intended books, it was clear that trying to find information on black people during that period proved hard to find from the usual establishments. There seemed a general lack of interest in keeping such data, even if it existed, and it certainly became clear that some of the painting from that era did not paint black people as black, so the few that were found were rare indeed.
Each site that I came across which seemed to have the potential to explore further, I bookmarked so that I could easily find the information again. When I came to write up my findings, and wanted to list the websites for my reference sources at the end, I found some of them were missing. Not many but some just stated that the page no longer existed. It is not unusual for sites to move information around, but most will redirect you to the new location on the site. One did not do that, and it was a BBC site for educational purposes for people in schools today. There were many other articles on various sections of the BBC site, specifically aimed at schools, and some of the contents written and introduced by people of colour and the content was gratifying to see, not least because I gave up on the BBC in 2017 where I felt there were growing numbers of programmes on its tv network, that I felt were biased in content, and were too accepting of racial stereotypes in its programming. The so called programme described as “satire” which depicted Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex as a knife wielding angry black woman who was intent on harming Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge was the final straw for me. I made an official complaint, before the programme aired, and received a less than useful response after the said programme had aired. Part of the excuse was that it was humour and that the script was written by a lady of colour. I had already cancelled my TV Licence 6 months before, because I was unhappy with the attitude towards people of colour, and the images of this in the press from this so called satirical programme was enough for me to complain. I was not therefore surprised that that a page that was clearly there when I was researching for this podcast was now missing without explanation or any alternatives on the subject given.
I have never regretted cancelling my Licence, and I am 100% certain I will never need one again. I am able to decide which things I watch via subscriptions elsewhere, as opposed to the deluge of sub par programming from a once respected institution.
‘Famous’ People of Colour who Appeared in several internet sites, and most of which had drawings or paintings of them, or information on marriage, or death, and in some cases, their story told by others around them at the time. My quick research showed that some of the records did not come from the individuals themselves, so when reading that they were happy and were absorbed into society, I took that not to be necessarily the case for everyone. We all know how others try to explain or describe a POC experience, and it rarely matches what the POC would say themselves if given the chance. That being said, to have any written record about POC at that time, is proof that they did indeed exist, albeit most history books do not state this fact. Thankfully books written in recent years, have made efforts to bring together lots of pieces of information from a variety of sources, relating to named individuals in an effort to give a more rounded view. Some authors also found new information, so slowly but surely historical records are being added to in small ways at a time, with huge significance for the future.
The Black Elite
“is any elite, either political or economic in nature, that is made up of people who identify as of black African descent, in the Western World. It is typically distinct from but overlaps with other national elites, such as UK’s Aristocracy and the United States Upper Class”
Edward Swarthye was one of many black Tudors
When you think of Tudor England, you probably think of historical figures such as King Henry VIII.
The Tudor period was from 1485 to 1603.
Edward Swarthye was a porter during that time. That means he was employed to carry out jobs such as carrying luggage for people. He worked for a politician called Sir Edward Wynter in Gloucester, England, and was highly respected at the time.
In fact, he was so respected that Sir Edward Wynter once asked him to punish one of his white workers who was acting badly. This was a big deal at the time as black people would never be seen as having more authority than white people.
I found that this tale of a black man punishing a white man was described in an entirely different way elsewhere, and most likely nearer to the truth. Edward in other reference sources, was punished himself for this act, and criticised heavily for action that was requested by his white politician boss. Basically the white man was protected and many of the historical data sources refer to the heavy price paid by Edward because of the political views at the time. I don’t have the time in this podcast to outline that story, but I have included it in the reference material below.
The main point I am making is that this gentleman existed, and he lived a relatively peaceful existence and dressed and lived well.
Historians believe that Mary Fillis lived arrived in the UK in 1583 or 1584
Originally from Morocco, Mary Fillis was a Muslim woman who moved to England when she was just six years old.
She started off as a servant but because she was so skilled in making things, she became a respected dressmaker.
Historical records show that Mary changed her religion from being a Muslim to being a Christian by taking part in a religious ceremony called a baptism.
She was one of 60 black women who were baptised as a way to fit into British society.
Omoba Aina Forbes-Bonetta
Queen Victoria was impressed by Omoba Aina’s intelligence
Omoba Aina was a princess from a Nigerian community called the Yoruba tribe.
After her parents died from being captured by slave traders, Omoba was given as a gift to Queen Victoria. Omobo had to lose her Yoruba identity when she arrived in Britain and that’s when her name was changed to Sarah Forbes-Bonetta.
In order for her to be accepted into British society, Omoba could no longer be a Nigerian princess and became property of the British Empire.
Records show that Queen Victoria cared about Omoba and ended up paying for her education and finding people to look after her.
Omoba eventually had a child of her own and it became Queen Victoria’s goddaughter
Dido (Belle) Elizabeth Lindsay
Dido lived from 1761 to 1804 and her portrait still hangs in Kenwood House
Dido was born during a period of time where slaves were sold in the transatlantic slave trade.
Her mother was a West African woman and her dad was a white British man who was a Navy officer working in the Caribbean.
She’s often seen as the first black aristocrat which means she was part of the British upper class at the time. She was taken away from her mother and brought to the UK to be looked after by her father’s family in Kenwood House in north London.
However, even though she was part of the upper class she was not always treated like that because she was mixed race and not white.
Historians say that even though her family loved her, they often would not let her be seen by guests who would visit the family.
I found this information on another history site:-
Hanging on a wall in Scone Palace in Perth, Scotland, is an 18th-century double portrait of two young women of high society. One is sitting reading a book whilst the other is passing by clutching a basket of fruit. Both are adorned with expensive silk dresses with pearl necklaces draped across their necks. In the distance, you can make out the Georgian cityscape of London, including St. Paul’s Cathedral. There is nothing unusual about the painting drawn by the Scottish artist David Martin, except for the fact that one of the women is black.
The young lady in question is Dido Elizabeth Belle who is captured in the portrait alongside Lady Elizabeth Murray, her seated white companion. In 18th-century British art, black people were often depicted as servants or slaves; it is highly unusual to see a black woman represented as the equal of a white woman. But as we shall discover, nothing about the life of Dido was usual.
Born in 1761 in the West Indies, Dido was the daughter of a young British naval officer called John Lindsay and an African woman named Maria Belle. It is believed that Maria was a slave aboard a Spanish slaving ship travelling across the Caribbean. Lindsay was the captain of the British warship HMS Trent, which was patrolling the coasts of Senegal and the Caribbean. Although historians are not entirely sure about how Lindsay and Maria met, it is thought his ship captured the slaving ship that Maria was on.
Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)
Phillis Wheatley was born in West Africa.
When she was a young girl, she was put on board a ship and sent to the US, where she was sold as a slave to a family called the Wheatleys. She was named after that ship – the Phillis.
While Phillis was a slave, she was taught to read and write, which was unusual at the time.
She wrote her first poem at the age of 14. At the age of 20, she moved to England with her son and within a year, published her first book.
This made her the first African-American poet to be published, with her first volume of poetry in 1773.
Mary Seacole (1805-1881)
Who was Mary Seacole?
Mary Seacole was born and grew up in Jamaica, but came over to England in 1854.
She asked the War Office if she could go to help wounded soldiers who were fighting in the Crimean War (1853-1856), but she wasn’t allowed.
So she raised the money herself and travelled to Balaclava, Ukraine. Here, she looked after British soldiers who had been injured.
Despite all that she did, not many people knew who she was or the amazing work that she had done after she died. Most people remember Florence Nightingale, who helped many people too.
However, people have campaigned to make sure that people remember everything that Mary Seacole did.
In 2016, a statue of her was built outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
IGNATIUS SANCHO (C1729 – 1780)
Writer, composer and Britain’s first black voter
Born aboard a slave ship in the Atlantic Ocean, Sancho would arrive on British soil in bondage. Sancho was an avid reader with a thirst for knowledge and during his lifetime he composed music and wrote a large number of letters – the latter were published two years after his death making him the first African prose writer to have work published in England. After gaining financial independent householder status, Sancho became eligible to vote in 1774, becoming the first Briton of African heritage to vote in parliamentary elections. To many, Sancho was a symbol of the humanity of Africans and the immorality of the slave trade.
Miranda Kaufman – Author of Black Tudors
One particular modern day author caught my eye when researching this subject, who is Miranda Kaufman. The author always had an interest in the Tudor period, and whilst at University studying the Tudor period, she decided to research the existence of black Tudors for her Doctorate. The more she delved for information, the more blanks she came across from the main sources where such information would be kept. She persevered, and eventually published a book on the subject as part of her Doctorate and has received much praise for its content, including from black authors who are also producing published material including books on the subject. History data has been made much better for it, and will continue to do so, because of the diligent research that is being carried out now. Whilst I have come across other people in the quick research I did for this, I have included links below where you can explore further if you wish, and you will find other links along the way. I have merely listed a few of what I came across. One day I would love to explore this topic further just for my own knowledge. It has been fascinating.
In Miranda Kaufman’s book these are the 10 people she concentrated on, and conducted extensive research to find out as much as possible about their lives and experiences. These people were not necessarily part of the Elite, but it is proof that black people did indeed exist and live in Britain during the Tudor and Stuart period, and who were not always officially treated as slaves in some cases. Note that some of these individuals appear in the list above, taken from another source, which gives cross mapping to their existence.
Quote from Miranda Kaufman when interviewed by The Guardian newspaper about the book:- “We need to return to England as it was at the time,” says Kaufmann – “an island nation on the edge of Europe with not much power, a struggling Protestant nation in perpetual danger of being invaded by Spain and being wiped out. It’s about going back to before the English are slave traders, before they’ve got major colonies. The English colonial project only really gets going in the middle of the 17th century.” That said, she does leave a stark question hanging in the air: “How did we go from this period of relative acceptance to becoming the biggest slave traders out there?”
“I balk at the names black Tudors were given – Swarthye, Blanke, Blackman, Blacke – and at the idea that trudging out an existence as a Tudor prostitute, like Anne Cobbie, a “tawny Moor” with “soft skin”, is any great win for diversity. But it does seem that black Tudors are no worse off than white ones. At a basic level, they are acknowledged as citizens rather than loathed as outcasts.”
“Part of it is the surprise element: people didn’t think there were Africans in Tudor England. There’s this fantasy past where it’s all white – and it wasn’t. It’s ignorance. People just don’t know these histories. Hopefully this research will inspire producers to get multiracial stories on our screens.”
This is an extract from the book:-
JOHN BLANKE, the royal trumpeter
The two images of the court trumpeter John Blanke in the Westminster Tournament Roll of 1511 comprise the only known portrait of a Black Tudor. He was present at the court of Henry VII from at least 1507, and may have arrived with Katherine of Aragon in 1501, when she came from Spain to marry Henry VIII’s older brother, Prince Arthur. In 1509 he performed at both Henry VII’s funeral and Henry VIII’s coronation. He was paid wages and successfully petitioned the new king for a pay rise. He married in 1512, and was given a wedding present by Henry VIII, but after that he disappears from the records…
JACQUES FRANCIS, the salvage diver
An expert swimmer and diver, both skills common to his native land, but extremely rare in Tudor England, Jacques Francis was part of a team hired to salvage guns from the wreck of the Mary Rose in 1546. When his Venetian master, Peter Paulo Corsi, was accused of theft by a consortium of Italian merchants based in Southampton, Francis became the first known African to give evidence in an English court of law.
DIEGO, the circumnavigator
Diego ran through gunshot in his eagerness to be taken aboard Francis Drake’s ship when it docked at Nombre de Dios in Panama in 1572. He forged an alliance between the English and the local Cimarrons (Africans who had escaped their Spanish captors to found their own settlements) that resulted in the capture of over 150,000 pesos of Spanish silver and gold. Following this lucrative adventure, Diego returned to Plymouth with Drake, whence they set sail together again once more to circumnavigate the globe in 1577 on the Golden Hinde. He was with Drake when he passed through the straits of Magellan, raided South America and laid claim to California in the name of Elizabeth I in 1579. Diego died near the Moluccas of an arrow wound sustained after a fight a year earlier with the Araucanians, who lived on Mocha island off the coast of Chile.
EDWARD SWARTHYE, the porter
In 1596, Edward Swarthye whipped John Guye, the future first governor of Newfoundland. They were both servants in the Gloucestershire household of Sir Edward Wynter: Guye managed the iron works, while Swarthye was the porter. Swarthye had likely been brought home by Wynter after he captained the Aid on Francis Drake’s Caribbean raid of 1585-6, one of many Africans who fled their Spanish enslavers to join the English. The whipping was just one incident in an ongoing family feud between the Wynters and their neighbours the Buckes. Edward Swarthye appeared as a witness in the ensuing court case of 1597, his testimony confirming that he, a Black Tudor, had whipped a white man before a crowd assembled in the Great Hall at the Wynter’s home, White Cross Manor.
REASONABLE BLACKMAN, the silk weaver
Reasonable Blackman made an independent living as a silk weaver living in Southwark c. 1579-1592. The silk industry was new to England but its products were the height of fashion. He had probably arrived in London from the Netherlands, which had both a sizeable African population and was a known centre for cloth manufacture. He had a family of at least three children, but sadly lost a daughter, Jane, and a son, Edmund, to the plague that struck London in 1592.
MARY FILLIS, the Moroccan convert
Mary Fillis was the daughter of Fillis of Morisco, a Moroccan basket weaver and shovel maker. She came to London c. 1583-4 where she became a servant to John Barker, a merchant and sometime factor for the Earl of Leicester. By the time of her baptism in the summer of 1597, she was working for a seamstress from East Smithfield named Millicent Porter. Porter died on 28 June 1599 but we do not know what became of Fillis. She was however present in London during a period which saw a succession of ambassadors arriving in England from her native land in order to negotiate alliances against the common enemy: Spain.
DEDERI JAQUOAH, the prince of River Cestos
Jaquoah was the son of King Caddi-biah, who ruled a kingdom in modern-day Liberia known for its meleguetta pepper or ‘grains of paradise’ and ivory. He arrived in England aboard the Abigail in the autumn of 1610, and was baptised in the City of London church of St. Mildred’s Poultry on New Year’s Day 1611. He spent two years in England with John Davies, the leading Guinea merchant of the day, before returning home. In 1615, he received a delegation of East India Company merchants en route to Bantam. They reported that he spoke good English and made ‘great proffers and promises of trade’.
JOHN ANTHONY, mariner of Dover
John Anthony was a sailor who almost certainly came to England with the pirate Sir Henry Mainwaring. In 1619 he was employed aboard The Silver Falcon on a voyage to Virginia. Had all gone according to plan he, a free, waged, sailor, would have been the first African to arrive in an English colony in mainland North America. However the ship only made it as far as Bermuda, where it acquired a cargo of tobacco in dubious circumstances, before docking unexpectedly in the Netherlands. A bitter dispute followed between the owner of the ship, Lord Zouche, and the principal merchant in the venture. This held up the payment of John Anthony’s wages but after petitioning Lord Zouche, he eventually received payment with interest in the spring of 1620.
ANNE COBBIE, the tawny Moor with soft skin
Anne Cobbie was a prostitute who worked in the parish of St. Clement Danes, Westminster, in the 1620s. It was said that men would rather give her a gold coin worth 22 shillings ‘to lie with her’ than another woman five shillings ‘because of her soft skin’. She was one of ten women cited when the couple who owned the brothel where she worked were brought before the Westminster Sessions Court in 1626. The action was brought by one Clement Edwards, a clergyman from Leicestershire whose wife had left him to work in the Bankes’ establishment. Anne Cobbie is exceptional: there is actually more evidence of African men visiting English prostitutes than vice versa at this time.
CATTELENA OF ALMONDSBURY, independent single woman
One of a number of Africans recorded in rural locations, Cattelena lived in the small Gloucestershire village of Almondsbury, not far from Bristol, until her death in 1625. An inventory survives of the goods she owned. Her most valuable possession was a cow, which not only supplied her with milk and butter but allowed her to profit from selling these products to her neighbours. No furniture is listed, which suggests she may have shared her home, perhaps with Helen Ford, the widow who administered her estate. Her possessions, from her cooking utensils to her table cloth, each tell us something of her life, but the fact that she had them at all tells us even more. Africans in England, like Cattelena, were not owned, but possessed property themselves.
You Tube link
“As a historian, I’ve found evidence of over 360 Africans in Renaissance Britain, worked with the National Trust and English Heritage and contributed entries to the Oxford Companion to Black British History and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. My first book, Black Tudors: The Untold Story, was published by Oneworld in October 2017. The TV rights were optioned in 2017 by Silverprint Pictures and the book was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize and the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize in 2018. I’m currently conducting research for my next book, Heiresses: The Caribbean Marriage Trade, which will be published by Oneworld.
And I’ve just launched a Black Tudors: The Untold Story FREE online course with FutureLearn.
Have a look round my site, where you can find my blog, videos, podcasts, latest news and my published articles.”
If you wish to join a mailing list for irregular updates from Miranda Kaufman, there is a facility to enter your email address on her website to be added to her database.
Black People in Late 18th Century Britain
Even as a confined body of men and women, such a large number of black people would have made an enormous impression in such a rural area. But people of African origin weren’t entirely unknown in late 18th-century Hampshire. Pockets of black sailors, servants and the enslaved could be found in Southampton and Portsmouth.
In the neighbouring village of Bramdean, John Rippon, a black servant to the Earl of Powis, left the large sum of £63 to his fellow servants and others as well as £71 17s 9d to the poor of his parish on his death in 1800. In his will he described himself as a ‘gentleman’ – a term that couldn’t be applied to the overwhelming majority of black people living in Britain at the time.
In October 1796, ships from the Caribbean carrying over 2,000 black and mixed-race prisoners of war docked at Portsmouth Harbour. Soon almost all of them were imprisoned at Portchester Castle.
Their arrival must have aroused extraordinary interest in the area. Having survived a journey during which 268 of their compatriots had succumbed to disease and the cold, the prisoners faced an unknown future. But how much do we know about other black people living in Britain at this time?
A black servant out hunting with his master, depicted by an unknown artist in about 1765. At this time, waged and enslaved servants formed the largest group of black workers in Britain© Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Ignatius Sancho (1729–80), one of the few black people in Britain in the late 18th century who lived independent lives. Born on a slave ship, he became a composer and literary celebrity© National Portrait Gallery
Painted by Gainsborough
Waged and enslaved servants formed the largest group of black workers. A black servant, often a young page or handmaid, was seen as a status symbol, adorning the houses of the well-to-do. Their experiences and legal statuses varied enormously. Some, like John Rippon, lived comfortably. Others were displayed as walking, talking objets d’art, wearing silver and brass collars on which was engraved the name and address of whoever had bought their lives.
A small number rose from servitude (often with the help of their former masters) to enjoy independent lives. Prominent among this class were the Westminster shopkeeper, lettrist and composer Ignatius Sancho, the coal merchant and property owner Cesar Picton in Kingston-upon-Thames and the Nottingham-based George Africanus, who ran a servants’ register in the city.
A contemporary woodcut of the mass killing of African slaves thrown overboard from the Zong trading ship in 1781© Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo
Success of this kind was unusual, though, and for black people of every rank it was the shadow of slavery that had shaped their lives.
The sale of individual young African men and women was a feature of port city life – particularly in London. Even at the height of the abolition movement there were spaces where Africans trained in domestic service could be bought. Sometimes described as ‘slave-servants’, they were often of indeterminate status. In 1781 the Solicitor-General John Lee, commenting on the Zong Massacre in which 122 Africans were thrown overboard in order to save water rations, stated: ‘Blacks are goods and property.’
By the end of the 18th century Britain was the leading trader in human lives across the Atlantic. There were over a million enslaved Africans in the British West Indies. Working a minimum of 3,000 unpaid hours yearly, they generated much of the wealth from which the new manufacturing economy would be created. Inevitably, black people had been arriving in all parts of the British Isles, unwillingly and willingly, for over two centuries. Current estimates are that at least 10,000 lived in London, with a further 5,000 throughout the country.
This print of about 1790 depicting the relief of the guard at St James’s Palace, London, shows three black musicians among the band
By the end of the 18th century the British Army was the largest single purchaser of enslaved Africans in the Caribbean. A total of 6,376 people were bought for immediate military service in the area from 1798 to 1806.
During the American Revolutionary War Africans fleeing captivity were offered their freedom should they join the British armed forces. With the collapse of the British campaigns in North America several thousand black troops (some with their families) fled to British-held territories. Over one thousand made their way to Dublin, Liverpool and London.
Black soldiers were also recruited from those born in the British Isles and were found in the ranks of ‘county’ regiments and foot guards.
This 1815 print depicts Joseph Johnson, a former sailor. He became a street singer to earn money after he was discharged from the navy, and wore a model of the sailing ship Nelson on his head
Black Billionaires, Ranked
The data is as of February 24, 2021, and includes bi/multi racial individuals with Black ancestry. Altogether, there are 15 Black billionaires with a combined wealth of $48.9 billion.
Here is the how the full list breaks down:
|Robert F. Smith
|Charlotte Hornets, endorsements
|Shawn Carter (Jay-Z)
Some of the Wealthiest Black Entrepreneurs in the World
Meet billionaire businesswoman and philanthropist, Folorunsho Alakija, overseer of several business ventures such as FAMFA Oil Limited where she serves as the Vice President, Dayspring Property Development Company Limited, and Digitalreality Print Ltd where she serves as the Vice Chairman. She’s an acclaimed author and public speaker as well as a local and international award recipient.
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila C. Johnson is the co-founder of TV network Black Entertainment Network, the first cable TV franchise dedicated to African Americans. Johnson along with her then-husband sold BET in an all-stock deal to Viacom in 2001. While a large portion of her fortune comes from her share sales, she’s used some of the money to explore other business ventures including a hotel management firm, stakes in three professional sports teams (the NBA Wizards, the NHL Capitals and the WNBA Mystics) and a private jet charter
It is clear from the evidence that I came across whilst searching the internet on this subject, that black people did indeed exist in Tudor and Stuart period, but it is a painstaking job to find data on this area. The evidence is there, but not in an obvious trail, and as I read from authors and historians, some of the details (such as skin colour) were changed in paintings and drawings of the time. The names of some of the black people living in the UK at that time, sometimes gave away their ethnic origin or their locations within Britain. Some did indeed appear to live a life of Regency, but it appears that much depended on the white person they originally worked for, as to the level and quality of life they then experienced.
People who have spent years researching this topic still believe that there is much more to discover, so in all fairness in my short time looking at this, I have not even scratched the surface. There may well have been black Dukes at that time, but from the little I have read, some of the black people living in those type of homes, may have dressed the same as their white counterparts, and lived a similar lifestyle, but it was very different when white visitors came to the dwelling. They maintained a low profile until the visitors left; so not necessarily treated badly as such, but it definitely was not a level playing field. Some appeared in paintings of the era, with the non white skin on display, and dressed in similar clothes to their white counterparts, but as is clear from data found of the time, that was an image not reality when people outside the home visited.
I have included around 20 references. Well worth taking a look. I certainly intend to at some point in the future for my own personal interest. I want to find out more. I have a number of plates that I am spinning at the moment so it definitely will not be this year, but I hope that some of you use the website links to research areas that interest you and see what you find.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-52939694 9 June 2020
https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/48786804 The Forgotten History of Black People in the UK
By Tyler Boye, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63751966
- Black London – Life Before Emancipation. 270 pages.