Yes, black people lived in England during the 1800s

Posted on October 26, 2013

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I can’t make it any clearer than the title of this post, which I’d originally labeled as “Yes, black people lived in England during the 1800s U stupid F@#%,” but decided to change it. Like most things on this site, I’m willing to back up my statement with copies of drawings, paintings, and links from educators around the globe because . . .

 

Well, the question has come up on the internet, because of this:

 

Dracula reimagined on NBC

Dracula reimagined on NBC. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays Dracula on NBC’s new show

 

In truth, I fell asleep during the premiere last night, after waiting much to long for Drac to do all the things a naughty vampire should do. Drac’s first victim was a stuffy aristocrat, and all the audience got to see was fake blood thrown against a pillar of a house. The show is visually stunning (yes, even the scene I mentioned was shot and lit quite well). I enjoyed the references to real history (Nikola Tesla) and I’m willing to stick around long enough to hope Jonathan Rhys Meyers gets to drop the American accent, and ex-Morgana from the BBC show Merlin, actress Katie McGrath gets to darken her hair. I get that “Mina” is THE ONE on this show. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be another attractive brunette. And yes, McGrath looks just as fetching as a blonde. But it smacks of the producers thinking viewers can’t distinguish one brunette from another, especially since there are now two blondes on the show, and its not hard to tell them apart.

Here’s hoping for a bit more spark, intensity . . . something. I dunno. Meyer’s is charismatic as usual, but there’s still something missing with this show.

Now we come to the reason for the title of this post.

 

Dracula promo photo, from Vanity Fair.com

Dracula promo photo, from Vanity Fair.com

 

 

Come closer. I mean, its easy to miss, however there’s mass confusion in some corners of the internet because of THIS:

 

NBCs Dracula confuses some people because the cast includes a black manservant

NBCs Dracula confuses some people because the cast includes a black manservant

 

 

I suppose its easier to believe a vampire would live in England during the 1800s instead of a POC (person of color).

Nonso Anozie portrays R. M. Renfield, an assistant/manservant to Drac. Anozie has a killer voice and on-screen presence. The first time I saw him was on Game of Thrones, and I’m glad to see he made it out of the vault (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

 

 

Nonso Anozie Bio

Nonso Anozie Bio, per google.com

 

 

Anyway, much like Sleepy Hollow actress Nicole Beharie’s hair became fodder for gossip, it seems having a black man over in England during the late nineteenth century has some people going “HUH, how can this be?”

I realize the internet can be full of trolls, especially ones who try to highjack threads with “black chick ruins the show” and “why is there a black person playing this role?”

So I thought I’d make this a teachable moment. I’ll be updating this post during the day, since I’m not able to finish it in one sitting. And now I give you, YES, BLACK PEOPLE DID LIVE IN ENGLAND DURING THE 1800s (and even previous to that time period).

 

 

Drawing by William Hogarth 1773 title: Four Times of the Day: Noon Where photo can be found: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FourTimesNoon.jpg

Drawing by William Hogarth 1773 title: Four Times of the Day: Noon
Where photo can be found: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FourTimesNoon.jpg

 

 

 

Black woman dressing white woman. Drawing by William Hogarth, 1773 title Four Times of the Day: Noon

Black woman dressing white woman. Drawing by William Hogarth, 1773 title Four Times of the Day: Noon

 

 

 

Ira Aldridge, a black actor in England during the mid 1800s.

Playbill featuring Ira Aldridge, a black actor in England during the mid 1800s.

 

 

 

Excerpt from the site Victoria and Albert Museum online:

‘The African Roscius’ was the first black actor to play major Shakespearean parts, appearing for the first time on the London stage and rapidly rising to stardom. He won acclaim as Othello and in many other Shakespearean roles including King Lear, Shylock, Macbeth and Hamlet.

Born in New York in 1807 little is known about his early life. By 1825 he had arrived in England and begun to find acting work. He appeared at the Theatre Royal, Dublin in the same season as Edmund Kean in December 1831. Kean wrote a letter of recommendation to the manager of the Theatre Royal, Bath, on Aldridge’s behalf, praising his ‘wondrous versatility’.

He made his London debut in 1833, as Othello at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Some newspapers protested against a black actor being permitted to appear at Covent Garden, and the tone of their reviews the next day is somewhat sullen. Unable to criticise a good performance outright, the Morning Post grudgingly concedes that ‘it was doubtless sufficiently good to be considered very curious’.

 

Link with more info and pictures: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/black-and-asian-performance-in-britain-1800-1899/

 

Main page: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/b/black-theatre-and-performance/

 

Stamp of honor of John Archer

 

 

Stamp in honor of John Archer

The Life and times of John Archer, Mayor of Battersea, South London

 

Excerpt from the Tumblr site MedievalPOC:

John Richard Archer was born on 8 June 1863 at 3 Blake Street, Liverpool, the son of Richard Archer and his wife Mary Theresa Burns. Richard was a ship’s steward from Barbados, and his wife Mary Theresa was illiterate, making her mark with an X on the birth certificate. She was an Irish Catholic, the faith in which John grew up and remained for the rest of his life.

When he was elected Mayor of Battersea 50 years later, John replied to press speculation about where he might have come from with the remark that he had been born – “in a little obscure village in England probably never heard of until now – the city of Liverpool”. He went on to declare – “I am a Lancastrian bred and born”.

Characteristically pugnacious, but he had been stung by reports which, guessing wildly, said that he had been born in Rangoon or somewhere in India. He was actually part of the already well-established black population in Liverpool.

Later John Archer “travelled round the world”, probably with the merchant navy, so while the newspaper speculation about his origins are off the mark, they might have been provoked by his familiarity with various different parts of the world.

His wife Bertha, for instance, was a black Canadian, but by 1901 the census lists him as living at Brynmaer Road, near Battersea Park.

 

Link: http://medievalpoc.tumblr.com/post/59864012872/1800s-week-photograph-of-john-archer-mayor-of

 

 

 

I also found this “based on a true story” film called BELLE, which will be released next year

 

Poster for the movie BELLE

Poster for the movie BELLE

 

 

 

Description:

Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizebeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

 

Trailer for the movie:

 

 

For the actual story on Dido, please refer to this link:

http://mixedracemagazine.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/dido-elizabeh-bell/

 

Excerpt from site:

Dido married John Davinier, a gentleman steward, in 1793 at St George’s, Hanover Square together they had three sons: twins Charles and John (baptised at St George’s on 8 May 1795) and William Thomas (baptised at St. George’s on 26 January 1802).  They lived in  what is now Ebury Street, Pimlico.

 

 

 

 

I just wanted to add this, because I found the sculpture so arresting:

Mauresque Noire  aka Black Moorish Woman by Charles Cordier

Mauresque Noire aka Black Moorish Woman by Charles Cordier, 1856

 

 

 

Bio on sculptor Charles Cordier

Bio on sculptor Charles Cordier

 

 

Link for more information:

http://michigancitizen.com/presenting-black-moorish-woman/

Info on Charles Cordier     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Henri_Joseph_Cordier

 

 

 

 

 

More great links, until I get back:

http://www.blackpresence.co.uk/

 

The Black Presence in Britain site

The Black Presence in Britain site

 

 

 

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/Black.jsp

 

Old Bailey website

Old Bailey website

 

 

To be continued . . .

Posted in: Blog