New Book | Black England: A Forgotten Georgian History

Posted in books by Editor on October 16, 2022

A new edition of this pioneering book, first published in 1995:

Gretchen Gerzina, with a foreword by Zadie Smith, Black England: A Forgotten Georgian History (London: John Murray Press, 2022), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-1399804882, £20.

The idea that Britain became a mixed-race country after 1945 is a common mistake. Georgian England had a large and distinctive Black community. Whether prosperous citizens or newly freed slaves, they all ran the risk of kidnap and sale to plantations. Black England tells their dramatic, often moving stories.

In the eighteenth century, Black people could be found in clubs and pubs, there were special churches, Black-only balls and organisations for helping Black people who were out of work or in trouble. Many were famous and respected: most notably Francis Barber, Doctor Johnson’s beloved manservant; Ignatius Sancho, a correspondent of Laurence Sterne; Francis Williams, a Cambridge scholar, and Olaudah Equiano whose Interesting Narrative went into multiple editions. But far more were ill-paid and ill-treated servants or beggars, despite having served Britain in war and on the seas. For alongside the free world there was slavery, from which many of these Black Britons had escaped.

The triumphs and tortures of Black England, the Ambivalent relations between the races, sometimes tragic, sometimes heart-warming, are brought to life in this wonderfully readable history. Black England explores a fascinating chapter of our shared past, a chapter that has been ignored too long.

Information about Gretchen Gerzina is available from her faculty profile page at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and from her personal website.


Online Talk | Janet Couloute on Black Presence in the Wallace Collection

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on October 16, 2022

From The Wallace Collection:

Janet Couloute, Black Presence in the Wallace Collection
Online, Thursday, 20 October 2022, 13.00 (BST)

Govaert Flinck, A Young Archer, ca. 1639–40, oil on oak panel, 66 × 51 cm (London: The Wallace Collection, P238).

To mark Black History Month in Britain, join Janet Couloute for a virtual African Heritage tour of the Wallace Collection. Spanning 400 years of European art, Dr Couloute will place the presumed peripheral and unimportant black male and female figure centre stage. Through a closer look at how artists have created iconographies of blackness and whiteness, Couloute will illustrate how museums such as the Wallace Collection, through more inclusive and open history telling, can encourage visitors to respond more imaginatively to such iconographies. This talk will be hosted online through Zoom and YouTube. Please click here to register for Zoom.

Janet Couloute is a social work academic and art historian interested in revising and expanding current British art-historical canons. With a particular interest in works that are rarely discussed as visual indexes of ‘race’, she is currently working on a research project entitled Renaissance ‘Whiteness’: Reimaging ‘Race’ through the Prism of Early Modern Portraiture. Dr Couloute has also been a Tate guide for twenty years, and has developed an expertise in encouraging gallery audiences to engage with the histories of the Black presence in Europe.

%d bloggers like this: