Social Issues

Black Victorians: The Forgotten Women of Britain

When you look at the history of black people in the United Kingdom, it's mostly the Windrush generation that people know of...

When you look at the history of black people in the United Kingdom, it’s mostly the Windrush generation that people know of, with the first arrival of British Caribbeans coming to post-war Britain from the late 1940’s. There’s also acknowledgments of Black Britons in the time of slavery, with notable abolitionist figures such as Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano. However, many people fail to mention the fact that there was a black community thriving in the Elizabethan period, or that there’s historical evidence that proves there were black women in Roman Britain, a white-washing of history that’s allowed most of us to presume that the Black British female identity is a 21st century phenomenon. So in celebration of that being untrue, here’s a collection of photographs of black British women from the Victorian era, and although there’s little information about these women, it’s incredible to imagine their lives in 19th century England:

 

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Unidentified sitters. London, c.1880

 

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Unidentified sitter. Liverpool, 1880s

 

 

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Eleanor Xiniwe, The African Choir. London Stereoscopic Company, 1891.

 

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Unidentified. The African Choir. London Stereoscopic Company, 1891.

 

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Sara Forbes Bonetta, Yoruba royalty and a god-daughter of Queen Victoria who later returned to Nigeria and married a wealthy Captain. c1860’s

 

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Though American, the Fisk Singers became popular with their European tours, and a few settled in London, such as Mattie L. Lawrence (third from the left), who married a wealthy London merchant. 

 

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Unidentified portrait taken at the Sydney Victor White studios in Reading which opened in 1860’s

 

For more information on Black Victorians:

Victorian Women of Color: 32 Photos of Beauty In The Age Of Hatred

Before the Windrush: Fascinating pictures show the black faces famous in British life long before West Indians arrived in 1948 
The Black Victorians

Stunning Unseen Studio Portraits Of Black People In Victorian Britain

 

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