Black Britons

In Tudor and Stuart times, a number of black people came to live in England as sailors or slaves. Some of them settled in London. They were generally treated fairly well. Whilst many people were fascinated by them because they had never seen people of that skin colour before, they also enjoyed buying foods and spices from them which they had never tasted before. Medieval and Tudor evidence shows black people working alongside white people with little evidence of discrimination.

In the 18th century, as England became more active in the slave trade, some black people were brought to Britain as slaves. By 1800, there were about 10,000 black Britons in a population of 8 million. This works out as 0.1 per cent of the population.

They were often victims of racial discrimination. Most remained slaves with no rights. When they became too old to work, some were 'set free', but the law forbade them to get a job, so they just starved to death.

Black Britons made an important contribution to the life of Britain in the years up to 1900, including:

Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British Army
Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British Army

  • A group of black Britons led by Olaudah Equiano called the 'Sons of Africa' who campaigned against the slave trade.
  • William Cuffay who became a leading Chartist.
  • Mary Seacole who went as a nurse to the Crimea.
  • Walter Tull who became the first black officer in the British army to command white soldiers.