Main content

Gretchen Gerzina explores the lives of black people in Britain during a time of slavery.

Professor Gretchen Gerzina explores a largely unknown past - the lives of black people who settled in Britain in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Although Britain was at the heart of a thriving slave trade, it was still possible for many black people to live here in freedom and prosperity.

But there were others who were brought over by slave-owners from the West Indies and who were never free, despite living for the rest of their lives in Glasgow, Bristol or London. Some took the law into their own hands and managed to free themselves. Others advocated violent revolution. Free or unfree, they all saw Britain as a place of opportunity that could become home.

Professor Gerzina hears about new research into the lives of runaway slaves in Scotland and discovers how one man took the law into his own hands and ended slavery in Scotland for ever. She goes on to explore the moving story of Mary Prince, whose first-hand narrative of her life in slavery is the only account we have by a British woman.

There is also the story of a forgotten revolutionary, Robert Wedderburn, and compares the lives of two black people who lived in the higher echelons of English society, in households which were not their own.

The programme ends with the troubling story of Nathaniel Wells, the son of an enslaved mother and plantation owner.

Presenter Gretchen Gerzina is the author of Black England: Life before Emancipation and Dean of the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts and.

Readers: Paterson Joseph, Jonathan Keeble, Kathy Tyson, James Murray.

With music by the 18th century composer Ignatius Sancho performed by the Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

58 minutes

Last on

Fri 14 Oct 2016 21:00

More episodes

Next

Coming soon

See all episodes from Britain's Black Past

Broadcast

"I Have a Dream"

"I Have a Dream"

A collection of programmes and content marking Black History Month.