Seeking book recommendations on abolitionist movement in the UK!
January 11, 2011 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Seeking book and journal recommendations about Afro-British participation in the abolition campaign in the late 18th and 19th centuries: Seeking materials focused on popular participation in the UK, also material about the Afro-British community in the 18th and 19th centuries generally.

My first MeFi question ever!

I'm really interested in popular participation in the abolition campaigns of the 18th and 19th centuries. There's a lot out there about the leaders, especially the white leaders, but I'd like to read more about activists of color. (I'd also take recommendations about popular white participation)

What started me off: a not-helpfully-footnoted sentence in Paul Gilroy's After Empire: Multiculture or Postcolonial Melancholia about a radical biracial British anti-slavery activist and his friends, who would go to anti-slavery gatherings carrying pirate flags. Who was that guy? What was his social circle like?

I'm also interested in the Afro-British community in the 18th and 19th centuries. It seems to have been small but connected and radical; slaves who ran away in the UK (whether before or after slavery was abolished in the UK itself) often seem to have been able to disappear successfully into a population of only a few thousand people. Anything about this community in general would be great.

I'd like to know more about the texture of daily life, the culture of the abolitionist movement, movement publications, meetings, where people met, how they communicated, how their work fit into or was inspired by their everyday lives and so on.

I've read much of Olaudah Equiano's autobiography, I've got Robin Blackburn's Overthrow of Colonial Slavery on order and I'm currently reading Adam Hochschild's Bury the Chains, which is easy to read but very general and focuses very much on white leaders of the movement.

I'm not an academic so I'm bogging down in my search. I do have access to academic journals and databases through work, though. Even some clues about better search terms would be appreciated!
posted by Frowner to Society & Culture (3 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
For primary documents on Black abolitionist activity in Britain, see if you can grab hold of this anthology. Brycchan Carey discusses Black abolitionists at his site (which will give you a lead for search terms).

More generally, the basic go-to scholars include Peter Fryer and Gretchen Gerzina. See also the Oxford Companion to Black British History, which will have many more references.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2011

Not specifically about abolition, but you might be interested in Mary Seacole's autobiography. It's on line linked from the Wikipedia article, or there's a recent Penguin edition.
posted by paduasoy at 12:15 PM on January 11, 2011

The work of James Walvin would be a good place to start, particularly An African's Life: The Life and Times of Olaudah Equiano (1998) and his recent The Trader, The Owner, The Slave: Parallel Lives in the Age of Slavery (2007).

Other scholarly studies include Norma Myers, Reconstructing the Black Past: Blacks in Britain 1780-1830 (1996), and Christopher Leslie Brown, Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism (2006). Myers shows that the black population in England was substantial. However, Brown argues that they were not in the forefront of the abolitionist movement, at least in its early stages: 'Most often, they aspired less to abolish slavery than to escape from its clutches. They tried to secure autonomy and personal security for themselves rather than influence the course of parliamentary politics.'
posted by verstegan at 2:09 PM on January 11, 2011

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