The History Of The Oldest Black Community In Europe

Liverpool Chat

Source: Bert Hardy / Getty

Liverpool is home to England’s oldest Black community. Dating back to the city’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade between the 17th and 19th centuries, African and Afro-Caribbean individuals were brought to Liverpool as enslaved people, enduring unimaginable hardships and contributing to the city’s economic prosperity through their labor, according to Echoes of Liverpool.

The Liverpool Museum noted that Liverpool ships embarked on voyages to West Africa, where they engaged in the harrowing trade of exchanging goods for enslaved Africans, who endured brutal conditions during their forced transport across the Atlantic and subsequent sale. Following this horrific chapter, the slave ships returned to Britain, laden with commodities such as sugar, cotton, and tobacco cultivated on plantations by enslaved Africans. Leaders of this inhumane trade propagated racist ideologies to justify their actions, leaving behind a legacy of racism that continues to impact individuals in Liverpool to this day.

Many enslaved Black people were stationed for labor and employed in the vicinity of the docks, situated in Toxteth in the southern region of the city. While quantifying the exact size of Liverpool’s historical Black population proves challenging, parish records obtained by Echoes of Liverpool indicate that Black individuals were being documented as residents near Toxteth as early as the 1700s. One notable registry entry features a Black individual named Peter Salisbury, originally from Baltimore, Maryland, registering to settle in the city.

Liverpudlian Neighbours

Source: Bert Hardy / Getty

Per the Liverpool Museum, members of Liverpool’s Black community had a significant seafaring heritage. However, their proximity to the docks wasn’t always met with acceptance. Enduring discrimination and adversity daily, they nonetheless persevered with resilience and faith, with some ultimately triumphing over the obstacles they faced. Dick Benson, a well-known Black carter in Liverpool, taught many community members how to cut and load timber, “cotton, jute, iron, spades, how to load your flat wagon, how to go to the stables” and “the different railway stations.’”

In the aftermath of World War I, tensions flared between Black and white residents of Toxteth as returning servicemen vied for employment opportunities. The simmering discord escalated into riots, culminating in a violent attack on a Black seafarers’ boarding house. Tragically, 24-year-old Charles Wooton was pursued to Queens Dock and fatally assaulted, with no perpetrators brought to justice.

Toxteth Riots, 1981, Liverpool

Decades later, in 1981, the Toxteth Riots ignited a national dialogue on racial inequality, highlighting the struggles faced by Black residents in Liverpool. Amidst high unemployment, pervasive racism, and police harassment, both Black and white residents took a stand in Liverpool 1 and 8, collectively known as the Toxteth Riots.

Despite the scars of history, Liverpool’s Black community persisted, fostering resilient networks and cultural enclaves within the city. Over time, these communities thrived, enhancing Liverpool’s cultural fabric with their vibrant traditions, languages and customs.

Several Black individuals have made lasting contributions to the city, leaving an indelible mark on its history. James Clarke, for instance, emerged as a champion swimmer and served as a boxing coach for the police. His heroic efforts included rescuing numerous individuals from drowning in the Mersey and Canal, while also imparting swimming skills to local children. Additionally, Kingsman Harrison distinguished himself as one of the Black boxers within a successful boxing team that clinched multiple army championships during the early 1980s.


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The post The History Of The Oldest Black Community In Europe appeared first on NewsOne.

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