Students of the first year module Understanding Race went on a walking tour this morning, led by the writer and historian Steve Martin.
Challenging the popular idea that race in Britain is a phenomenon of post-WW2 immigration, Steve gave us an insight into the longstanding presence of non-white people in London’s history, with a focus on people of African and African-Carribean heritage.
Starting on Westminster Bridge Road, the location of the first Pan-African conference in 1900, Steve took us to King Charles Street, the location of the grocers run in the 18th century by the author, musician and person of letters Ignatius Sancho.
Further down Whitehall, Steve told us about the early 16th century musician John Blanke.
Through tales of the Gordon Riots, Nelson’s Navy and the Chartists’ struggle for the vote, Steve demonstrated how black history is an intrinsic part of British history. He talked about some of the ways to reveal what has been left out of the history books, and how legal archives, such as those of the Old Bailey, are a rich resource for telling London’s history differently.
The tour ended on the Plaza of Covent Garden in front of St Paul’s Church, one of the sites where William Hogarth recorded the ordinary, everyday presence of black Londoners back in the 18th century.