A History of Black People in Wales, Britain and beyond

A brief reading list of publications and materials relating to the history of black people in Wales, Britain and beyond.

Published Works

William A. Hall – Slavery in the United States of America: personal narrative of the sufferings and escape of William A. Hall, fugitive slave, now a resident in the town of Cardiff (Cardiff, 1862)
A slave-narrative written by William Hall a Cardiff resident who had escaped slavery in the United States. Recently made available online by Cardiff University Library and Archives.

Alan Llwyd – Cymru Ddu: Hanes pobl dduon Cymru = Black Wales: a history of black Welsh people (Cardiff, 2005).
A recent history of black Welsh people.

Kathleen Chater – Untold Histories: Black people in England and Wales during the period of the British slave trade, c.1660-1807 (Manchester, 2009).
A comprehensive study of the experience of black people in England and Wales during the period of the slave trade that challenges many commonly held assumptions.

Peter Fryer – Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London, 2010).
A ground-breaking history of black people in Britain.

David Olusoga – Black and British: a Forgotten History (London, 2016).
The highly acclaimed recent history of the black British experience.

Ron Ramdin – The Making of the Black Working Class in Britain (London, 2017).
Important history recounts the emergence of a black working class in Britain from the 16th century onwards and the history of black working class struggles during the twentieth century.

Beverly Bryan, Stella Dadize and Suzanne Scafe – The Heart of the Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain (London, 1985
An influential work on black women’s collective experience in Britain.

Colin Grant – Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation (London, 2019).
An oral history of the Windrush generation.

Charlotte Williams et al (Eds.) – A Tolerant Nation? Revisiting Ethnic Diversity in a Devolved Wales (Cardiff 2015).
An interdisciplinary collection examining issues of race, ethnic diversity and tolerance in Wales.

Hakim Adi (Ed.) – Black British History: New Perspectives from Roman Times to the Present Day (London, 2019).
New approaches on black British history with essays on the black experience in Britain from the 16th century to the present day.

C. L. R. James – The Black Jacobins: Touissant L’Overture and the San Domingo Revolution (London, 2001).
C. L. R. James’s classic history of the Haitian Revolution and its role in world history.

Chris Evans – Slave Wales: The Welsh and Atlantic Slavery 1660-1850 (Cardiff, 2010).
A history of Wales’s role in Atlantic slavery.

Rob Waters – Thinking Black: Britain 1965-1985 (Berkeley, 2019).
A history of black radicalism in Britain from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Martin Luther King Jr; Cornell West (ed.) – The Radical King (Boston, 2015).
An edited collection of Martin Luther King’s speeches restoring King’s political radicalism to his often-sanitised legacy.

Malcom X – The Autobiography of Malcolm X (London, 1966).
The influential autobiography of one of black radicalism’s greatest intellectuals and activists.

Paul Gilroy – The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (London, 1993).
A ground-breaking history of the development of a Black Atlantic culture and experience.

Kehinde Andrews – Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century (London, 2019).
A new, challenging history of black radical politics.

Stephen Bourne – Black Poppies: Britain’s Black Community and the Great War (Stroud, 2019).
A history of black British communities’ role and experiences during the First World War.

Elizabeth Williams – The Politics of Race in Britain and South Africa: Black British Solidarity and the Anti-Apartheid Struggle (London, 2012).
A history of the role played by black British communities in the anti-apartheid movement.

Walter Rodney – How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (London, 1978).
The influential work by the Guyanese historian, political activist and academic Walter Rodney.

Archives

Jazz Heritage Wales Archive (GB 0210 JAZZLES)
Jazz Heritage Wales is a multi-media collection which focuses on the contribution made by Wales to British jazz culture. It also emphasises some of the lesser-know aspects of Wales’ jazz heritage, such as the role played by women jazz musicians and the influence of African-American music within Welsh jazz. The archive reflects its wide-ranging involvement in the field of contemporary and historical jazz music.

Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement Papers (GB 0210 WAAM)
The Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement was established in 1981 to inform the people of Wales about apartheid and to campaign for action to bring the system of apartheid to an end. The collection comprises records relating to the Movement’s activity and administration, including various committee papers and details of campaigns and boycotts.

Welsh Committee Against Racialism Papers (GB 0210 WELRAC)
The Welsh Committee Against Racialism was established as a broad-based representative body, drawn from various political, labour and cultural movements and organisations, in 1976 to coordinate the movement against racism in Wales. The collection comprises the administrative records of the Committee (1976-1980).

Diary of travels for the Anti-Slavery Society by Thomas Clarkson (NLW MS 14984A)
Diary of Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846), which includes details of his journey through Wales in support of abolition.

Iolo Morganwg and Taliesin ab Iolo Manuscripts and Papers (GB 0210 IOLNWG)
Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826), the influential Welsh poet and antiquary, was a fervent anti-slavery campaigner. This is reflected in numerous extracts and printed verses among his papers e.g. NLW MS 21405E, Verses entitled 'Achwynion Dynion Duon, mewn caethiwed truenus yn Ynysoedd y Suwgr'.

South Wales Race Riots 1919
The South Wales race riots took place over the course of several days in June 1919 mainly in the dock areas of Newport, Cardiff and Barry. Violent clashes broke out as black people and other ethnic minorities were attacked by mobs of white men as a result of heightened racial and social tensions across the country. Four men died, hundreds were injured and dozens were arrested. It is possible to search for contemporary accounts of the riots as reported in the local and Welsh press through the Library’s Welsh Newspapers Online.

Parish registers and Bishop’s Transcripts
Registers of baptisms, marriages and burials contain numerous references to black people, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries, and can be found by searching for terms such as ‘black’. The original parish registers are held by the relevant county archives; they have also been fully digitised and are available to view and search on Findmypast and Ancestry, and are also freely accessible in the Library’s Reading Rooms. Bishops were required to send transcripts of all parish registers to the diocese and all surviving transcripts are held at the Library.

Juba Vincent, Wynnstay
Evidence shows that Sir Watkin Williams Wynn (1749-1789), 4th Baronet, of Wynnstay had a black servant, called Juba Vincent. His name appears briefly in the household accounts and his baptism is recorded in the Ruabon parish register on 2 December 1774: ‘Juba, a Black belonging to Watkin Williams Wynn, of Wynnstay’. He also was one of the performers in Sir Watkin’s annual week of amateur dramatics in 1769. It became ‘fashionable’ for some gentry families during this period to have black servants.

Maps of Butetown, Cardiff
Butetown in Cardiff, also commonly referred to as Tiger Bay, was one of the UK’s first multicultural communities and it remains one of the most ethnically diverse areas in Wales. By the outbreak of the First World War, it was home to people from over 50 countries, including Somalia, Yemen and Greece. It is possible to trace the built history of Butetown using some of the historic maps available via the Library’s website, including the Tithe Maps (c.1840) and OS town plans (1880 and 1900).

Welsh ballads
Ballads played an important role in the dissemination of news throught the 18th and 19th centuries, and they reflect many of the political, social and cultural issues of the day in Wales. This includes issues relating to slavery and its abolition e.g. ‘Hanes, cyffes, achwyniad, anerchiad, a dymuniad y Negroes’ by Solomon Nutry [1830s?]. Prof. E. Wyn James has written a very interesting article on Welsh ballads and slavery 

Slebech Estate Records
Nathaniel Phillips purchased the Slebech estate in Pembrokeshire in 1793. Like several other landed estate owners of the period, he made his fortune as a sugar plantation and slave owner in Jamaica during the second half of the eighteenth century. The estate collection includes records, such as letter books and accounts, relating to the plantations from 1759 to c.1822.

Louisa Calderon
Thomas Picton (1758-1815), a celebrated Welsh officer in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars, made part of his fortune as a slave owner, and his governorship of Trinidad at the turn of the nineteenth century was brutal and autocratic. The Library’s Historic Welsh print collection of Welsh and Welsh interest biographies from 1800 to 1914 includes a copy of The Trial of Governor T. Picton for the Torture of Louisa Calderon... (1806), which recounts in detail his trial at the King’s Bench for approving the torture of a 14 year old Trinidadian girl named Lousia Calderon. Picton was found guilty but was never sentenced, and the decision was partly reversed at a retrial in 1808.

William Williams, Pantycelyn
William Williams, Pantycelyn (1717-1791), the prominent Methodist preacher and arguably Wales’ most important hymn writer, published a Welsh translation of A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, An African Prince in 1779.

John Ystumllyn (or ‘Jack Black’)
John Ystumllyn was a Welsh gardener at Ystumllyn, Criccieth, during the second half of the eighteenth century and one of the first black men recorded in Eifionydd. The history of his life is well-documented, albeit based on oral accounts, in a pamphlet published in 1888 by the pharmacist, printer and writer, Alltud Eifion, John Ystumllyn, neu ‘Jack Black’: hanes ei fywyd a thraddodiadau am dano, o’r amsery dygwyd ef yn wyllt o Affrica hyd adeg ei farwolaeth; ei hiliogaeth, &c., &c., ynghyda darlun o hono yn y flwyddyn 1754.


Please contact story(at)llgc.org.uk to suggest other materials that may be added to this page.