Black Tudors

Black Tudors

The Untold Story

Book - 2017
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They were present at some of the defining moment of the Tudor age. They were christened, married and buried by the Church. And their stories have been untold for many years. Kaufman has unearthed the remarkable stories of Africans who lived free in Tudor England, and in doing so transforms how we see this period of history
Publisher: London, England : Oneworld Publications, 2017
ISBN: 9781786071842
Branch Call Number: 941.0049 Kauf
Characteristics: 376 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps (some color) ; 25 cm


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Apr 10, 2018

The book spins the rather thin information about everyday lives of blacks living in Tudor and Stuart England -- pirates, seamstresses, keepers of cows -- into quite interesting portraits.

Apr 08, 2018

One of my pet peeves (and if it irritates me, I cannot imagine how people of color must feel!) is the whitewashing of Renaissance Europe. It’s very obvious that the people of Europe in the ancient times were familiar with the PoC around the Mediterranean. Even in the medieval period, Africans were known in at least the southern and western part of the European continent. Yet if you asked people who have gone through even a comparatively decent history education in primary school, they still would more than likely have no clue about PoC in Europe - even if they read “Othello.”

This book is a great way to change that. It tells the stories, as far as they’re known, of multiple people of African descent in Tudor England. Kauffman gives an overview of how these people, from musicians and craftspeople to divers and sailors, made their way in the Tudor world. She delineates the historical context of the Tudor times, letting us know why their being there was actually not such a big deal. I found myself thinking that the people of Tudor England were a hell of a lot less racist than the people of Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2018.

That’s because the people whose lives Kauffman depicts were not such huge anomalies as we have been led to believe. In fact, the records show that Africans were valued and respected for their skills. Some were in attendance on royalty, and some were simple craftspeople, but Kauffman talks at length about how slavery was not a practice in Tudor times in England. As a result, many of the records we have of them are the same as other people of the time: baptism, birth, and burial. They’re not showing up in property records except insofar as they have post-death records about disposal of property postmortem.

While we don’t know a lot about the lives of the people whose lives Kauffman attempts to trace, we do know they were a ebb and flow of society in their areas. We do know they were members of churches. We do know they owned property and left it to others. We do know they worked among Europeans and that in one case a white Englishman was even whipped by a black man. (That’s an interesting chapter, by the way.)

I urge non-PoC to read this book, especially if you didn’t have any idea that there were PoC in England, especially if you had the mistaken idea that all African people past 1500 in Europe were slaves. Five of five stars, and thank you, Mx. Kauffman.


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