Out and About: exploring Black British history through headstones

Historian feature

By Jill Sudbury, published 8th July 2020

Exploring Black British history through headstones

In what has become a very a topical article that was commissioned in late 2019, Jill Sudbury explores some of the known graves of the enslaved and formerly enslaved throughout Britain, and asks for help in recording others as yet unknown.

Along the bleak shore of Morecambe Bay, beyond the hamlet of Sunderland Point, lies a solitary grave. A small plaque begins to tell its story:

Here lies
Poor Samboo
A faithfull Negro
Who (Attending his Maſter from the Weſt Indies)
Died on his Arrival at Sunderland

Sunderland Point was once the port for Lancaster, which saw a brisk turnaround of vessels engaged in the transatlantic slave trade. A huddle of buildings is all that remains now, cut off twice daily by the incoming tides. And yet a steady stream of visitors still make their way along the shoreline to the grave, leaving behind offerings of painted stones, dreamcatchers and flowers, honouring an unknown victim of an ugly trade...

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