Is it my imagination or when we mention those Black figures in history that fought for the rights of Black people, we almost always go back to African American figures. Yet the question of the social condition of Black people is present around the world. Who are the other figures that have been acting in the shadows?
Let’s discover them together during this month dedicated to Black History.
Charles Ignatius Sancho
British composer, businessman, writer and abolitionist, Ignatius Sancho was the first Black Briton to vote in a general election, and he did so twice in his lifetime.
Born on a slave ship in the Atlantic, Sancho was sold into slavery in the Spanish colony of New Grenada. When he became an orphan at the age of 2 he was sent to England where he would be a slave for 18 years doing domestic work. Unable to bear being a servant to his new owners, Sancho ran away to the Montagu House, whose owner taught him how to read and encouraged Sancho’s budding interest in literature. After spending some time as a servant in the household, Sancho left and started his own business as a shopkeeper. Sancho’s status as a male property-owner meant he was legally qualified to vote in a general-election, a right he exercised in 1774 and 1780, becoming the first known Black Briton to have voted in Britain.
Sancho quickly became involved in the nascent British abolitionist movement, which sought to outlaw both the slave trade and the institution of slavery itself. Sancho used his influence and status to encourage notable Britons to stand against slavery by writing letters in opposition of the barbaric practice. He became known as “the extraordinary Negro”, and was a symbol of the humanity of Africans and the immorality of the slave trade and slavery.