Black People in
Early Britain and Northern Europe

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BLACK PEOPLE IN THE BRITISH ISLES
AND EARLY NORTHERN EUROPE

By RUNOKO RASHIDI

DEDICATED TO SISTER MARPESSA

 


Any comprehensive account of the African presence in early Europe should include England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Scandinavia.  The history and legends of Scotland confirm the existence of "purely Black people." We see one of them in the person of Kenneth the Niger. During the tenth century Kenneth the Niger ruled over three provinces in the Scottish Highlands. 

The historical and literary traditions of Wales reflect similar beliefs. According to Gwyn Jones (perhaps the world's leading authority on the subject), to the Welsh chroniclers, "The Danes coming in by way of England and the Norwegians by way of Ireland were pretty well all black: Black Gentiles, Black Norsemen, Black Host."

There is also strong reason to suggest an African presence in ancient Ireland.  We have, for example, the legends of the mysterious "African sea-rovers, the Fomorians, who had a stronghold on Torrey Island, off the Northwest Coast."  The Fomorians, shrouded deep in mist, came to be regarded as the sinister forces in Irish mythology.

A prominent Viking of the eleventh century was Thorhall, who was aboard the ship that carried the early Vikings to the shores of North America. Thorhall was "the huntsman in summer, and in winter the steward of Eric the Red.  He was, it is said, a large man, and strong, black, and like a giant, silent, and foul-mouthed in his speech, and always egged on Eric to the worst; he was a bad Christian."

Another Viking, more notable than Thorhall, was Earl Thorfinn, "the most distinguished of all the earls in the Islands."  Thorfinn ruled over nine earldoms in Scotland and Ireland, and died at the age of seventy-five.  His widow married the king of Scotland. Thorfinn was described as "one of the largest men in point of stature, and ugly, sharp featured, and somewhat tawny, and the most martial looking man... It has been related that he was the foremost of all his men."

SOURCES:
Ancient And Modern Britons, by David Mac Ritchie
Nature Knows No Color-Line, by J.A. Rogers

article courtesy of the Global African Presence

AFRICANS IN EARLY BRITAIN:
A BIBLIOGRAPHY

Compiled by RUNOKO RASHIDI


Ali, Ahmed, and Ibrahim Ali.  The Black Celts: An Ancient African Civilization in Ireland and Britain. Cardiff: Punite Publications, 1992.

Dabydeen, David, ed.  The Black Presence in English Literature. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985.

Edwards, Paul, and James Walvin.  "Africans in Britain, 1500-1800." The African Diaspora: Interpretive Essays. Edited by Martin L. Kilson and Robert I. Rotberg. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976: 173-204.

Higgins, Godfrey.  Celtic Druids: Or,  An Attempt to Show, that the Druids were the Priests of Oriental Colonies who Emigrated from India, and were the Introducers of the First or Cadmean System of Letters, and the Builders of Stonehenge, or Carnac, and of Other Cyclopean Works, in Asia and Europe. 1829; rpt. Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society, 1977.

Johnson, Rosalind.  "African Presence in Shakespearean Drama: Parallels Between Othello and the Historical Leo Africanus." African Presence in Early Europe. Edited by Ivan Van Sertima. New Brunswick: Transaction Press, 1985: 276-87.

Jones, E.D.  Othello's Countrymen: The African in English Renaissance Drama. London: Oxford University Press, 1965.
 
 Luke, Don.  "African Presence in the Early History of the British Isles and Scandinavia." African Presence in Early Europe. New Brunswick: Transaction Press, 1985: 223-44.

The Mabinogion.  Translated with an Introduction by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones. London: Dent, 1957.

MacKenzie, Donald A.  Ancient Man in Britain. Foreword by Grafton Elliot Smith. London: Blackie, 1922.

MacManus, Seaumas.  The Story of the Irish Race: A Popular History of Ireland. New York: Devin-Adair, 1921.

MacRitchie, David.  Ancient and Modern Britons: A Retrospect, 2 Vols. 1884; rpt. Introduction by William Preston. Los Angeles: Preston, 1985, 1986.

Massey, Gerald. A Book of the Beginnings: Containing an Attempt to Recover and Reconstitute the Lost Origines of the Myths and Mysteries, Types and Symbols, Religion and Language, with Egypt for the Mouthpiece and Africa as the Birthplace. Volume 1, Egyptian Origines in the British Isles. 1881; rpt. Secaucus: University Books, 1974.

Morien.  Translated from the Medieval Dutch by Jessie L. Weston. London: Nutt, 1901.
 
Rashidi, Runoko.  "Ancient and Modern Britons: A Review Essay." African Presence in Early Europe. Edited by Ivan Van Sertima. New Brunswick: Transaction Press, 1985: 251-60.

Rogers, Joel Augustus.  Nature Knows No Color-Line: Research Into the Negro Ancestry in the White Race. 3rd ed. New York: Rogers, 1952.

Rogers, Joel Augustus.  Sex and Race, Volume 1. 9th ed. New York: Rogers, 1967.

Scobie, Edward.  Black Britannia: A History of Blacks in Britain. Chicago: Johnson, 1972.

Scobie, Edward.  "African Women in Early Europe." African Presence in Early Europe. Edited by Ivan Van Sertima. New Brunswick: Journal of African Civilizations, 1985: 202-22.

Scobie, Edward.  "The Black in Western Europe." African Presence in Early Europe. Edited by Ivan Van Sertima. New Brunswick: Transaction Press, 1985: 190-202.
 
Scobie, Edward. Global African Presence. Introduction by Ivan Van Sertima. Brooklyn: A&B, 1994.

Skene, William F.  Celtic Scotland, 3 Volumes. 1876; rpt. Freeport, 1971

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