Letter: Liverpool and the slave trade: when a black child was a fashionable gift

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The Independent Online
Sir: I must take issue with Fritz Spiegl regarding slavery, the trade in slaves and Liverpool. The trade in enslaved Africans was indeed triangular. But the captains of slavers were usually allowed to bring one or two slaves to Britain to sell on their own behalf, or to give away as gifts. Owning a black slave/servant was very fashionable in those days; children as young as three or four were popular gifts.

This black population would have been increased by the slave/servants brought back by retiring planters and merchants who had enjoyed their unpaid services in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the captains' own servants. Another group of black settlers - free men - would have been those discharged from the Royal Navy and the merchant marine, as well as Africans and Caribbeans migrating to Britain in search of education, training or employment.

My book on just one settler from Africa, Daniels Ekarte, will be published in a month's time. My research indicates a mainly African community of some hundreds of people in the Toxteth area in the 1930s. There were also settlers from other colonies, including Hong Kong, India and the Caribbean.

Liverpool was built on profits from the trade in human beings, and from trade in slave-produced goods such as sugar and cotton, as well as from outfitting slaving ships as late as the 1860s.



Institute of Commonwealth


London, WC1

17 August