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Black British writers who made history

There are many Black British writers who are inspiring and worth celebrating. Here are but a few:

Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780)

The first African prose writer published in England, he was born on a slave ship. When his mother died and his father committed suicide, the orphan Sancho was taken to England. Working as a butler, his intelligence was recognised by his employer the Duke of Montagu who sponsored his creative efforts. Sancho wrote plays, poetry and music. He set up a shop in Westminster, London which became a meeting place for writers, artists and musicians. He was a financially independent male householder and the earliest known Black British voter. When he died, he was the first person of African descent known to be given an obituary in the British press.

Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797)

His book was one of the earliest personal accounts of slavery by a black author.

Enslaved as a child, he was taken to the Caribbean and sold as a slave to a captain in the Royal Navy, and later to a Quaker trader. He earned his own freedom in 1766 by smart trading and savings - no mean feat.

In London, Equiano was part of the Sons of Africa, an abolitionist group made up of well-known Africans living in Britain, and he was active among leaders of the anti-slave trade movement in the 1780s. He published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789), which depicted the horrors of slavery. It went through nine editions and helped to bring about the British Slave Trade Act of 1807, which abolished the African slave trade.

Margaret Busby OBE, Hon. (born 1944, also titled Nana Akua Ackon)

A Ghanaian-born publisher, editor, writer, critic and broadcaster who is resident in the UK. She was Britain’s youngest and first black woman book publisher when in the 1960s she co-founded with Clive Allison (1944–2011) the London-based publishing house Allison and Busby.