What evidence is there of a black presence in Britain and north west England?

London Mob

Godfried Donkor (b.1964), 2001
Paper collage

Private collection

See this object at The Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester This object may not always be on display. Please check with the venue before visiting.

London Mob

Godfried Donkor is a Ghanaian artist, living and working in London. He is known primarily for his work in collage. This work relates to William Hogarth's Four Prints of an Election, a satire on the corruption of politics in Britain. It shows a scene from the election of William Pitt, shown parading through the streets in a victory procession. The London mob is being infiltrated in the bottom right-hand corner by Caribbean stick fighters.

This scene represents a more cosmopolitan London than is often depicted in political prints of the 1700s, showing black figures as central participants in an emerging British democracy. The late 1700s and early 1800s was a time of growing unrest and radicalism, brought on by the end of the Napoleonic Wars and increasing industrialisation. The government passed legislation to curb social unrest and prevent working men from gathering in groups, resulting in protest movements such as the London Corresponding Society, which had connections to black writer and activist Olaudah Equiano. In 1820, William Davidson, son of the Attorney-General of Jamaica, was hanged alongside four white men, for his part in the unsuccessful Cato Street Conspiracy to assassinate the entire Cabinet at dinner. At his trial, when questioned by Davidson as to the fairness of the court, the presiding judge replied:

'...you may rest most perfectly assured that with respect to the colour of your countenance, no prejudice either has or will exist in any part of this Court against you; a man of colour is entitled to British justice as much as the fairest British subject'.

This information was provided by curators from The Whitworth Art Gallery.