Friday, July 17, 2015

Good Representation of Africans in Tudor? Doctor Who!

For some reason, even though there were a fair number of Africans in England during the time of the Tudors and Elizabethan England, in popular representations of the Tudors period in modern days, you don't see any (the reason is white supremacy). However,  there's a pretty good representation from a surprising source: Doctor Who! Author Miranda explains:

The Shakespeare Code starred David Tennant as the Doctor, and Freema Agyeman as his companion Martha Jones. Agyeman is half Iranian and half Ghanaian, and this meant the writer, Gareth Roberts, had to consider how this would play out when she time travels to Elizabethan England. When Martha realises she has just arrived in London in 1599, she has the following exchange with the Doctor:
MARTHAOh, but hold on. Am I all right?  I’m not gonna get carted off as a slave, am I? 
THE DOCTORWhy would they do that? 
MARTHANot exactly white, in case you haven’t noticed. 
THE DOCTORI’m not even human. Just walk about like you own the place.  Works for me. Besides, you’d be surprised. Elizabethan England, not so different from your time.  
At this point, two African women walk past them. In a few moments, this scene makes two important points: 1) There was a black presence in Elizabethan London. 2) The Africans in Elizabethan London were not treated as slaves. These are two points I try to convey in my work. Africans can be found in the parish registers, tax returns, court records and letters of Elizabethan London. There was no law of slavery in England. Furthermore, Africans were paid wages, baptized, married, allowed to testify in court: all indicators of freedom.

It's a really fascinating article. Read the whole thing!


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