Old Royal Naval College [@orncgreenwich] uncovers the history of Black British mariners this October

This October the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich will be shining a light Black mariners who played a crucial role in its history. In this new exhibition Black Greenwich Pensioners will explore the hidden histories of the Black Royal Navy personnel who formed one of Britain’s earliest Black communities when they became pensioners at the Royal Hospital for Seaman.

Co-curated by Black British heritage consultant S. I. Martin, this vital exhibition looks at the presence and impact of the recorded Black communities which have been resident in Greenwich for over 200 years. Telling the stories of Black seamen, who were volunteers alongside those who were enslaved or impressed, the exhibition traces their dangerous and unpredictable lives in the 18th and 19th centuries. Exploring their diverse geographical origins, ranks and duties as well as their significant contribution to the development of Black revolutionary and abolitionist thought and writing.

The exhibition will examine the role Black Mariners played in British naval conflicts as well as looking into the personal histories of prominent Greenwich pensioners such as John Thomas, who escaped slavery and was later returned to enslavement in Barbados. John Simmonds, a Jamaican veteran of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar whose descendants still reside in the UK; and Briton Hammon, the author of the first slave narrative.

Documenting the contribution of these men to the British abolitionist movement, the Royal Navy, and to their local Greenwich community, the exhibition will include paintings, prints and photographs and a small selection of objects from which we can discover more about the lives of the Black Greenwich Pensioners.

There will also be related workshops and tours during the exhibition.

Exhibition details

Saturday 3 October 2020 – Sunday 21 February 2021
Mezzanine Gallery, Visitor Centre, Old Royal Naval College,
King William Walk, Greenwich, SE10 9NN

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