Reblogging this in honour of black history month.
This article was first published on history@kingston, February 2015
So much of London’s fascinating black history is hidden from the historical record, so when I noticed the phrase ‘Black Boy’ written in the minutes of the Philanthropic Society during research for my recent MA dissertation on juvenile delinquency and philanthropy in the late eighteenth century, I was intrigued. It was the first time that I had encountered the mention of a black person in my archival research, and thus thirteen-year-old Thomas West’s admission into the Philanthropic Society caught my attention.
Aiming to deter criminality in the hordes of children who lived in London’s slums, the Philanthropic Society, founded in 1788, housed destitute or vagrant children, the children of criminal parents and child criminals. The ‘objects’ of the Society were apprenticed to tradesmen, such as a shoemaker, carpenter and printer, who were employed to school the children in trades that promised…
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