Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Mary Seacole nurse and heroine of the Crimean War

It is clear that while his contribution was important Wilberforce’s contribution to the abolition of slavery is exaggerated. You could be forgiven for thinking it was achieved by him alone. This is typical of the way british historians have chosen to falsely portray the way things have happened down the years. It is a typical strategy of Imperialist nations. For example the heroine of the Crimean War was always Florence Nightingale and there was never a mention of the nurse Mary Seacole.

Since the out burst of protest by Toyin Agbetu at the recent commemorative service at Westminster Abbey marking the 200th anniversary of the act to abolish the slave trade, I have pondered over a simple question. Is this man exercising his right to protest at the spectacle of the ruling classes absolving themselves of the stain of slavery or – is he unwilling to accept that this was a genuine attempt to make amends and we should all move on?
I have concluded that his voice is essential for us to understand what happened and how it affects the black people who live in the UK as well as all the children or descendants of slaves world wide. His indignation is righteous in my opinion. Many of the aristocracy of this country are descendants of slavers. The British industrial revolution was mostly funded by slavery and some piracy. Many of the great Corporations of this nation were founded by slavery. Think sugar – think Tate and Lyle etc, etc. The list is long. The entire white British nation derived huge benefit from slavery and still benefits from institutional racism.
Toyin was surely pointing out that the establishment of this nation has no cause to celebrate it’s decision to abolish slavery. The discussion as to whether or not the modern “baby father” phenomena and the high incidence of absent fathers from Afro Caribbean families is attributable to the dispossession of fathers during slavery goes on. Young children were allowed to be with their mothers for obvious convenience to the slaver while fathers were often separated from wives and children.
When a young black person or any other young person in the UK commits a crime it is very likely he will be placed on an ISS program if prison is a possible sentence. ISSP stands for Intensive supervision and surveillance program. One of the most important requirements of the offender on this program and conditions of them not going prison is that they make some REPARATION. It’s a good word but the white establishment has made no attempt to make a meaningful reparation for the iniquitous acts in the name of Great Britain under the Union Jack. Millions were paid to the slavers as compensation for having to give up their slaves.
So, thank you Toyin.

A few facts about slavery -

Eastern European Networks trafficking women run east to Japan and Thailand, where thousands of young Slavic women now work against their will as prostitutes, and west to the Adriatic coast and beyond. The routes are controlled by Serbian gangs or Russian crime gangs based in Moscow Centered in Moscow and the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Bonded labor is another ancient form of slavery that survives. Also known as "debt bondage," it is rampant in certain parts of Asia. A loan shark or trafficker lends money to someone who works at a very low wage to pay it back. The debt may not be paid off for decades and can be passed along to family members, sometimes enslaving generations.

In Sudan anyone with $20 can buy a black woman as a slave. Human Rights Watch has long denounced slavery in Sudan in the context of the nineteen-year civil war. In this contemporary form of slavery government-backed and armed militia of the Baggara tribes raid to capture children and women who are then held in conditions of slavery in western Sudan and elsewhere. They are forced to work for free in homes and in fields, punished when they refuse, and abused physically and sometimes sexually. Raids are directed mostly at the civilian Dinka population of the southern region of Bahr El Ghazal. The government arms and sanctions the practice of slavery by this tribal militia, known as muraheleen, as a low cost part of its counterinsurgency war against the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), which is identified with the Dinka tribe of southern Sudan.
Dinka lawyer Peter Nyot Kok said he has been horrified that the government in Khartoum have not taken any measures to end slavery. He had returned to witness the release of several former slaves bought for about 100 dollars by a Christian Solidarity International so they could be freed . One 12 year old boy, Yak, told of how he'd been kidnapped from his village by Arab raiders the year before and enslaved on a farm in the north of Matar. He told the story of how on a day he had been too sick to work, his master chopped off all the fingers on one of his hands as punishment.
There are cases of young girls being forcibly circumcised to “stop them thinking about home” and, “ to break their hearts so they will not be trouble some”. A group of young girls abducted by slavers in Sudan were tied together by a fire one night as their captors slept. One was purposefully tied loosely. During the night she escaped. She was brought back to the group by her captors. The other girls were forced to bite her to death. This was how the slaves were deterred from trying to escape.

Governments of the world should act together and with what ever sanctions or force is necessary to eradicate slavery. The government in the UK should do every thing it can to genuinely set out to address the needs of descendants of the people Britain enslaved and make due reparation where ever it can to assist the passage of young black people through this life. It might begin by properly investigating why so many intelligent young black people fail in the education system and become disenfranchised and marginalised. It isn’t over. There is still work to be done Mr Wilberforce.

copyright e d g a r b r o u g h t o n 2007


Daniel said...

The black people make lots of contribution to the society. What the black people is male or female,we should give them freedom.I saw some issue on EbonyFriends.com. which discussing about the freedom of the black people.

Anonymous said...

Wow Rob

Powerful stuff

When you talk about reparation, ho far can you go back ? Do we have a claim against the Romans or the Vikings ? As the fingers of our "glorious" British Empire touched the world we were rarely welcome anywhere and exploited all we could. We could never begin to compensate all of the lives we affected. This world is far from perfect and we all need to work at making it better. Dwelling in the past is not the way to build the future.

Your blog has informed me of a lot of things I didn't know and I will investigate further. Thanks for that ! I'll probably miss some good telly now !

Demons out


edgar broughton said...

Hi Barking Creek
The Romans and Vikings did not enslave us as such though they had slaves. They brought as much good stuff as they did bad. UK involvement in slavery is a relatively recent thing and I believe there are still members of a generation living in the UK adversely and directly affected by what happened to their ancestors. That is the difference.
Racism still survives in this country and is still a huge obstacle in the way of some black peoples social and economic progress and development. Sociologists maintain there is a link between then and now in so far as it still negatively impacts on some black and mixed race people. I don't advocate trying to compensate all the subjects of the British Empire but that the government should do all it can to facilitate a level playing field for all UK citizens.

Anonymous said...

Good to see a white man who is genuinely concerned about this thorny problem and understands. Many black UK citizens suffer from the effects of racism. Many white people still are not able to accept this or see their own collusion at times. We are all in this together so let us work together, please.

Anonymous said...

Well said Rob. This country is always quick to sweep the truth about it's crimes under the rug. Blair is good at this exercise and will never acknowledge the real motivation for the iraq war. We have to understand and acknowledge parts of our past in order to be able to make a future. Many germans would like people to move on re the holocaust etc but we have to remember in order to avoid a repetition of such events in europe.

Anonymous said...

Saw a programme the other week on child slavery around the world:ie.happening NOW.It's vast and it's totally appalling.Very young girls in prostitution in asia completely emotionally wrecked and disconnected due to all the trauma of the disgusting abuse.Thank goodness there are a few people liberating these girls from some of these places and in refuges giving them whatever support they need to rebuild their lives.It's a huge task.It made me feel sick to see how bad they had been treated.Are we Wo/Man or beast.The programming and conditioning that is responsible for this within the relevant culture is really what needs changing in order to really turn this around!All Blessings,Sadge.

Anonymous said...

Slavery still exists in our communities, right in front of our eyes. Some Indian & African communities, for example still remain male dominated to the extent that women are 4th class citizens, only there to tend to the males of the family. So under valued are these women that they are abused to the point where their lives are worthless & sometimes forfeit at the whim of their slave masters. In some African communities, Daughters still suffer the horrors of female circumcision & the abhorent practice of arranged marriages in some Indian communities only cheapen women further.

Lennon was right:
Woman is the nigger of the world!


Anonymous said...

I worked several years with a farmer with a quite big farm, in our scala, and he said re racism, child(sex)abuse etc that we humans are worse than any animal, and thats not far from the truth I'm afraid...

Anonymous said...

well I agree with most of what you say Rob, until I came to the line' Jews have remained dominant in the white slave trade until the present day...' , then I discovered that these are not your words, but are in fact lifted from a 1998 article by Dr William Pierce on a web page with links to holocaust denier sites and the BNP. care to explain?
Here's the url

Anonymous said...

Well, this is pretty heavy stuff and I'm not sure I have anything meaningful to add. However, I visted Auschwitz recently (a profoundly moving experience)and I have to admit that any reference to the 'jewish problem' in a modern context (as per the 'natall' website) makes me shudder. I wish we could all just have a positive effect on those things we can affect, no matter how big or small our radius.
Peace (and safe travel in Germany -I wish I was joining you).

Paul in the Dales

Anonymous said...

As to Mary Seacole, absolutely agree, of equal, if not greater importance, historically, than Florence. This leads me to comment on the rest of your piece, as, is it not the only meaningful way forward, to make sure we get our history as correct as we can, and recorrect as soon as we know different, and make sure we teach our children well the lessons of the past. Beyond 'living memory'and the slavery that is taking place right now, I'm not sure pointing fingers of blame and expecting anyone to stand up and apologise or compensate for past crimes committed, is very realistic, or indeed meaningful. One should remember that slavery has its roots back to the beginning of the history of the human race, and has affected probably just about every nation and tribe during that time. Also, where does the individual stand in all this. I for one have ethnic heritage from Ireland through Europe to India, and who knows what else. As to the Vikings, they came, they saw, they conquered, and I doubt at the time, that the conquered people thought it was OK because they'd brought a few good ideas with them. So I'mnot sure the difference isn't just in 'degrees'. In the main, I think slavery, in all its guises, exists and has existed through the greed of a few powerful people and the convienient ignorance of the many, and continues to do so, as witnessed by the fact that we all buy 'slave goods' from all the usual outlets, conveniently forgetting to wonder how they got half-way across the planet and are still so cheap. Those cheap Chinese goods may have been made by someone still in prison from Tienaman Square.
Let's get the history as right as we can, teach it well, and seek out, protest about, and stop supporting the slavery that we are currently living off.

My tuppence-worth

Anonymous said...

Slavery has and still does, take many forms as has already been commented upon. I felt very uneasy at the recent government staged 'celebration' of the anniversary of abolition for two reasons. Firstly, although, in this country anyway, it has been abolished, it has not been eradicated and secondly, the 'celebrations' appeared to me, as a white person, to be staged for me and others like me, not for the benefit of those whose ancestors suffered at the hands of the slavemasters but for the benefit of those whose ancestors more than likely profited from this vile trade. I felt it was an exorcism was to make us feel better about ourselves.I'm sure it was well intentioned but I felt it missed the point entirely.

edgar broughton said...

Hi Benjamin
Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention.The words came not from the text you mention but from another text from an entirely different source. How ever, as you might imagine I was dismayed to find out about this. I apologise unreservedly for the offending words and you will see I have removed them from the post.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Rob,
I was hoping something like that would be the case, sure you understand why I was alarmed tho, guess you can't be to careful with these things!

Anonymous said...

I get very nervous when I hear people being referred to in their group such as "the Jews" "The Arabs" or indeed "The Blacks" Every person on this planet is an individual, with all their faults, foibles and graces. Once you start referring to people as a single entity then it's very easy to start delineating them. That in turn leads to boundaries and strictures ("they're not the same as us...") which in turn leads to the things that shame mankind like the slave trade and the holocaust.
"Each man stands alone together"
peace :o)

Anonymous said...

Hi All
I found this precis of Mary Seacoles life, with some good links for further reading.

Mary Seacole
nurse; writer

Personal Information
Born Mary Jane Grant in 1805 in Kingston, Jamaica; died on May 14, 1881, in London, England; married Edwin Seacole in 1836 (died 1844)
Religion: Catholic.

Ran taverns and small hotels around the Caribbean and Central America, where she cared for wounded soldiers and learned about medicine and nursing; opened "British Hotel" in Balaclava, Crimea, tending to sick and injured officers and pioneering front-line nursing care; wrote her autobiography, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, 1857.

Life's Work
Jamaican-born Mary Seacole served as a nurse in the Crimean War (1853-56), establishing the "British Hotel" for soldiers recovering from injuries and illness in the Crimean port city of Balaclava. Because of her color, Seacole was refused by the British war office when she asked to be sent to the Crimea (now Ukraine), but she raised the money to travel there herself and became a favorite with the troops, who called her "Mother Seacole." Seacole was highly regarded at the time for her bravery, skill, and the way she combined traditional medicine with modern ideas, but she drew strong disapproval from Florence Nightingale and her supporters, who considered Seacole disorganized and immoral. After the war she was saved from poverty and obscurity by a benefit festival supported by Crimean War commanders including Lord Rokeby and Lord Paget. She also wrote an autobiography, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857), which sold well and made her wealthy. She was awarded the Crimean Medal and the French Legion of Honor, but her role as a pioneer of modern battlefield nursing has been overshadowed by the better-known story of Florence Nightingale.
Born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1805, Seacole learned her nursing and business skills from her mixed race mother, who ran a boarding house for sick and injured soldiers. Her father was a white Scottish soldier and thus Seacole did not consider herself black, but rather Creole and British. At a time when being black in Jamaica almost always meant being a slave, as a Creole Seacole enjoyed relative freedom, though Creoles could not join the professions, or hold public office, and had very few civil rights. Seacole spent the early part of her adult life travelling in the Caribbean and Central America, where she ran a series of taverns and boarding houses and continued to learn about medicine. She also visited London during this period. She married Edwin Seacole in 1836, but he died in 1844; his death was shortly followed by that of Seacole's mother.
Hearing about the shortage of nurses in the Crimea in 1854, Seacole made her second visit to London in an attempt to join the corps of nurses established by Florence Nightingale. She offered her services to Elizabeth Herbert, who was recruiting nurses on behalf of her husband, the secretary of state for war, but because of her ethnicity Seacole was refused even an interview. Instead she found her own way to Balaclava in 1855, where her offer to assist the Nightingale nurses was again refused. Seacole set up the "British Hotel" with her own money to provide accommodation, comfort, and food for injured, sick, and recovering officers; her lack of funds meant she could only afford to treat soldiers who could pay. The hotel was near the front line and offered short periods of respite to officers who would soon return to the fighting. She was also an active battlefield nurse and ran a small pharmacy, selling medicines and giving medical advice to soldiers who knew her affectionately as "Mother Seacole."
Before the war Seacole had been a successful businesswoman, but she had sold all her assets to travel to the Crimea and used up her funds on the venture. When the war ended in 1856, Seacole returned to England penniless and exhausted. Besides the color of her skin Seacole had also scandalized Victorian society by providing alcohol to the troops in her care; there were even rumors, started by Nightingale among others, that Seacole was running a brothel. While Nightingale, who had influential friends, was celebrated as "The Lady of the Lamp," Seacole was practically forgotten after her return. It was only when a letter was published in The Times calling for her efforts to be rewarded that a military festival was staged to support her. The event ran over four days and was supported by wartime commanders Lord Rokeby and Lord Paget, among others, as well as other dignitaries. Over 1,000 performers participated in the event, which was one of the biggest of its kind. Seacole was awarded the Crimean Medal, the French Legion of Honor, and a Turkish Medal.
In 1857 Seacole published an account of her travels and her experiences in the Crimean war entitled The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, which became a bestseller of its time and ensured her public recognition and considerable wealth for the rest of her life. She spent her later years working and traveling between Jamaica and England. Seacole died leaving an estate worth £2,500 on May 14, 1881 and is buried at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Harrow Road, London.
After her death, Seacole's story again fell into obscurity compared with Florence Nightingale, whose white middle-class background worked in her favor. Although Seacole's book was republished in 1984 it was not until the late 1990s that her contribution to the history of nursing became widely known outside the Caribbean. She was voted Greatest Black Briton in 2004 and a previously unknown portrait, showing Seacole wearing her medals, was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in London in January 2005.

Crimean Medal; French Legion of Honor; Turkish Medal; voted Greatest Black Briton, 2004.

The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, 1857. Republished in 1984 (UK) and 1988 (USA) by Oxford University Press.
Further Reading
Signs, Summer 2001, p. 949.
The Guardian (London and Manchester, UK), January 11, 2005; January 15, 2005.
"Nurse Named Greatest Black Briton," BBC News Online (February 10, 2004), http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3475445.stm (August 9, 2005).
"Mary Seacole," Biography Resource Center, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (July 22, 2005).
"Mary Seacole," Black Presence in Britain, www.blackpresence.co.uk/pages/citizens/seacole.htm (July 22, 2005).

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous (07 April 2007 09:14)

While I personally agree with what you say regarding the 'individual', your quote at the end left me a little saddened -"Each man stands alone together"
surely that should read
"Each man/woman (or person?) stands alone together"

Peace and Chips