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Detailed historical scene of an 18th century Liverpool dock with ships and workers, highlighting the bustling activity of loading and unloading goods with sailors and merchants.
A cinematic depiction of Liverpools bustling dock in the 18th century showcasing the intense activity and diverse workforce during a pivotal historical period

Liverpool’s Oldest Black Community Traces Roots to Transatlantic Slave Trade

By Darius Spearman (africanelements)

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City’s Role as Major Slaving Port Shaped Black Population

Liverpool boasts England’s oldest established Black community. In fact, its history traces back to the city’s significant involvement in the transatlantic slave trade between the 17th and 19th centuries. As a major slaving port, Liverpool witnessed the forced arrival of many enslaved Africans and Afro-Caribbeans. Consequently, they endured immense hardship while their labor simultaneously contributed to the port’s rapid economic growth. (SOURCE: Echoes of Liverpool)

The first recorded burial of an enslaved African in Liverpool dates back to 1777. Specifically, it took place at St. Nicholas Parish Church near the waterfront. (SOURCE: Echoes of Liverpool) Moreover, by the mid-18th century, Liverpool’s Black population included sailors, freed slaves, and sons of African rulers. Notably, these sons came to study in the city. (SOURCE: Liverpool’s Black Community Trail)

Slave Trade Wealth Financed City’s Growth and Development

Researcher David Richardson asserts a key point about Liverpool’s growth. He states, “Liverpool’s dominance in the transatlantic slave trade played a major role in the city’s transformation from a small fishing village into a thriving international port by 1800.” (SOURCE: Liverpool’s Dominance in the British Slave Trade, 1740–1807)

“In the span of a hundred years, from 1700 to 1800, the town of Liverpool in northwest England was transformed from what was ‘not much more than a fishing village’ into one of the busiest slave-trading ports on the Atlantic. Remarkably, its ships accounted for over 40% of the European slave trade from Africa to the New World.” (SOURCE: Africans in America/Part 1/Liverpool and the Slave Trade – PBS)

Furthermore, many of Liverpool’s prominent merchants, businessmen, and even mayors directly participated in or profited from the slave trade. Consequently, the wealth they generated helped finance the building of grand structures and mansions across the city. (SOURCE: Liverpool and the Slave Trade – Black History Month 2024)

Community Demonstrates Resilience Amid Ongoing Struggle

Liverpool’s Black community put down deep roots despite facing immense adversity, exploitation and racism. Remarkably, some families in the city today can trace their Liverpool heritage back ten generations. (SOURCE: Black People in Liverpool – Wikipedia)

However, the legacy of the slave trade and the ongoing impact of racism still affect Liverpool’s Black population. Notably, this population is concentrated in the Toxteth area. Nevertheless, the community has made major contributions to the city’s culture and development. (SOURCE: Liverpool’s Black Community Trail – Google Arts & Culture)

Consequently, efforts continue to raise awareness of this history and address inequalities. Additionally, these efforts aim to commemorate the experiences of the enslaved through educational initiatives, museums, and heritage tours. (SOURCE: Exploring the Home of Europe’s Oldest Black Community)

Ultimately, the story of Liverpool’s oldest Black community is one of unimaginable suffering and exploitation. However, it also demonstrates resilience in the face of oppression. Society must remember and learn from this important history as the struggle for true equality and justice continues.

About the author

Darius Spearman has been a professor of Black Studies at San Diego City College since 2007. He has authored several books, including Between The Color Lines: A History of African Americans on the California Frontier Through 1890. You can visit Darius online at africanelements.org.