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Black History Month - The Grave of Black Sambo – Lancaster and the Legacy of Slavery



Full sixty years the angry winter's wave

Has thundering dashed this bleak and

barren shore

Since Sambo's head laid in this lonely grave

Lies still and ne'er will hear their turmoil more.

Full many a sandbird chirps upon the sod,

And many a moonlight elfin round him trips

Full many a summer's sunbeam warms the


And many a teeming cloud upon him drips.

But still he sleeps - till the awakening sounds,

Of the Archangel's trump new life impart,

Then the Great Judge his approbation founds,

Not on man's colour but his worth of heart

James Watfon Scr. H.Bell del. 1796

Motivated by my friend Coolbreezing, here is my little contribution to Black History Month. It is a tale of the sorrow of the African slave dying unlamented, a long way from his home.

Sambo’s grave is almost unknown outside North Lancashire, but this evocative yet poignant message spans centuries of shameful history. It might not be the greatest piece of poetry, but it at least shows that somebody cared about the fate of this young man.

Before we reflect upon Sambo, it is important to explore a little local history, understanding the involvement of Lancaster in the trafficking of human cargo.

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The Location of the Grave

River Lune at Sunderland Point, looking toward Glasson Dock on opposite river bank. From

River Lune at Sunderland Point, looking toward Glasson Dock on opposite river bank. From


Modern day Lancaster is a small and unassuming city in the North West of England, originally built around a Norman castle. It is the county town of Lancashire, and the reigning monarch is officially the Duke of Lancaster, ever since the Wars of the Roses in the 15th Century. Around the castle lie many opulent houses and buildings, constructed during the 18th Century, when St George’s Quay saw the tall ships disgorge bales of cotton sourced from the slave-worked plantations of the US. Hordes of stevedores loaded the empty holds with iron from the nearby Lake District, much of it fashioned into shackles and chains for the next consignment of human misery waiting on the coasts of Africa.