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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.

In the 18th Century, Lancaster was a thriving port, not as large as nearby Liverpool, but a major part of the infamous slave triangle. This three-way route consisted of British ships transporting iron, cotton and tobacco to Africa, where the merchants traded those goods for slaves. The Captains transported their human cargo to America, and reloaded with cotton, destined to fuel the huge weaving mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire. This ensured that the holds were filled for all three legs of the voyage, enriching the owners and contributing to the fortunes of Lancaster.

Before the rise of St George’s Quay as the centre of activity, the ships docked at Sunderland point, now a small hamlet at the very tip of the Lune Estuary. It is difficult to equate this small village, huddled against the frequent gales with a trading port, but it served as a stopping point for the trans-Atlantic ships. Here, they would unload or wait for high-tide and the taverns of Lancaster.

Sunderland Point. Image by Dr Greg,,_Lancashire_239-29.jpg

Sunderland Point. Image by Dr Greg,,_Lancashire_239-29.jpg

Morecambe bay

Sunderland Point Tour

Sambo's Grave Slideshow


Modern Sunderland Point is an isolated place, cut off from the mainland at high tide, and is still home to a few hardy souls. A causeway spans the notorious MorecambeBay mudflats and salt-marshes, and bringing curious and adventurous tourists to the point. Many come to watch the abundant and varied seabirds of MorecambeBay, but others make a pilgrimage to visit the grave of Black Sambo.

Sambo, or Samboo, as the gravestone indicates, is something of an enigma and little is known about his history. He was probably African, and most of the surviving folklore indicates that he was only a boy. In the 18th Century, many Ship’s Captains believed that owning a personal cabin boy was a symbol of wealth and prosperity, the sign of an English gentleman. He arrived at Sunderland Point with his owner, in 1736, where he is believed to have contracted a disease and died.

It is also entirely possible that he froze to death in the harsh Lancastrian winter, which must have been a shock to his un-acclimatised system. Whatever the reason, he was left at the point whilst the ship continued on to Lancaster, and there he died, alone and un-mourned.

An alternative version of the folklore states that he was washed up on the shore, the lone survivor of a ship-wreck, and lived for some years in the village before he died. Unfortunately, little is known about his life or the circumstances leading to his arrival in Lancashire.

Sadly, because he was black and not a Christian, he was not buried in consecrated ground. His body was interred in an unmarked grave behind the village inn, which is now an exposed promontory overlooking the sea. This same trackless sea carried him far from his home and brought him to die in a foreign land.

For over sixty years, the grave was unmarked and largely forgotten, so the story of Sambo could have ended there. Instead, a retired schoolmaster discovered the story and raised some money for a memorial. He also wrote the touching epitaph that now marks the grave. There is anecdotal evidence that the use of the term ‘Sambo’ as a racial slur arose from this grave, a sad and unwanted addition to the history.

Whilst the history books say that Sambo died of a fever, the romantic notion and local folklore states that he died of a broken heart because he had been abandoned by his master. I suspect that it may have been because he missed his home, a lifetime away from the coast of North-West England. Surveying the desolate and windswept beauty of Sunderland Point, that somehow seems to fit the inherent sorrow of the tale.


As a school-kid, I remember visiting the grave, placing flowers and saying a prayer for Sambo. Every school in the area takes groups there, and it shows that there is always something redeemable in the human spirit. Britain carries a lot of guilt for the slave trade, quite rightly, and the grave of this lonely young man reminds us of that. It should also remind us that the fight must continue, every day. Thousands of humans are still sold into slavery on a daily basis, and there should be no let up in the struggle against the slavers.  

Hopefully, this bleak and desolate storm-lashed shore can teach us all a lesson of tolerance, compassion and human dignity.




Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on February 04, 2020:

Thank you for this interesting story about little black Sambo.

Malik S Canty from Brooklyn, NY on February 04, 2014:

Good and informative reading that was well presented. Thank you for sharing another story that needs to be told with depths...I will share and vote up!

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on April 15, 2013:

Hello again Sufi. The title 'Duke of Lancaster' was created for John of Ghent (pronounced 'Gaunt'), youngest son of Edward III. The French princess whom he was to wed refused to marry a commoner, so his father created the title. John's eldest son Henry 'Bolingbroke' had the legitimate Yorkist king Richard II imprisoned and starved to death in Pontefract Castle. This was not the start of the conflict dubbed 'The Wars of the Roses' by Sir Walter Scott (based on Will Shakespeare's myth about the royal princes picking red and white roses in Temple Gardens [now London EC4, near the Strand]). It was at the time of Bolingbroke's grandson, the feeble-minded Henry VI that the conflict arose, the flames fanned by Henry's bloodthirsty queen Margaret, who had Richard Duke of York executed after the Battle of Wakefield. The current 'Duke' of Lancaster is Queen Elizabeth (there aren't any duchesses due to some quirk in heredity). Each reigning monarch since the time of Henry VII becomes Duke of Lancaster in turn.

Just thought I'd straighten that one out for you.

On the subject of 'Samboo', I remember a programme (can't remember which channel) about the slavery issue in Britain that highlighted his plight amongst others. For someone to be taken from a hot climate and 'plonked' on the Irish Sea shore in mid-winter it must have been lethal. It's a pithy little reminder of the 'differences'.

My son-in-law, who hails from Mumbai, had to wrap up pretty warm when I took him and my two daughters for a few days in North Yorkshire at the end of last month. Picture him standing on Saltburn beach near the Ship Inn, shivering in a North Sea wind whilst his wife rushed around like a two-year-old! He's become acclimatised since moving here a few years ago (he works near my daughter at the Lord's ground), but this winter knocked him sideways.

Nice read, Sufi. Keep on truckin'! (Funny, eh? Me being called Lancaster coming from Yorkshire and you a Lanky living in Greece).

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on May 10, 2011:

Thanks for that, PhoenixRisen - you have taught me something new. I had never heard of King Sambo, so your comment makes a great addition to the subject. The link about Diallo is absolutely fascinating :)

PhoenixRisen17 on May 07, 2011:

Thanks for a great article. I knew the name "Sambo" had come over time to have several references, and that its origins were African and Indian, but I didn't know there was a "Samboo" who lived (and died) in Lancaster. You might find it interesting to know that Sambo actually referred to King Sambo of Futa, in West Africa. He is a historical figure significant in the life of another African who was subsequently ("accidentally") sold into slavery, freed himself, and later lived to write about his experiences: Ayuba Suleiman Diallo. Here is a link I found on Diallo. Apparently his portrait in the National Portrait Gallery is the earliest known British painting of an African Muslim and freed slave.

Again, thanks for your article.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on February 20, 2011:

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Alexander - that is the complexity of slavery. As individual case studies, there must have been many stories, each with its own tragedy or perhaps even some happiness.

You nailed it with the immorality - taking away the individual rights of another is a foul act, yet it still continues in many parts of the world.

Take care :)

Alexander Silvius from Portland, Oregon on February 14, 2011:

Although I'm not sure that I would want to assume that he loved his master or not, certainly the fact that he was abandoned shows that he probably lived miserably and it that it was a sad life.

During Old Testament times, some wanted to remain servants to their masters. No doubt they were treated better than slaves normally have been treated on the whole throughout history. Also let me clarify, these servants MADE the choice to continue serving their masters as "bond servants." With that in mind, maybe Sambo really felt love for his master.

And in any case, being sold by your village and forced into a life of servitude is of course immoral since it takes away the individual right to make your own choices about the direction of your life.

It really is a testament to the human spirit that people come to honor Sambo. Great hub.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on September 09, 2010:

Thanks for dropping by, dahoglund - it is a tale little known outside Lancashire!

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on September 08, 2010:

I remember that Sambo was sort of a symbol of the complacent slave. I didn't know of a real person.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on August 26, 2010:

Hi Kerrie - Always good to meet a fellow Lancastrian. I also have a fascination with Lancaster's maritime history and try to visit the Maritime Museum whenever I am back. I have read a little about Waring and Gillow and their links to slavery - sadly, the whole city made a lot of money that way.

Glasson Dock - I have been there many times, although the last was many years ago. Lovely place :)

Kerrie Lynskey from London on August 23, 2010:

Very interesting. I'm also a Lancastrian and interested in Lancaster's Maritime History. Do you know about Waring and Gillow and their link to Sugar Cane plantations in Carribean? Also, have you ever heard of Glasson Dock ?

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on February 12, 2010:

Hey, Cathi - Really glad that you enjoyed the Hub. A little research, but a lot flowed from memory as a sad piece of local history from my hometown.

Thanks for dropping by - always appreciated :)

Cathi Sutton on February 11, 2010:

Very nice Hub! I not only enjoyed the poem, but also appreciate the research you did! Thank you for the new knowledge!

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on September 15, 2009:

Thanks, AIDY - great to see you. You always leave such uplifting comments. It is a sad tale, but there is always some hope amongst the sadness.

Here's to a better future :)

Am I dead, yet? on September 14, 2009:

Sufi, I am enjoying my visit to your part of the 'hubberverse' and I was delighted to read the story of 'Samboo'. Thank you for sharing. I wish that this was not a part of history...but, it is good to learn from it and ensure that it is not repeated.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on September 14, 2009:

Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words, Tom - Glad that you found the Hub useful - luckily, we have moved a long way since then.

Enjoy the day :)

Tom Cornett from Ohio on September 14, 2009:

I had heard the name,Sambo, used throughout my life but never knew where it came from. There was a restaurant named "Sambo's" in Richmond Indiana years ago.

Wonderful I know...thanks! :)

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on September 14, 2009:

Hi ixwa - thanks for commenting. I did reply yesterday but it seems to have gone to the electronic graveyard in the sky!

Sadly, it seems like there will always be a lunatic fringe - we have them in Europe, too. There are still people who think that it is acceptable to use such portrayals and I find that to be very sad. I am sure that the vast majority of Americans are not racist, but those images leave a nasty taste.

Most people who disagree with the current incumbent have perfectly valid reasons for doing so, and it is a shame that they are dragged into the whole race thing by a very vocal and twisted minority. Mind you, if I was on a march and saw that type of imagery, I would quickly disassociate myself.

Like you, I dream of a world where racism is a long forgotten term - maybe it is an unattainable goal, but I will strive with every fibre of my being to make it happen.

Best wishes :)

ixwa on September 13, 2009:

A look at some of the early Hollywood movies on blacks need to be cleared and cleaned-up. The image of Sambo runs the gamut form the early nineteen hundreds to present day sitcoms. It would be interesting to expose this image of blacks which adds up to the racial stereotypes we see of Obama with wild hair, red lips lots of watermelons and chicken, with words like, 'Lawd, I sho' loves Campainnin' . This images abound in the world of images of the Tea party Mobs against Obama. This issue of an image of a people needs to be addressed and corrected in some way.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on July 21, 2009:

Thanks for the kind words, thefount - they mean a lot. It is only a small piece of history, but every human has the right to a little dignity. Blessings to you and your good work, also :)

thefount from North Central Louisiana on July 21, 2009:

I greatly appreciate the part you have played in restoring the dignity of this young man. For me, this article has been very inspirational and educational.

Thank You, And Continue To Be Blessed

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on July 18, 2009:

Hi Brenda - always a pleasure to see my favourite beautiful Lancashire lass!

You really don't want to read my poetry - the muse passed me by, and my poetry is absolutely awful. I prefer to use pencils and sketch pad to express my feelings :)

The kitten is doing great, thanks - he likes to attack my feet!

\Brenda Scully on July 18, 2009:

back to our roots eh?????? thought you had starting writing poetry after all ..... great hub as always, is the kitten o.k.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on July 18, 2009:

Thanks for visiting, Miranda - good to see you.

It is amazing how much things have changed in the space of a few decades. Hopefully, it will continue :)

mirandalloyd from Alaska on July 17, 2009:

I always wondered about the story of Sambo...apparently there was a restaurant named after either the deceased, or after the slur. Understandably, when the Civil Rights Act was passed, the restaurant was closed down.

TMG: The Native American-owned casinos were a huge part of Arizona, where I was raised, as well. Some certain people wanted to take that much-needed money away from the casinos...this would be in 2004 or 2005, I don't remember the exact year. Needless to say, a lot of people in Arizona, white or Native, were not pleased with that attempted action. They voted for a portion of the profits to be put into the area's schools instead of going into the pockets of individuals.. :)

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on June 06, 2009:

Thanks, Dolores - it really is a heartbreaking tale. It is great that there is a memorial, and it is a constant reminder to us all.

Most of us are forgotten, but if we can make our moment in history a slightly better place, then all is not lost.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on June 06, 2009:

Such a heartfelt and touching story both the poor little stolen then abandoned child, and the sinking island. Wonderful that the teacher memorialized Sambo. Most of us are forgotten eventually.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on May 02, 2009:

Thanks for your insightful views, Captain Birdseye.

1) Sunderland was a staging point for ships docking at Lancaster. Are you seriously saying that Lancaster was not part of the slave-triangle? Read some history books and visit the Maritime Museum before displaying your ignorance. Nobody said anything about slaves actually being traded at Sunderland Point - that is a construct of your imagination.

2) I think that you will find that the article states quite clearly that little is known about him. Your inability to read further reinforces the idea that your views are largely worthless.

Captain Birdseye on May 02, 2009:

What a complete load of nonsense! The village of Sunderland was never involved in the slave trade and Samboo was not a slave! The only facts in this story are that little was known about him. The rest is pure invention!

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on April 25, 2009:

Thanks, maanju.

Thanks for the comment, Iconoclast - always good to receive your input. I hope that everything is OK now, and that the accident and PC failure have no long term repercussions.

Iconoclast from Chicago, IL on April 25, 2009:

This is good. Informative, well written, and provocative. I would have picked up on it sooner, but my recent accident and PC failure led to a reduction in my activity.

maanju from India on March 15, 2009:


Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on March 15, 2009:

Fantastic - I will put my best suit on. Off to the taverna for food and Ouzo. Ouzo makes you smile :)

blondepoet from australia on March 14, 2009:

Octopus mmmmm....yahooo...I will just go put on some lippy and grab my purse I will be ready in an hour lol. Sufidreamer you blushing I would love to see that LMAO

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on March 14, 2009:

Thanks blondepoet - No worries! My mum is actually pretty chilled about everything - she was a child of the sixties!

No prawns or crab, but the local taverna serves octopus - you want me to pick you some up?

Thanks for the kind words - you are sweet, too and you are making me blush :)

blondepoet from australia on March 14, 2009:

Oh my I am sorry Sufidreamer about talking about the err you know...don't worry my lips are sealed. If you see me next time and I am sort of making a distorted muffled sound, you will know I am wearing my gag hahaha.

If you could possibly send some prawns or crab through my PC, you are also guaranteed silence as I will be in too much ecstasy eating them to even utter a sound. You are so sweet Sufidreamer and when I have more time I look forward to reading some more of your superb stories.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on March 14, 2009:

Two of Hubpages most beautiful and kindest people in one day! I am extremely flattered.

blondepoet - Thanks for visiting and for the kind words. Coming from you, that is a compliment indeed.

PS - Keep quiet about the naked thing - my mum has been known to read this Hub, lol ;)

Thanks for commenting AEvans - I deeply appreciate your kind words - the UK and the US both share a common guilt for the slave trade. The best way to remember Sambo is to stop the human trafficking that still goes on.


Julianna from SomeWhere Out There on March 13, 2009:

I am with Constant on this one as I thought it was also a dirty racial slur, I am honored that you brought him to light and educated so many of us on his plight. May he rest in peace and now he is being remembered with dignity!!!:)

blondepoet from australia on March 13, 2009:

Oh Sufidreamer boy oh boy you sure know how to put a story together.Am I your fan? Don't worry I will go check............(scrolls up with her mouse wheel) yess I am yahoooo.Honestly you are a great writer as well as looking good naked on CW's page.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on March 13, 2009:

Cheers CW

Imust admit, I never knew that the grave was the source of the slur until I did the research.

Glad that the Naked Hubbers are back!

Constant Walker from Springfield, Oregon on March 12, 2009:

Wow, I didn't know Black Sambo was a real person - I always thought it was some kind slur, like the N word.

PS: You made the Naked Hubbers list: Be sure to let me know if you don'y want your name there and I'll remove it.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on March 04, 2009:

Thanks for the kind words, Buddy.

It is strange how words have different meanings in different countries. A word that is harmless in one place can be an insult somewhere else.

Stories are always good - we must learn from the past and move onwards. There is no point in apologising for the vile slave trade if we turn a blind eye to modern human trafficking - the millions of Africans that were ripped from their homes deserve better than that.

Monie Maunay from manila, philippines on March 03, 2009:

Thanks for the education sufi, Im afraid I've never heard the term sambo in the racial slur context. In here we have a chain of small coffeeshops selling sambos, a chocolate version of the silvannas (which is very close in taste and appearance to the sans rival). Education is still the key to ending ignorance and bigotry, we need to keep these stories flowing and there's still so much to be learned.

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on February 26, 2009:

Thanks for visiting, Violet Sun - always a pleasure.

Thank you for the kind words - it is true about the younger generation. They are a lot more tolerant than us, but I fear that we are leaving them with a lot of future problems.

Sambo's grave certainly is a very sad place - I remember the young girls in floods of tears when they heard the story - the boys pretended not to cry. ;) Every family with ancestry in the area benefited from the slave trade, so shares some of the blame. If we can turn that guilt into anger that the trade continues, then that would be the best legacy we can leave for Sambo.

VioletSun from Oregon/ Name: Marie on February 26, 2009:

Sufidreamer: My eyes got wet as I read the story of Sambo and how you placed flowers on his grave. It touches me that this young man's spirit still lives on reminding us that we humans may have grown, but there is still ignorance which leads to racism, fear and hatred. I think the younger generation of today, are so much more open minded and I love this generation, so there is hope for change, even if it's slow.

Thumbs up!

Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on February 25, 2009:

Hi Pam - thanks for dropping in.

I never knew about that restaurant until I researched the Hub. It still shows that there is work to be done. We stop people using such terms, but changing attitudes is more difficult. Even now, there are still people who believe that Africans are less intelligent, repeating the old and tired propaganda that slavery was 'Doing them a Favour.'

I cannot wait until archaeologists decide to study Africa properly, and uncover the truth - that Africans were doing some sophisticated things long before the slave-ships dropped anchor. That should blow that tired stereotype out of the water.

pgrundy on February 25, 2009:

Amazing hub! I didn't know about this English aspect of the story. I still remember that back when I was a little girl there was a chain of pancake restaurants in the Midwestern U.S. called "Sambo's". It had a little black boy with a stack of pancakes as the logo and there was a tiger lurking about if I remember right. Hard to believe that was still around in my lifetime.