A series of features guest-curated by Mike Phillips for the British
Library Online Gallery.
Popular versions of history have all too often airbrushed out the
contribution of non-Europeans to Western arts and sciences. In recent
years, however, scholars have begun to challenge the idea that race
or ethnicity is a barrier which can stop individuals from participating
in any culture they choose. In Europe this has encouraged a new
drive to explore and understand the hidden or ignored contribution
of people of African descent to the mainstream of European culture
The figures featured in Black Europeans – Alexander
Polgreen Bridgetower, Samuel
Coleridge-Taylor and John
Archer – all have a mixed European and African ancestry.
Although they were fully conscious of their mixed backgrounds, they
also regarded themselves as part of a European nation, and thought
of their work as a contribution to their own sector of the culture
of Europe and the world. And they were all figures whose public
image and whose activities have been generally accepted (both by
their contemporaries and by later generations) to be an important
part of Europe’s cultural heritage – to the point where
most people ignore, or have forgotten about, the ‘black’
element of their identity and its significance in their lives and
About the author: Mike
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Black Europeans in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format.