Summer Scholars: Urban Elites / Making Changes in Washington DC and London

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Black Elite Women in Washington, DC, and West Indian Absentee Planters in London.

The Eccles Centre’s Summer Scholars season of free in-person lunchtime talks explores the exciting and wide-ranging research into the Americas collections at the British Library by the Eccles Centre’s Fellows and Award winners. The talks take place in the British Library Entrance Hall bookshop and attendees are welcome to bring their lunch.

Acknowledging the Women of Washington DC’s Black Elite c1900

Washington DC’s Black elite luminaries Frederick Douglas, Senator Blanch Kelso Bruce, John Mercer Langton, Jesse Lawson, and Robert Terrell have traditionally been associated with campaigning and advocating for civil rights at the turn of the 20th century. But what about their wives? How were they perceived? As passive adornments, whose lives revolved around social parties, social climbing, and the latest fashions for themselves and their homes? Or as progressive advocates, activists, and dynamic change-makers behind the scenes?

In this talk, Pamela Roberts examines the contributions made by Mrs Mary Church Terrell, Mrs Rosetta Lawson and Mrs Josephine Bruce.

West Indian Absentee Planters and the Remaking of London

Between the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War in 1763 and the emancipation of the enslaved in 1834, the influx of absentee planters and their families from Britain’s West Indian colonies reshaped the urban development and elite society of London. Many of these individuals had never previously lived in the metropole. Yet they became, in the words of the imperial historian Richard Pares, ‘the most conspicuous rich men [and women] of their day,’ arousing both envy and enmity among their fellow Londoners with their ostentatious style of living and what many observers saw as their failure to conform to the norms of English society. 

Natalie Zacek considers how the wealth of these men and women, and their desire to live near one another, underpinned the development of Marylebone and western Fitzrovia and its emergence as a centre of style and sociability in the later 18th century.

Pamela Roberts is an award-winning creative producer and historian. The author of Black Oxford: The Untold Stories of Oxford University’s Black Scholars, her work as Founder and Director of Black Oxford Untold Stories has raised the profile of many black scholars from the turn of the 20th century. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and the Royal Historical Society.

Natalie Zacek is a senior lecturer in American Studies at the University of Manchester. Her first monograph, Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands, 1670–1776, won the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize. She is completing projects on the cultural history of horse racing in the 19th-century United States and the historical and contemporary relationship between English universities and transatlantic slavery.

Image: Photo of Mary Church Terrell from the Library of Congress.

This event is organised by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library. The Eccles Centre exists to support and promote creative research and lifelong learning about the Americas, through the world-class collections of the British Library.

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Name: Summer Scholars: Urban Elites / Making Changes in Washington DC and London
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Free Event: £0.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
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