The Adventures of a Black Edwardian Intellectual

Pamela Roberts

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The remarkable story of James Arthur Harley.

This event takes place at the British Library.

James Arthur Harley was an intellectual polymath who served as a politician, reverend, and scholar. With the foundation of an esteemed education gained at Howard, Yale, Harvard, and Oxford Universities, he made no apologies for being an outspoken, articulate black man challenging and provoking any white man: a dangerous undertaking at the turn of the 20th century. 

Born in 1873 in All Saints village, Antigua, James Arthur Harley was a poor island boy who dared to dream… and his dreams and ambitions were big. A gifted scholar, a pioneer Oxford anthropologist, a country curate, ordained a priest in Canterbury Cathedral and a firebrand councillor elected to Leicestershire County Council. His remarkable career was all the more extraordinary because he was black in an age – the early 20th century – that was institutionally racist.

Pamela Roberts' meticulously researched new book, The Adventures of a Black Edwardian Intellectual – The Story of James Arthur Harley tells Harley's hitherto unknown story from humble Antiguan childhood through elite education in Jim Crow America to the turbulent England of World War I and the General Strike.

Based on Harley's letters, sermons, writings, contemporary accounts, and later oral testimony. The Adventures of a Black Edwardian Intellectual is an account of an individual's trajectory through seven decades of dramatic social change.

The event will feature a theatrical performance from Roberts's play A Scholar and A Statesman, presenting an overview of Harley's life through selected scenes.

 A Q&A and book signing follows the performance.

Pamela Roberts, an award-winning creative producer and historian, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow at the British Library. 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.

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: The Adventures of a Black Edwardian Intellectual
Where: Foyle Visitor and Learning Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546