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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter June 21, 2017

Vagrant Presences: Lost Children, the Black Atlantic, and Northern Britain

  • Alan Rice EMAIL logo


This article discusses a range of African Atlantic figures whose vagrant and vagabond lifestyles help to broaden Paul Gilroy’s conception of the Black Atlantic. Geographically, the author moves away from metropolitan concerns to discuss the rural and the provincial as key areas to discover hidden truths about African Atlantic peoples. The article investigates North British historical concerns from slavery and its aftermath in Scotland to the Cotton Famine in Lancashire. It takes a close look at the radical Scots-descended Robert Wedderburn, the North-of-England-based circus performer Pablo Fanque and the fugitive slave and wanderer James Johnson. It also discusses contemporary artistic responses to black presence in North Britain by Ingrid Pollard and Jade Montserrat to show how these presences are being remembered and reimagined. It uses the theoretical model of multi-dimensional memory, developed by Michael Rothberg, to investigate the way these historical characters and events are key to the fullest understanding of the Black Atlantic in Britain and beyond.

Corresponding author: Prof. Alan Rice, Institute for Black Atlantic Research (IBAR), School of Humanities and the Social Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, Livesey House 209, Preston, PR1 2HE, UK

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Published Online: 2017-6-21
Published in Print: 2017-6-27

©2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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