While the prevalence of Africans in Europe is well known, many accounts have been relegated to dusty footnotes, poorly documented, or lost entirely to history. John Blanke, musician, was more than likely brought to England as part of Catherine of Aragon’s retinue in 1501, and as such, is among the earliest recorded Africans in England during the time period.
Existing court records document his wages; 8d per day under Henry VII, as well as a document listing 20 shillings during November 1507.
The Westminster Tournament Roll, a 60 foot long manuscript commemorating the royal festivities celebrating the birth of Henry VIII’s son in 1511, depicts an African twice; it has been determined that this man, shown with trumpet in hand and wearing the royal arms, is John Blanke. Unfortunately, little else is known of Mr. Blanke, but his importance to history is tremendous.
Look him up!
Recognized as the first foreign samurai, Yasuke was an African slave that arrived in Japan in 1579 with Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano. As Valignano’s servant, he was present when Valignano visited the capital in 1581; contemporary accounts record the initial meeting with Lord Oda Nobunaga, who met the foreigner with fascination and intrigue, and was the first African that any had seen. “On the 23rd of the 2nd month [March 23, 1581], a black page (黒坊主 “kuro-bōzu”) came from the Christian countries. He looked about 26 or 27 years old; his entire body was black like that of an ox. The man was healthy and good-looking. Moreover, his strength was greater than that of 10 men.” It is said that Nobunaga had the man wipe his skin, thinking that the black may have been paint. Yasuke gained favor and entered the service of Lord Nobunaga, where he was elevated to the rank of samurai, and later fought alongside Nobunaga’s forces against the invading forces of Akechi Mitsuhide. After Nobunaga’s defeat, he was given back to the Jesuits, where he disappeared from record.
History is now – look him up!
Vitals – 1696-1781Afro-Russian general, engineer, and nobleman, the first of such lineage to attain status in the Russian royal court. Kidnapped at the age of seven, he was taken to the court of the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople and later ransomed and sent to Russia to the court of Emperor Peter the Great. Having taken a keen interest in young Gannibal, Peter absorbed him into his household, where he developed a close bond with the Emperor’s family.
Educated in Metz, excelled in his studies, and developed fluency in several languages.
Served in the Russian military, eventually obtaining the rank of Major General.
Served a post as governor of Reval (Estonia), and was a noted member of the Russian court.
Great grandfather of celebrated Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, the founder of modern Russian literature.
Father of Ivan Gannibal, accomplished naval officer and General in Chief of the Russian military.
Several prominent current British aristocrats descend from his esteemed lineage.
Vitals – Born in Saint-Dominique (Haiti), the son of a white nobleman, Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, and an enslaved African, Marie-Cessette Dumas. -Educated in France, and entered the French military.
-Rose the ranks from private to General in Chief by age 31, commanding 53,000.
-Earned renown in numerous wars and battles, earning the nickname ‘The Black Devil’ from his Austrian adversaries for his dogged tenacity on the battlefield.
– Father of Alexandre Dumas, legendary author of The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and other notable works.
Elevated to the rank of Division General in the French army, becoming the highest ranking man of African origin in a European military structure. Among his many firsts, was the first black man to reach the rank of brigadier general, divisional general, as well as General-in-chief in the French army.