History

London’s First Black Owned Business?

This is the story of Charles Ignatius Sancho

Born in Slavery

British abolitionist, writer and composer. Born on a slave ship in the Atlantic.

Sancho was sold into slavery in the Spanish colony of New Grenada.

After his parents died, Sancho’s owner took the two-year-old orphan to England and gifted him to three Greenwich sisters

Escape in london

Unable to bear being a servant to them, Sancho ran away to the Montagu House, whose owner taught him how to read and encouraged Sancho’s budding interest in literature.

Education and Self-Actualisation

Finally financially independent, he earned money for himself and his family by indulging his passion for theatre – writing, publishing and selling his own songs, dances, music, poetry and plays.

The Shop

A smart businessman, he also bought and ran a grocery shop in Westminster that became a popular hang-out for all the big actors and artists of the day. It’s clear from the portraits and descriptions of him that survive today that his opinions and talent were well-respected.

Abolition and Community

He even became the first known black person of African descent to vote in parliamentary elections in Britain, in 1774 and 1780. This right was afforded him as a businessman and home owner.

Ignatius wrote letters that passionately argued against the slave trade. These were collected into books after his death in 1780, and the two volumes of ‘The Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African’ were a very big hit, leaving Ignatius’ family with more than £500 in royalties – which is about £88,000 in today’s value.

It was this story telling that allowed for the changing of the narrative, it presented many at the time with the opportunity to read scripture wriiten by a Black person which at the time was very rare. Secondly it gave people a insider perspective to what slaves “felt” The scriptures written by a former slave about the experince of beoing a slave. This started the process of humanising slaves.

Ignatius’s story is one of self growth, education, support and change. Support of his business mixed with his passion for writing fuelled by his experience slave combined to help create change for future generation. The is is the main reason why Black owned London is so passionate about changing the narrative and why Black Owned London will look to provide education and inspiration as we continue to support Black Owned businesses around the UK

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