Over the last 8 years, I’ve experimented with a few different maps to try and visualize African American lecturing tours in Britain and Ireland. (Thanks to Mike Gardner, from Uni of Nottingham, who has been instrumental in guiding me through this.)
In 2020, I’ve created a few maps in Carto. While the majority of people I speak to prefer my older maps, with the specific number of lectures in a region and the venue/date info, I still think these Carto maps are really interesting and can give us a fresh perspective on African American travels, their routes of transportation, and how far they travelled. See below:
Using Carto, I’ve also created a heat map, showing how lectures were often concentrated in London, the Midlands and parts of Scotland.
We can use Carto to compare journeys. See below for a comparison between James Watkins (purple) and Moses Roper (green). While experimenting with this map, I filtered the data to view dates, locations and venues - however, there are 100s of locations listed by both Watkins and Roper in their respective narratives that don’t give specifics in regard to date and venue, which makes a visual analysis somewhat more complicated! Watkins has the highest number of locations (1,110) but he spoke in the same locations several times and stuck close to the Midlands. Roper on the other hand, travelled very widely - from Penzance to Inverness.
While the majority of African Americans travelled to Britain and Ireland in the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s, they continued to lecture in the British Isles long after slavery was legally abolished in 1865. They spoke about segregation, racism, Jim Crow laws, lynching, white domestic terrorism and tried to convince the transatlantic public that, in the words of Bishop Walter Hawkins in 1891, “slavery is not dead. It is alive at this very moment.” It’s important to recognize this forgotten postbellum activism: slave narratives were still published, and in the map below, you’ll see over 1,100 lectures given by Nelson Countee, Isaac Dickerson, Josiah Henson, Amanda Smith, Hallie Q. Brown and Ida B. Wells, to name a few.
To compare antebellum and postbellum lectures, see the following map of lectures between 1836-1866, showing 3,551 lectures:
Carto has been really useful for creating a map over time: you can see how concentrated the lectures are, in regard to time frame and in certain regions:
Here’s a heat map to further demonstrate this:
In comparison, see the following map between 1867-1907, showing 1,100 lectures. You can see that the majority of lectures were focused in London and the Midlands, although a significant number of activists travelled to Scotland. Few were lecturing in the rural hamlets of Wales and Cornwall, in contrast to the 1840s, although Benjamin William Brown and Jane Brown did travel to parts of Devon and Dorset. Perhaps this is an indication that activists were more likely to find support in industrial towns or other established centers that had connections to former abolitionists. Once again, I tried to filter through date/location/venue, but considering that a) some of the venues are so variable and b) I don’t know the exact venue for each activist for every lecture, most venues would come up blank, or ‘null.’ Sometimes, the dates can be rough estimates too without diving into the archive for each activist/lecture, which is unfortunately impossible for me to do right now.
Compare the heat map with the one above:
The ‘over- time’ map shows the concentration of lectures and how few travelled as far into the Highlands and parts of rural Wales as their counterparts in the 1830s. Regardless, their activism remains integral to the transatlantic abolitionist movement, as for activists like Hawkins and Wells, the legacies of slavery continued to scar the American landscape and they urged the British and Irish public to support their cause.
Lastly, here are two final maps that showcase postbellum activism. The map below shows Ida B. Wells’ speaking locations from both her tours in 1893 and 1894. As a single Black woman travelling by herself (i.e. without a male chaperone), and the fact that she was speaking about graphic subjects like lynching and sexual violence, she was forced to stick to cities/industrial centers where she had concrete support, white testimonials and a network of reformers. So she spoke in Aberdeen with Isabelle Fyvie Mayo, who introduced her to friends in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Catherine Impey used her Quaker network to organize lectures. In 1894, she spoke numerous times in Liverpool with Charles F. Aked, and at least 35 times in London. Her success in towns like Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh and London was far easier than travelling to rural villages; plus, Wells knew that her cause needed ‘respectability’ and international support, and she targeted MPs, famous relgious ministers and other people of strong influence that could aid her mission to the British Isles.
The map below shows Benjamin William Brown and Jane Brown’s activism between 1888 and 1902. They gave numerous lectures around London, the Midlands and the South, and do not seem to have ventured into Scotland - I’m not sure of the particular reason for that yet. Their map doesn’t look like much, but they spoke in the same locations several times, indicating their concrete networks of support where people could welcome them back/organize another meeting on their behalf. Their schedule involved speaking or singing on a Sunday afternoon, sometimes in the evening too, with a lecture the following Monday night on ‘slave life.’ Thus, their lectures were concentrated 2-4 times within 2 days in certain locations, and sometimes they were even given short residencies for 1-2 weeks where they would lecture every day.