The history and legacy of slave-ownership in Sussex

Hastings Stand Up To Racism group is hosting a round table discussion tomorrow night (June 30th) to explore the histories and legacies of slave-ownership in Sussex – including ‘Mad Jack’ Fuller – and explain why Sussex is ‘not innocent’ when it comes to colonial slavery.

The meeting will also examine the resistance to slavery and some of the hidden black history in our region, including the life in Hastings of Marie-Louise Christophe – the black queen of independent Haiti – after the only successful slave revolution in history. The group will also look at how all of this relates today’s Black Lives Matter.

“There will be plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion,” says event chair Maya Evans.

To join the meeting on Zoom you will need to register by clicking on this link THIS LINK

Speakers include:

  • Dr Gill Scott (University of Brighton) on Sussex slave ownership
  • Mike Anderson on why Fuller Must Fall
  • Dr Nicole Willson (Institute for Black Atlantic Research) on Haiti’s black queen in Hastings
  • Dawn Dublin (Black Butterfly) on hidden histories in Hastings
  • Weyman Bennett (Stand Up To Racism) on racial justice today
  • The Facebook event is HERE

This meeting has been jointly organised by the Stand Up To Racism groups in Hastings, Brighton and Eastbourne and starts at 6.30pm.

Hastings Stand Up to racism has provided a little background information on two of the key historical figures who will feature in tomorrow’s discussions’

John ‘Mad Jack’ Fuller

John Fuller (1757-1834) was the wealthy Squire of Brightling near Battle and Tory MP for Sussex from 1801 to 1812, his wealth came from two Jamaican plantations.

John ‘Mad Jack’ Fuller

A vociferous anti-abolitionist he used his position as an MP to try and prevent the end of slavery. Fuller belonged to the West India Interest, a powerful lobby group that financed pseudo-science to show that Black Africans were degenerate and sub-human.

Fuller enjoys a false reputation as an eccentric and philanthropist and the Mad Jack Myth continues today with a World-wide coterie of enthusiasts.

Fuller’s nickname of “Mad Jack” originates because of a number of follies he constructed around his estate the most famous being a large pyramid shaped mausoleum which dominates Brightling’s churchyard. Fuller is reputed to be buried inside standing with a glass of claret in his hand – he isn’t.

Another folly, the Sugarloaf was built to win a drunken bet – Fuller was a habitual drunkard. The Mad Jack Myth endures as recently a student attending Queens University (Canada) at Herstmonceux Castle created a replica pyramid on campus as a memorial to Fuller!

Fuller’s money bailed out the Royal Institution, who in return created two Fullerian Professorships which continue to this day. He bought Bodiam Castle saving it from demolition, endowed Brightling Church with a peal of bells and bought Eastbourne’s first lifeboat.

Marie-Louise Christophe

Marie-Louise Christophe

Marie-Louise Christophe was a leading woman activist in the only successful slave revolt in history – the great slave rebellion in San Domingo, now called Haiti, led by Toussaint L’Ouverture.

San Domingo was France’s most profitable colony and the largest single market for the transAtlantic slave trade.

In 1791 the slaves rebelled, embarking on a 12 year revolution against their masters and the invading armies of France, Spain and Britain.

Against all the odds the slaves won and established the black state of Haiti – and had a major impact on slavery as a whole. Other slave owning states, like Britain, feared their colonies could also erupt in revolution. 

Marie-Louise Christophe became a black queen in the new state but sharp internal battles saw her forced into exile in Britain. She ended her days living in Hastings.

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