Ignatius Sancho (1729–1780)
Born on a slave ship, and brought at the age of 2 to Britain as a domestic slave, Sancho covertly taught himself to read and write at an early age.
Running away from his owner, Sancho found work as a butler to the progressive Duke and Duchess of Montagu who financed his further academic study: while working for them, he wrote poetry, two stage plays and a Theory of Music, albeit none of them published. He was also active as a composer, in total writing three collections of music for violin, flute, mandolin and harpsichord, all of which were published anonymously.
Sancho left service in 1773, and bought and ran a successful grocery shop until his death.
In 1782, Sancho’s Letters became the first piece of literature by a Black person to be published, receiving over 1,200 subscribers, aimed in his words to prove that
an untutored African may possess [intellectual] abilities equal to a European.
During Norfolk BHM 2010, Norwich Millennium Library’s Local History expert Clive Wilkins-Jones will tell you more about the intriguing and illuminating friendship between Ignatius Sancho & William Stevenson of Norwich.