This post is dedicated to the UK’s first Black editor and one of the UK’s first Pan Africanists, Samuel Jules Celestine Edwards.
Samuel was the youngest of nine children, born to French speaking parents on the Caribbean island of Dominica. Samuel was a free thinker from a young age and when he was just 12 years old, he stowed away on a French ship headed for Europe.
Landing in the UK
Samuel landed in the UK around 1870 and began to make a name for himself as a public speaker.
Starting off in the north of the UK, there are reports of Samuel leading talks in Edinburgh. He planned to reside in London and stopped off in major cities on his way down where he had lined up talks.
In Newcastle he spoke about the treatment of his ancestors…
My ancestors proudly trod the sands of the African continent; but from their home, they and friends were dragged into the slave mart.
From reading his earlier speeches, one is able to tell just how conscious Samuel was. Very similar to James Baldwin. I say this because of the timelessness of his quotes.
When conducting a speech in Hackney, he said “It is a sad thing to see a whole generation of men and women comparing those whose skins are black to baboons.”
During his aforementioned speech in Newcastle, Samuel spoke about how he looks forward to the future, as he believed the conditions would be much improved for Black people.
While his prediction was correct and conditions for Black people have improved in the UK, unfortunately we are still being called monkeys.
Moving to London
After Tyneside, Samuel settled in London and became a student. He enrolled at King’s College where he studied Theology and also attended the London hospital as a medical student.
Samuel was very much into his religion and became an evangelist. As a keen writer, he used his skills to write pamphlets celebrating Christianity and questioning atheists.
In 1891, Samuel published a biography for Walter Hawkins, who was also formerly enslaved and had become a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church in Canada.
In the space of a year Samuel launched Lux, which was a magazine about Christianity released to its subscribers every week.
Not lying still, Samuel also became the editor of a monthly journal called Fraternity, and quickly built his subscriber list to 7000. Not bad for a child of an enslaved couple from the Caribbean.
As Samuel’s reputation for social activism grew, so did his speaking opportunities. In July 1893, he was invited to Bristol where he spoke on lynching in the United States.
The speaking opportunities didn’t stop and he was seen speaking in Bristol, Liverpool, Plymouth, and Aberdeen to name a few.
Unfortunately for Samuel, touring around England began to take its toll on his health, and knowing this, he travelled back to the Caribbean where he lived out his final moments with his family.
He arrived in Barbados on June 1st, and stayed with his brother until he passed on July 25th.
Samuel Jules Celestine Edwards, the UK’s first black editor and one of the first to start the UKs Pan African movement, we at Adeptales salute you. Stay Adept.