World News – GB – Google today celebrates composer Ignatius Sancho – here’s why


Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Ignatius Sancho, a British composer, actor and writer who became a symbol of hope in the battle against the immorality of the slave trade through his famous letters

The Google Doodle aims to honor Sancho – who was of African descent – and draw attention to his work in the abolition of slavery, a « courageous fight in the name of freedom and equality « 

Born on a slave ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean around 1729, his mother died shortly after childbirth and his father allegedly committed suicide rather than living as a slave

But a silver lining came when Sancho was only two years old – his owner took the young orphan to England where he was given to three single sisters in Greenwich

His intelligence, warmth and sincerity encouraged him to read, which gave young Sancho a somewhat informal education

The apprenticeship was frustrated by its lack of freedom, and Sancho escaped and fled, finding a job as a butler for an aristocratic family

There his horizons widened even further, as Sancho immersed himself in music, poetry, reading and writing In the late 1760s Sancho was considered by many to be a man of refinement

During his lifetime Sancho published four books of lively dance songs and music, his best known being a collection called Minuets, Cotillons & Country Dances

He was the first composer of African origin to publish music in the European tradition, publishing his works anonymously but noting on the first page that they were « composed by an African »

The academics speculated that Sancho may have included this information in an attempt to make the music more « exotic » and therefore increase sales

But Sancho made it clear that he has noble English connections, dedicating his works to his aristocratic friends on numerous occasions

After the publication of his correspondence between himself and Laurence Sterne – in which Sancho urged the famous writer to push for the abolition of the slave trade at the height of the debate – he came to prominence as a man of letters

During a gout attack in 1774, Sancho opened a green grocery store in Mayfair, London with his wife, Anne Osborne

A calmer lifestyle followed, which left more time for socializing and writing; during this time he wrote and published collections of his musical compositions and multiple plays

Sancho wrote a large volume of letters, many of which contained critiques of 18th century politics and society

His eloquent calls for the abolition of slavery were published in newspapers, exposing many readers to the handwriting of a black person for the first time

As a financially independent male owner, Sancho was also eligible to vote and became the only Briton of African descent known to have been eligible and voted in an 18th century general election in 1774

Sancho died of the effects of gout in December 1780 and was buried in St Margaret’s Cemetery, Westminster, where no memorial remains

He was the first person of African descent known to receive an obituary in the British press

Sancho’s influence continued to be felt after his death, and when a collection of his letters was published posthumously, Sancho’s words attracted a huge readership and drew wide attention to the abolitionist cause

Today’s Google Doodle was created by British artist Kingsley Nebechi, who said focusing on Sancho offered « a great opportunity to explore a really crucial part of black history »

« I wanted my work to honor his contributions and become a tool to reintroduce his excellent work to a new generation »

Nebechi hopes the Doodle can spark ‘curiosity’ in people so that they can search for Ignatius and other key dark figures in history

« It’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re from, » he says

Ignatius Sancho, UK, Google Doodle, Black History Month, Abolitionism, African American History

News from around the world – UK – Google today celebrates the composer Ignatius Sancho – here’s why



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