BLACK PEOPLE IN THE BRITISH ISLES
AND EARLY NORTHERN EUROPE
By RUNOKO RASHIDI
DEDICATED TO SISTER MARPESSA
Any comprehensive account of the African presence in early Europe should include England, Ireland, Scotland,
Wales and Scandinavia. The history and legends of Scotland confirm the existence of "purely Black people." We
see one of them in the person of Kenneth the Niger. During the tenth century Kenneth the Niger ruled over three
provinces in the Scottish Highlands.
The historical and literary traditions of Wales reflect similar beliefs. According to Gwyn Jones (perhaps the
world's leading authority on the subject), to the Welsh chroniclers, "The Danes coming in by way of England and
the Norwegians by way of Ireland were pretty well all black: Black Gentiles, Black Norsemen, Black Host."
There is also strong reason to suggest an African presence in ancient Ireland. We have, for example, the legends
of the mysterious "African sea-rovers, the Fomorians, who had a stronghold on Torrey Island, off the Northwest
Coast." The Fomorians, shrouded deep in mist, came to be regarded as the sinister forces in Irish mythology.
A prominent Viking of the eleventh century was Thorhall, who was aboard the ship that carried the early Vikings
to the shores of North America. Thorhall was "the huntsman in summer, and in winter the steward of Eric the
Red. He was, it is said, a large man, and strong, black, and like a giant, silent, and foul-mouthed in his speech,
and always egged on Eric to the worst; he was a bad Christian."
Another Viking, more notable than Thorhall, was Earl Thorfinn, "the most distinguished of all the earls in the
Islands." Thorfinn ruled over nine earldoms in Scotland and Ireland, and died at the age of seventy-five. His
widow married the king of Scotland. Thorfinn was described as "one of the largest men in point of stature, and
ugly, sharp featured, and somewhat tawny, and the most martial looking man... It has been related that he was the
foremost of all his men."
FAIR USE NOTICE:
This site may at times contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml