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Runaways

History, storytelling and escape from slavery in 17th and 18th Century London

Between the 1650s and 1780s many hundreds of enslaved people were brought to London. Most were African although a significant minority were South Asian and a smaller number were indigenous American. While in the capital some attempted to escape and, on occasions, those who pursued them placed advertisements in London newspapers seeking the capture and return of these freedom-seekers. The average age of the runaways was 16. 

These ‘runaway advertisements’ reveal the existence of enslaved people in London yet tell us very little about them, and all through the eyes of those who enslaved and pursued them.

It is all that we don’t know about London’s freedom seekers that has led to the development of Runaways London. Taking the historical research of Professor Simon Newman and Dr Peggy Brunache as the starting point, Runaways’ poets Abena Essah, Gboyega Odubanjo, Oluwaseun Olayiwola, Momtaza Mehri and Memoona Zahid, and artists Tasia Graham and Olivia Twist investigated those archival silences. Together they have reimagined the stories of London’s runaways, showing African and South Asian people to have been present in London, and that despite some of them being little more than children, they dared to challenge their enslavers and run away into the City of London, eager to find better and freer lives. 

The creative work produced by the writers, poets and artists is published in an anthology by Ink Sweat & Tears Press, and supported by teaching resources for Key Stage 3 and 4.

You can view the anthology below, or order a physical copy from Ink Sweat & Tears.

Project Anthology

Teaching Resources

These resources, created by the participating artists, lead Key Stage 3 and 4 classes through their creative processes to produce poems and artworks responding to the project.

Resources in this series are:

Alternatively you can download a pdf of the full resource pack.

Artists, Academics, Publishers

Fahad Al-Amoudi 

Anthology editor


Dr Peggy Brunache 

Academic


Momtaza Mehri 

Artist


Professor Simon Newman  

Academic


Gboyega Odubanjo 

Artist


Olivia Twist 

Artist


Ink, Sweat and Tears


Memoona Zahid

Artist


Oluwaseun  

Artist


Tasia Graham

Artist


Abena Essah

Artist


Thanks

Runaways is managed by Spread the Word and the project publisher is Ink Sweat & Tears Press. The historical and research partner is the University of Glasgow’s Runaway Slaves in Britain project. 

Runaways is supported and funded by: The British Association for American Studies/United States Embassy Small Grants Programme; Economic and Social Research Council, Impact Acceleration Award; University of Glasgow Knowledge Exchange (KE) Small Grants 2020/21; City of London Grants and through private donations. 

Photo credits:
Dr Peggy Brunache by Kirsty Anderson
Olivia Twist by Abigail Holsborough