Black/African/Caribbean/Black British Passports

Black/African/Caribbean/Black British Passports

Passports of Black People in the 19th century are rare to find and even in the early 20th century, they were not that common. Now I did acquire such a Black British passport lot of five documents including two British Jamaica passports. One from 1919 and the other from the 1950s. Jamaica was British for more than 300 years (since 1655) and got its full independence in 1962.

Talking to Dave Miller who has a fantastic and comprehensive Flickr account (puzzlemaster) on US passport applications with pictures tells me the following…

Tom, as you know, I concentrate on US passport applications with pictures, and the earliest passport photos date from 1915. I have found numerous instances of African Americans with passport photos in the 1915 records. However, there was a steady flow of black Americans traveling abroad, especially to Europe, in the pre-world war II years as well. There were musical groups such as the Fisk Jubilee singers (1873) and Broadway musicals like “In Dahomey” (1903) who had successful European tours. They led to African-American performers finding a place on the music hall circuit in Britain (Belle Davis and others). There were also early entertainers in Tsarists Russia (Ida Forsyne, Ollie Burgoyne, etc.)

Besides that there were boxers and other athletes who had a tendency to travel abroad. I also want to mention that there was a large group of black Americans who travelled to and from Liberia in the 1910’s. For instance:

The earliest African-American passport (no picture though) I have found is of sculptor Edmonda Lewis in 1865, who was sent abroad to pursue her education by a group of philanthropic “subscribers”.

During 15 years of research in passport history and collecting historical passports I have rarely seen early travel documents for black people. Well, here are the pictures of the passports I recently got into my collection. They are specifically interesting also for British territory collectors. Pay attention to the complexion and face description!

Black British Passports – Referring Mainly To British Colonies

Black British are British people of Black and African origins or heritage, including those of African-Caribbean (sometimes called “Afro-Caribbean”) background, and may include people with mixed ancestry. The term has been used from the 1950s, mainly to refer to Black people from former British colonies in the West Indies (i.e., the New Commonwealth) and Africa, who are residents of the United Kingdom and who consider themselves British.

The term “black” has historically had a number of applications as a racial and political label and may be used in a wider sociopolitical context to encompass a broader range of non-European ethnic minority populations in Britain, though this is a controversial and non-standard definition. “Black British” is one of the various self-designation entries used in official UK ethnicity classifications. Black residents constituted around 3 percent of the United Kingdom’s population in 2011.

Read more about the topic e.g. at The Black Presence In Britain

Black/African/Caribbean/Black British Passports

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