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Blacks in Victorian England

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The Othered Victorians

The Victorian period was a time of great hypocrisy. Despite the fact that the Protestant work ethic was gaining popular support amongst the Victorians and myths such as Samuel Smiles' "rags to riches" became part of mainstream Victorian culture, the Victorians were greatly divided into their respective social classes. Works like Thomas Carlyle's "The Irish Widow" and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "The Cry of the Children" exemplified the blatant disregard of the upper classes to that of the lower class. If the Victorians were divided amongst themselves, imagine what it was like for people of different religions and races. The Blacks of this period was one such race that suffered tremendously throughout the Victorian period. They were referred to as The Othered Victorians.


Victorian Novels

In Victorian novels blacks were depicted as wild savages who were incapable of controlling themselves without the supervision of a noble upper class Victorian. Characters such as Miss Swartz (Swartz is a German word meaning black; it is also a popular German-Jewish name) and Samboo (a general and derogatory term used to refer to all blacks) within William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair were depicted in such a way. For example, on the day of Amelia's departure, Miss Swartz was described as, "[T]he rich wooly-haired mulatto from St. Kitt's…she was in such a passion of tears that they were obliged to send for Dr. Floss, and half tipsify her with salvolatile" (Thackeray 206).

Origin of Prejudice

Where did these prejudices stem from? These prejudices are remnants of the colonial era. Before the Victorian period, the days of Christopher Columbus, there was a fever of exploration and discov...

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...the Victorians were more appalled by a marriage across class lines than across racial barriers ("Before" 3). This does not suggest that they were still disgusted by interracial marriages-recall Rebecca, daughter of an opera singer, and Rawdon, son of an aristocrat in Vanity Fair.

Works Cited

"Before the Black Victorians." 7 November 2004. .

"Creole in Black and White." 28 October 2004. .

"Exhibiting 'Others' in the West." 28 October 2004. .

Giddings, Paula J. The Romance of Two Black Victorian Writers. 18 August 2002. 28 October 2004.

Lester, Julius. To Be A Slave. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1968.

"Phrenology." 8 November 2004. .

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