Fleeting Glimpses

Looking for evidence of Africans in the wider world is often a serendipitous experience. I was recently traveling for 18 days in Iran. While there have been articles and videos documenting Afro-Iranians and I have mentioned them in this blog before, I was not specifically on the lookout for these people as I was traveling in different areas. I did not expect to find evidence of African notables paying tribute to Darius the Great (550-486 BCE) in Persepolis! The Apadana, a main hall of the kings, is accessed by two monumental staircases. These are carved with figures of the delegates of the 23 nations paying tribute Darius, their ruler. The stairs are carved in black limestone. At the far left side are the delegates from Africa, as shown here:

Africans paying tribute to Darius the Great at Persepolis

Ayuba Suleiman Diallo 1701-1773
The British historian, Simon Schama, has a new book and BBC series out called The Face of Britain: The Nation Through Its Portraits. One of the portraits he features, currently on exhibit at London's National Portrait Gallery, is described as the first portrait of an African in Britain. The key word here is 'portrait': there were depictions of Africans in Britain (see the blog post Early Black British on 9/6/13) earlier than this. The portrait is of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, an aristocrat who was enslaved by Mandingoes and who ended up in Maryland.  With assistance from numerous people who learned of his plight, he eventually made his way to Britain and then back to his homeland in what is now Senegal. His story is awe-inspiring and most unusual for its time. For more information about a smaller version of this portrait and its current status, see this article here.

This portrait was painted by William Hoare of Bath, England in 1733, a year before Diallo returned to Senegal.


  1. very interesting - did they know from which parts of Africa these delegates came from?

    1. Darius the Great's empire stretched into the northeast area of Africa: present day Libya and Egypt.

  2. Fascinating. I applaud Simon Schama for including images of Africans in the history of Britain. So many people think of the British Isles as a sacred Whites Only land, but people ofcolor have a long history there. I'm going to share this on Facebook. Thank you for your scholarship and interest Hazel.

    1. Be sure to read more about Early Black British in the post of the same name dated 9/6/13.


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