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Hidden gems in the Tower of London

2 Apr

The White Tower at the Tower of London

The group aactivity today was to the Tower of London.  This is definitely on the “must do” list for families.  You can’t come all the way across the pond and not see the Traitor’s Gate, the Yeoman Warders spin their fantastically entertaining tales on the tour, nor get a chance to enter into the vault where all the Crown Jewels are housed and look up close at the queen’s crowns with only an inch of highly secured tempered glass between you and them.  Sunday proved to be a particularly entertaining day at the Tower of London as every costumed player was in full form telling stories of Edwardian London, using visitors to reenact rebel attacks on the massive fort and ravens flying all free everywhere, no, seriously:

Two ravens getting all cozy by the Jewel Tower at the Tower of London (I used my zoom, I’m not that cray)

In 2010, I blogged about the despair I felt looking at the Crown Jewels.  Saddened because I knew that for every diamond, gilded spoon and ivory laden writing pen, there were countless lives indelibly ravished and severed from connections to and with the continent of Africa.  As I walked the same grounds today, I haven’t forgotten about those memories from 2010, but I have also vowed to find the Black in London history this go around.  Here’s what I found:

Phillis Wheatley was an honored guest of the White Tower Castle when she came to London in 1773.  Traveling with her master’s son, her visit was to get a sponsor to publish her poetry because they could not find a publisher in the United States (WE know why, but “the innanets” presents it as bad luck…*side eye*…go figure).  The White Tower actually features her image at the entrance of the castle.

Image of Phillis Wheatley taken at the White Tower at the Tower of London

I do not remember seeing this the last time I was here.  I toured every nook and cranny of the various towers and buildings in 2010 just as I did today.  I combed through my travel notes and even the blog posts here to see if Imentioned it or jotted it down somewhere…nothing.  It’s like Spirit has aligned in such a way that this time around, I needed to see this. I really did need to see this.  So, now that my morning has been pumped, I keep looking.  Coming out the vaulted building where the crowns are housed, I stumbled into a changing of the guard.  Regardless the country or armed servicemen, this is a spectacular scene to witness.  I stopped not thinking too much about it until I realized this:

Yes, brotha, YAAAAAAAASSSSS! Good to see you!

Now it’s the 21st century, I’m clear that there have been a diverse pool of folks serving in the military for a long time in this country and ours, but I had not seen (with my own eyes) this particular type of guard represented by a person of color.  I know, when Uncle Barry came to see the Queen there was one guarding Buckingham Palace who broke protocol to smile for a picture with our 44th, but I’m totally making this post about my yearning for everyday examples of folks who look like me on this trip, so let’s pretend you are just as excited as I am.  My excitement increases as I learn from the audio tour that it is an elite group of military personnel who are selected to be a part of the Tower of London warders, having achieved distinguished service from the Queen’s military.  They also get free housing for themselves and their families.  So, this brotha here, is not “just working.” Arguably he is being acknowledged for going above and beyond while serving his country.  


Later this afternoon, we went the Victoria and Albert Museum.  There was a group that was going to have Afternoon Tea in one of the cafes, I was tagging along because it was a museum, but still my eyes are searching, and I came across these:

Image of a Moor in a tapestry

Mother Nature nursing European and African babies

Bust of a young boy

Bust of an African servant

So now I want to know, “Is there a Black History of the UK?”  I don’t mean this question in a naive sense.  I mean where are the anthologies, textbook, history chronicles that outlines in as thorough a detail as the British are able to provide for the historic relationship with India (a whole ‘nother post, y’all, for real, there was an entire exhibit about India at V&A that still centered around the lived experiences of a privileged white man)? In a shallow dig into the interwebs, I found this place to start: Black Presence in Britain.  Join me.  Let’s learn more about this together.

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