Background Shape

Quobna Ottobah Cugoano

Recognising this key figure in Black British history and his baptism at St James’s Church 250 years ago

Essay by Revd Lucy Winkett, Revd Dr Ayla Lepine and Revd Dr Mariama Ifode-Blease

This essay was produced by a team of the current St James’s congregation and clergy. With thanks to Cornell Jackson (former church warden), Ayla Lepine (Associate Rector), Mariama Ifode-Blease (Assistant Curate), Trevor Lines (former church warden) and Lucy Winkett (Rector) for research, assistance, review, writing and editing. With thanks to Revd Azariah France Williams, Novelette Aldoni-Stewart, Revd Natasha Beckles for additional assistance.


Quobna Ottobah Cugoano’s radical call for the abolition of slavery and the Transatlantic Chattel Slave Trade was intended to be received by all people in Britain and beyond. It is a powerful challenge from a person whose personal and collective history connected him to a huge range of communities, with his baptism at St James’s Piccadilly on 20 August 1773. This action of baptism was a public proclamation of his membership of the Christian community – past, present, and future – of the Body of Christ. He has been described as ‘the most radical African opponent of slavery in the eighteenth century’, and his book ‘raises the most overt and extended challenge to slavery ever made by an English-speaking person of African descent’.

The insistent power of his arguments and the fiery, prophetic strength of his words are just as fresh in the 21st century as they were in Georgian England.

Title page of the first edition of Ottobah Cugoano, Thoughts and sentiments on the evil and wicked traffic of the slavery and commerce of the human species, 1787, British Library

The book systematically refutes every popular argument – especially biblical and religious views – in support of slavery, confidently demonstrating that any interpretation of the Bible that attempts to justify slavery is abhorrent not only to society in Britain and beyond, but also abhorrent to God.  He wrote the book in the context of a Church of England that promoted and perpetuated such arguments and in whose pews (not least at St James’s Church), those who had benefitted from the trade and those who had been enslaved themselves, sat side by side. His words expose the shameful truth that many Christians of all denominations, and the Church of England in which he was baptised, did not see any incompatibility between the practice of their faith and the perpetuation of the transatlantic chattel slave trade.

Very little is known about Cugoano’s life beyond his own brief autobiography within his book. This makes the record of his baptism at St James’s Piccadilly all the more important and remarkable, as there are very few dates or places that can with confidence be ascribed to him.

Cugoano was born around 1757 in the Fante village of Agimaque or Ajumako in what is now Ghana. When he was a teenager he was kidnapped, sold, and transported to Grenada. His youth was spent as a shackled child labourer, and when he came to England in 1772 with the plantation owner Alexander Johnson, Cugoano swiftly sought baptism (though, contrary to what many believed, baptism did not legally result in liberation from enslavement or prevent the one baptised being enslaved again). He was baptised with the name John Stuart.

The next record of Cugoano is as a servant in the Pall Mall home of the artists Maria and Richard Cosway, and one of the only known images of Cugoano is from this period. William Blake, who was also aware of Cugoano’s work, also has a strong connection to St James’s Piccadilly, as he too was baptised in the same font as Cugoano and they were exact contemporaries.




Richard and Maria Cosway, and Ottobah Cugoano, 1784 (detail)

In the 1780s Cugoano joined forces with the  Sons of Africa to fight for abolition and campaign on behalf of enslaved people whose lives were violently dehumanised in Africa, the Caribbean, and Britain. As part of a small and influential group including Olaudah Equiano and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, Cugoano argued that liberation from enslavement was a necessary task held both by enslaved people and their masters.

Everyone, Cugoano asserted, has agency and power from within their own experience and circumstances, and can act in their own way to move towards life lived to the full as people made in the image of God. He believed that Christianity was, far from an obstacle to liberation, a necessary condition for liberation, and called strongly for conversion.





The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. c. 1789

The meaning of baptism and St James’s font

In Christian practice, to be baptised is to find our resting place in God. Baptism is where we come to remember who we are, that we are known, that our divine creator calls us in love and calls us by name. This does not change whether we have been baptised as children, when the decision was made for us, or later in life, when we could make the decision for ourselves.

Baptism brings together potential and promise in an occasion rich in symbolism: at baptism, we have oil for anointing, water for the baptism itself, and the light of the baptismal candle given at the end of the service to show the world that something quite momentous has happened both inside us and beyond. Theologically, Christians say that baptism is a sacrament, and this is often defined as ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’. While an officiant is helpful, the key thing to remember is that baptism is the work of the Holy Spirit. As adults who choose to be baptised, there is the opportunity to reset and recognise that things can be made new, that things do not need to be as they were. Baptism tells us that there is a story in which we are written, and that this story is love, and that this love is a constant invitation. It’s a bit like waking up every day warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Baptism gives us just the right temperature in which to root ourselves, and in which we can choose to explore our flourishing and the potential of our positioning as loved beings, made in love and for love.






St James’s Church Piccadilly Font, Grinling Gibbons, installed in 1686

It is also important to recognise that, while many may be held in love, we also know that people with whom we share the planet can sometimes be cruel, intentionally thoughtless or wicked, or, in everyday life, just downright annoying. We, too, can go through life not being our best selves because life has caused more than a few dents in our armoury of love and shattered our belief in what is possible. Baptism, and remembering our baptism, brings us back to the centre; it reminds us that we were made for more despite the disappointments, betrayals, lost hope and dreams placed on hold. Baptism is an invitation to step into a bigger story, purposefully written so that we can have a place in it, contribute to it, and make it our own.

For Cugoano, his baptism took place at the font in St James’s Piccadilly, following discussions about Christianity with the Revd Thomas Skinner, a clergyman from Marylebone Street, who, with the Rector William Parker’s permission, baptised him in August 1773. The register, courtesy of Westminster City Archives, simply reads: ‘John Stuart – a Black, aged 16 years’.







St James’s Church Piccadilly register 1773, courtesy of Westminster City Archives.

It was not always the case that the colour of the person being baptised was recorded, and the baptismal names given to, or chosen by, enslaved people often makes it extremely difficult for their stories to be traced. But Cugoano wrote in his own words that ‘I was advised by some good people to get myself baptised, that I might not be carried away and sold again…. I was called John Stewart’, later asserting ‘I have only put my African name to the title of the book’. It is Cugoano himself who points us to his baptism and its importance for his faith.

Cugoano’s book sets out a theological viewpoint on liberation and abolition shot through with biblical justification. And just as Cugoano’s writing is theological, so too is Grinling Gibbons’ sculpting. The font at St James’s is a sermon in marble, describing the relationship between life, water, and hope across time from Adam and Eve in Eden to the moment of a person’s immersion in the sacred water of transformation and turning to Christ at any and every point in history. The bowl of the font features three images. Noah’s ark and the flood includes delicate rays of God’s light alongside the storm-frothed sea on

which the boat carrying all living things bobs along, tenuously held yet solid along the flank of the vessel which holds the holy water of new life for the person to be baptised. In the air, in shallow relief, a dove carries a little branch of hope that indicates the waters will recede. The promise of a rainbow in the sky is, as God describes it in Genesis, a perpetual promise of flourishing for humanity and the planet across time – destruction and obliteration are overcome by love for all God’s rainbow people. In the Baptism of Christ, the tenderness between the two figures is amplified in their gestures, as they dynamically connect with one another. The Jordan is no flood, but the generous flow of water is emphasised in Gibbons’ hands. The narrative of the Ethiopian Eunuch completes the trio across the arc of scripture and time. A primordial story of flood and recovery, followed by the turning point in Christ’s ministry at his baptism, culminates in the forging of diverse Christian communities through the gift of baptism. The wealthy African is so compelled by scripture – the Hebrew Bible in which the story of Genesis is contained alongside the treasures of prophecy and justice out of which Cugoano brings his own voice to the fore – that he asks a provocative question echoing into the heart of the abolition campaign and baptism’s symbolism of freedom: ‘here is water; what is to prevent me from being baptised?’[1] The answer comes in the action of baptism itself: nothing prevents it, and God’s grace runs through it.

The pillar of the font is, along with the relatively unusual combination of biblical accounts around the bowl, uniquely connected with the origin story of humanity. Fonts occasionally feature images of Adam and Eve to signal the redemptive and repentant nature of baptism, but not as boldly as this. The tradition of Christ as a ‘second Adam’ is taken up into the natural imagery of the Tree of Knowledge, as Adam and Eve contend with questions, temptation, hope, and curiosity. This tree, and their own selves, are ultimately given new life and glorified through baptism to the extent that this story of exile from Eden becomes, with Gibbons’ approach, a story of the paradoxically strong yet fragile foundations of humanity with all of its imagination and openness. Baptism restores humanity to its lovingly celebratory relationship with God and with one another. The so-called ‘enslavement’ of sin is transformed and overcome again and again in Gibbons’ unprecedented arrangement of narrative scenes. Adam and Eve, Noah and all creation, Christ and John the Baptist, and the African who comes across the story of Jesus by chance, are all integrated into the same story of love in action. Cugoano stood at this font. His own selfhood connected here with the reality of God’s presence.

It is the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, so pivotal to Grinling Gibbons’ design of the font in which he was baptised, that is the basis for Cugoano’s theology too.


Cugoano’s theology: The nature of God and the doctrine of Creation

Cugoano takes on the pernicious argument popular with some slave traders and slave owners, not least some church leaders, that slavery was justified, because humans developed polygenetically, that is, that Africans and Europeans descended from separate pairs of original parents. Inequality was built in from the start, they argued, and so it was legitimate for lighter skinned Europeans to enslave darker skinned Africans.  Cugoano bases his own refutation of this catastrophic belief in orthodox Christian theology, which is that God created all human beings on the sixth day by creating one humanity in the figures of Adam and Eve.  Human beings developed monogenetically. Therefore inherent equality before God is rooted in the doctrine of Creation. ‘For God who made the world, hath made of one blood all the nations of men that dwell on all the face of the earth’. His conclusion, based in this theology, is that ‘it never could be lawful and just for any nation, or people, to oppress and enslave another’ Resonant with much contemporary theological reflection, he develops this thought, saying that from this single origin, God has established variety among equal human beings just as there is evident variety in the whole of the created order.  This includes variety in ‘colour, form, appearance and features……. All is the work of an Almighty hand.’ 

Confronting racist ideology and theology

Cugoano takes on two pillars of racist theology prevalent through much of Christian history and perpetuated by the church, that the ‘mark of Cain’ denoted inherent inferiority and inequality between peoples of different ethnic backgrounds and that the ‘curse of Ham’ operated similarly.  Medieval theologians deployed the ‘mark of Cain’ argument to persecute Jews and it was deployed also to justify the hereditary inferiority of people with black skin, a theme taken up by Cugoano, and given devastating critique in theology such as that of the 20th century father of black liberation theology James Cone, and many theologians since.  Cugoano faces head on other theological assumptions that embed attitudes of racial inequality, such as the curse of Ham (one of the sons of Noah) insisting that in both arguments; the mark of Cain and the curse of Ham,  ‘colour and complexion has nothing to do with that mark; every wicked man, and the enslavers of others, bear the stamp of their own iniquity, and that mark which was set upon Cain’. The mark of Cain therefore, Cugoano asserts, is on the slavers not the enslaved and is rooted in behaviour not genetics.

By building the theological case, alongside the political and practical one, Cugoano embodies the biblical principle found in the letter of James, that ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2.26). Or to put it another way, it is, as Cugoano himself argues, by the fruits of lives lived that the spirit becomes evident. Faith means nothing if it is not put into action in the service of God’s justice, and includes an honest sincere repentance for wrongs that have been done, especially in the name of God.


God is good

Cugoano’s stance is essentially doxological, that is, he begins and ends all his reflections with thanks and praise to God. In the context of the terrible suffering he has experienced and witnessed, his conviction remains that God is good. In the light of this irreducible truth, the suffering has been caused by human beings acting wickedly because they are wrong about who God is and what God does. Therefore, vengeance and justice is surely coming to those people, and Cugoano believes that his role, consonant with prophets like Jeremiah, is to call the people away from their wickedness, call them to repentance, in order to save them from God’s justice which will be fierce and uncompromising.  Cugoano’s theology begins and ends with the nature of God, who is good, who has created all people equal, who has created a ‘rainbow people’ as he writes, united in their one humanity but infinitely varied across the world. This God is a God of justice, justice which is surely coming, tempered with mercy, but only after true repentance is shown by the perpetrators and supporters of ‘the evil and wicked traffic of the slavery and commerce of the human species’.

The inherent dignity of all people is fundamental for Cugoano, because God has made him dignified and equal to all others. This is an inalienable truth, whatever inequalities or violence is meted out to him by people who have fundamentally misinterpreted Scripture to oppress others and gain money and power.

The nature and role of church

That the church itself promoted and protected the evil trade in human beings is exposed by Cugoano’s critique of the theology that supports it.  Laying bare the shameful truth that many Christians did not see any incompatibility between their own slave owning and the Christian gospel, Cugoano’s challenge to these fellow Christians is powerful and absolute.

‘Church signifies an assembly of people; but a building of wood, brick or stone, where the people meet together, is generally called so; and should the people be frightened away by the many abominable dead carcases which they meet with, they should follow the multitudes to the fields, to the vallies, to the mountains, to the islands, to the rivers, and to the ships, and compel them to come in, that the house of the Lord may be filled.’

He criticises the corruption of the clergy who ‘neglect their duty much, or do it with such supineness, that it becomes good for nothing’, and, in a challenge perhaps to the way his baptism at St James’s was conducted, (at which service he was given a new name, John Stuart), wants to be clear that changing a name shouldn’t be associated with baptism. ‘if the requisite qualities of knowledge and faith be found in a man, he may be baptized, let his name be what it will. And Christianity does not require that we should be deprived of our own personal name, or the name of our ancestors; but it may very fitly add another name unto us, Christian or one anointed.’  As part of this argument, he suggests that the answer to the ritual question asked of every candidate for confirmation in the Church of England, ‘what is your name’? should simply be ‘A Christian’.

Cugoano’s arguments are rooted in Scripture and Christian theology

Cugoano’s theology begins and ends with the nature and action of God the Creator, whose very nature demands equality and justice throughout the earth. Fundamentally resting his arguments on the God to whom he gives constant thanks and praise, he builds the case for both personal and political opposition, in every way and at every opportunity, to the commodification of human beings.  His fundamental belief is that it is self-evident that human beings are created equal to each other. But as lives are lived in the world, it is human beings’ ethics, their behaviour, their wrong interpretations of Scripture that separate them from one another, and from God.

Cugoano addresses the inhabitants of Great Britain as fellow Christians, directing towards all citizens and their government the castigating criticism of a prophet in the manner of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Micah:  that the whole nation is guilty of great wickedness and sinfulness; that all citizens must repent; that although vengeance and punishment for this wickedness belongs only to God, this punishment is surely coming upon Great Britain if no repentance is forthcoming.  For Cugoano, mercy comes after justice, and forgiveness is possible but only after authentic repentance.

‘Thoughts and Sentiments’  is what’s known as a jeremiad, (named after the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah), both a powerful complaint and a sermon, using interpretation of Scripture to call his hearers to repentance and change of life. It is kerygmatic in nature, that is, it is a piece of writing that is not simply autobiographical or descriptive. It is written, like the gospels, to persuade the readers of a truth. That owning another human being is evil.  Given this, Cugoano also insists that there is a way out of this damnable situation, which is laid out for humanity by the sacrifice of Jesus. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, he concludes that judgement and vengeance belongs to God not humans, and that there is a path to salvation for everyone regardless of their involvement in the abominable slave trade. But only after repentance and change of life. Cugoano’s proposed plan of action is practical and clear: abolish all slavery everywhere, impose that abolition throughout the world with force, and only then, beg for mercy from God, who alone has the power to bring justice to a people who, at the moment, are very far from salvation.

His final message echoes Jesus in the gospel of Luke, who asserted that even if the people fall silent, the very stones will cry out to God, so comprehensive is the presence of God and the response of the people. Cugoano calls the inhabitants of Great Britian to account by appealing to the very geography of the British Isles themselves. His voice and complaint, he says, ‘ought to sound in your ears as the rolling waves around your circum-ambient shores; and if it is not hearkened unto, it may yet arise with a louder voice, as the rolling thunder….and to go on with fury to smite the stoutest oaks in the forest.’ 

St James’s Church and the transatlantic chattel slave trade

The publication of Ottobah Cugoano’s book was funded by 168 subscribers, residents of the parish of St James’s and the surrounding area and some members of the congregation. Individuals who supported the abolitionist movement, including residents of Jermyn Street, St James’s Square and Golden Square, the three main residential areas of the parish, contributed funds to ensure the abolitionist argument was strongly put and distributed widely. The list of subscribers’ names and streets were published in the 1787 edition of ‘Thoughts and Sentiments’. They included Mr Daves and Mr Harris, both of Jermyn Street, Mr King on King Street, and Mr Jefferys on Piccadilly. The Right Hon. Lord and Lady Barnard who lived on St James’s Square, and Joshua Reynolds were supporters too. Reynolds, a prominent public figure, had been a founder of the Royal Academy a decade before Cugoano’s book was published (links between the RA and St James’s Church remain strong today).

Joshua Reynolds, self-portrait (detail) aged around 24, National Portrait Gallery, London

Residents of the parish were also investors in the trade and slave owners themselves. Having been consecrated in 1684, St James’s Church bore witness to the proliferation and expansion of the slave trade across the British Empire throughout the 1700s. From the late seventeenth century, when approximately 5,000 slaves a year were kidnapped and sold from Africa (the number allocated to the monopoly held by the Company of Royal Adventurers of England trading into Africa), this increased to over 100,000 a year by the end of the eighteenth century.

In 1676 Henry Jermyn gave £7,000 to build the church, and it is very likely that some if not all of this funding was linked to his involvement in the Company of Royal Adventurers, later called the Royal Africa Company.  In the nineteenth century, on Jermyn Street in the parish, several residents were compensated when the hundreds of people they had enslaved were freed in the 1830s. One example is George Byng (1806 – 1886), who lived at 5 St James’s Square, was recorded in St James’s pew rental records as the Marquis of Strafford, later becoming the Earl of Strafford. He rented a pew in the South Gallery for £8 8/-starting in 1820. George’s grandmother, Mary MacKenzie owned a plantation in Jamaica called Harmony Hall that produced sugar using 172 slaves in the 1830s. In 1835, she sent a claim to the government for £3,018 for the freed slaves.  Other examples include Richard Plantagenet Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. He rented a pew in the North Gallery for £2 10/- . The duke owned Hope Estate in Jamaica, which had 379 slaves in the 1830s. He received £6,630 in compensation. He was also the chairman of the West India Committee (the Society of West India Planters and Merchants).  Sir John Gladstone, the father of the Victorian Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone, was on the electoral roll at St James’s in 1837. The government compensation for the 2,900 people he enslaved was over £100,000 in 1836.

In Cugoano’s time, abolitionist and anti-abolitionist Londoners sat side by side at St James’s each Sunday. Dr. Skinner, who baptised Cugoano, and the Rector at the time Revd William Parker, ministered in the midst of this tension. At the time of Cugoano’s baptism in 1773 the Church of England was benefitting considerably from funds invested in the South Sea Company, which had traded in slaves between 1714 and 1739. When Cugoano lived on Pall Mall, where he wrote his book, the parish he lived in and the worshipping congregation he was part of, contained a diverse array of people, whose beliefs and practices were contributing either to the abolition of the abominable practice of slavery or to the perpetuation of its brutal racist violence.

What next?

The Revd Lucy Winkett writes…

The writing of Quobna Ottobah Cugoano embodies a challenge to church and society that is as powerful today as it was in 1787.

His challenge is from a Christian to fellow Christians. The Church of England didn’t own slaves by mistake or inadvertently or only because it made them money. There were shameful interpretations of Scripture that were employed to justify it. But the Genesis theology outlined by Cugoano, clearly insists that all human beings are irreducibly equal to one another and interdependent with Creation.  Based in this theology, it is not only unjust for one group of human beings to presume that they can own another group. It is blasphemous.  Cugoano was a Christian who saw what others couldn’t or wouldn’t see and spoke out about it. For the church now, indeed arguably for any organised religion, the question is; what wrongly held theology or Scriptural interpretations are giving credence to structures that cause suffering and confinement to human beings today?

For society, the principle that one person can own another is still evident in both obvious and subtle ways. There are many contemporary instances of the commodification of people. Not least reflected in the increase in modern slavery, in the UK and around the world, but with the forced migration of people through climate change or war, whole generations of people are made vulnerable to trafficking and abuse. Therefore, this blasphemy is on the increase not reducing, despite legal abolition. Current estimates are that 46 million people are enslaved today.  Wherever the principle that ownership of a person is allowed, or the identity or personhood of that person is exploited for profit, the assumptions that allowed the transatlantic chattel slave trade are alive and well, and must be opposed at every opportunity. But because the consequences of what Cugoano says are so fundamental, it’s not just eradicating modern slavery that is an outworking of his theology: it’s a collective commitment to change all language that others or dehumanises people, alongside changing behaviour that ascribes different value to different people. There are implications for every 21st  century  person in what Cugoano saw in the 18th.  His writing is a call to what the Christian tradition calls ‘metanoia’, that is, a fundamental change of heart and mind. A determination, every day, in every conversation, debate, collective action, to create a culture that refuses any exploitative attitude towards another human being created in the image of God.  In short, however an individual may interpret them, a living out of the promises that Christians make at their baptism, that Ottobah Cugoano made too: I turn to Christ. I repent of my sins. I renounce evil.

What next?

The Revd Dr Ayla Lepine writes…

In the late 18th century many did not see the enslavement of Black people as an evil to be thwarted, but merely a means of economic gain. This abhorrent view was upheld, directly and strongly, by a wide range of voices in politics, the Church, and society at large. Cugoano and the Sons of Africa were minoritized in multiple ways, and if 21st-century readers find it difficult or deeply uncomfortable to accept that dehumanisation was an integral part of the British imperial economy, we might wish to turn to our own time and its prophets. In two centuries – perhaps far less than that – what practices and ideologies will be seen as outrageous and unacceptable? The raging, powerful call to be found in the heart of the climate emergency movement, Black Lives Matter, transgender rights campaigners, and the work of peacebuilders in war-torn communities can be fruitful and have much to teach every person who finds themselves complicit in and colluding with systems of oppression. Intersectionality, a term coined by the Black civil rights advocate Kimberle Crenshaw, is key to discerning how Cugoano’s voice can inspire people to action today. Systems of oppressive power have a deep and traumatic impact on people who have simultaneous lived experiences of marginalisation and injustice.  This idea of intersectionality encompasses the climate emergency’s impact in Latin America, the disproportionate number of Black women who do not receive access to healthcare, trans young people afraid to walk down the street for fear of abuse and transphobic violence, and many more lives in London and around the globe. The legacies of the transatlantic slave trade persist in the institutional racism that blights public organisations, the Church of England among them. Following Cugoano’s own call for justice and the steps we can take together towards liberation through which every person may thrive, an answer to ‘what next?’ is surely a combination of repentance, reparations, attentiveness to the voices and needs of people who are oppressed by injustice, and commitment each day to solidarity in thought, word, and deed.

What next?

The Revd Dr Mariama Ifode-Blease writes

Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was kidnapped and trafficked as a child. His body and mind subjected to untold trauma and abuse, his dignity and humanity ignored and decimated. It is only because of God’s grace and his own personal fortitude that we have his story today. His words and active call for justice and equity echo through history, and evidence the power of economic, political and trade structures to change our perspective and shield us from the real-life consequences of our actions and choices. The transatlantic slave trade, which saw Africans stolen, violated, weighed, shackled, bought and sold, has shaped our view of the world through its codification of a hierarchy of ethnicity and the social construct of race. It presents the lie, that white is higher and better and black is lower and worse, as truth. That lie has been the foundation of many of our institutions, processes, and practices, and that lie must be deconstructed and dismissed as a moral imperative.

Cugoano was uprooted from his life and family, and his childhood was destroyed. His life and the lives of so many millions who were enslaved stand as a warning to us to remember that the forced global movement of people has children at the core. Child labour is real and exists. Child exploitation can make many rich and strip communities of future generations. We cannot turn our eyes away from this evil and we must not shirk our responsibility to work for better world for children and young people. Their light, their potential, their perspective: these are reasons for us to be hopeful, and to act.

What next? We need to look at our villages, towns and cities and see if they affirm and celebrate childhood. Do our streets, roads and dirt tracks protect our children and hold childhood as sacred? Do our policies, institutions and traditions enable children to flourish? We write and say his name, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, for the many millions of children who have suffered, and who suffer still, and whose names are known only to God. Cugoano was baptised as a teenager. He was an adult before his time, and he did not have the choice to be anything else. In choosing to be baptised, he activated his agency for a greater purpose. How will we do the same? What will our contribution be to make our world safer and more equitable for all children?


The Bible (New Revised Standard Version)Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, Thoughts and Sentiment on the Evils of Slavery, ed. Vincent Carretta 1787; rpt. London: Penguin Books. 1999Figuring racism in Medieval Christianity, M Lindsay Caplan New York, Oxford University Press 2019The Cross and the Lynching Tree, James Cone, Orbis Books 2011God of the Rahtid, Robert Beckford, DLT 2001Black Theology in Britain: A Reader (Cross Cultural Theologies)  Ed Michael N Jagessar, Anthony G Reddie Routledge 2007

Church Commissioners research into historic links with transatlantic chattel slavery 2023 available to read at www.churchofengland.orgAdditional reading