Joseph Knight and the End of Slavery in Scotland

Given current discussions, the Blog is delighted to draw the attention of its followers to the short video available on YouTube: “Joseph Knight Scenes for Survival“.

The story of Joseph Knight is relatively well known. African-born, and acquired in Jamaica as an adolescent by John Wedderburn, a Jacobite in exile trying to restore his family’s fortunes, he was brought to Scotland where he met and married Annie Thomson and sought successfully through legal means to have his freedom recognized. He had a series of distinguished lawyers act for him, including Henry Dundas, the future Viscount Melville, whose eloquent speech was quoted in the Caledonian Mercury on 21st February, 1776.

May Sumbwanyambe, the Edinburgh-based, award-winning playwright, was commissioned by the National Theatre of Scotland to write a play about Joseph Knight. Your blogger was privileged to attend a read-through of part of it at Rockvilla in Glasgow. He recognised part of the dialogue in the short video as a result. The play should have been premiered this autumn, but that has had to be postponed because of Covid-19. But this short video gives an idea of its quality, and should encourage attendance when the postponed play is performed.

The short scene gives a flavour of the power and delicate sensitivity of the play. The subtle acting conveys much. May Sumbwanyambe talks about it on Youtube: He can be found talking about the play more generally here