A plaque to anti-slavery campaigner Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797) was unveiled at 73 Riding House Street, where he lived in 1789 and wrote about the brutal treatment he had received as a slave.
An article by Jim Clayson first appeared in Fitzrovia News in 1992 about how Equiano had been captured as a young boy in Nigeria and forced into slavery. Equiano finally gained his freedom and wrote about his first hand experience of the barbarity of slavery. Equiano also lived at 37 Tottenham Street (when it was No 13) next to the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre, where he is included in the mural by Brian Barnes.
Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association representative Mike Pentelow said the association was proud to have taken the initiative in proposing the plaque. It was especially appropriate in Black History Month, he said, as many black people had played a role in the multicultural history of Fitzrovia. These included William Davidson who was executed for the Cato Street Conspiracy which was planned in a pub in Grafton Way, and Thabo Mbeki who fought for the abolition of apartheid while working for the African National Congress in exile at 51 Rathbone Street from 1967 to 1970.
Actor Burt Caesar read extracts from Equiano’s writings, poet Yvonne Bailey read a poem she had written about him, and the Ian Hall quartet played a specially composed Equiano Fanfare.
Many were shocked to hear of the death of Cynthia Williams, a stalwart of the Fitzrovia Play Association, who had been born in Ireland in 1925 but came to London as a child and had lived in New Cavendish Street for over 50 years. As a tribute to her great work she was incorporated into the neighbourhood centre mural.
(from Fitzrovia News, December 2000)