Black Medieval Knights

Weeks ago, Cartoon Network posted a video mentioning black medieval knights.

I cheered when I saw this. In the post Myths about Medieval Europe, I mentioned that people have some interesting views about that time period. It affects books, movies and TV shows, especially in the fantasy genre. Writers justify their all-white, straight cast by saying “that’s just how it was back then.” Was it really like that back then?

Some Background

I have 2 master’s degrees, neither in Medieval Studies. However, my first degree is in Information and Library Science. At its core, that degree is about locating, vetting and organizing information/data. I’m a trained researcher.

For months, I’ve been searching academic journals on minorities during medieval times. It’s been a struggle. People have published a lot of articles on the Middle Ages. They mostly avoid race. Honestly, people viewed race differently back then. It’s probably not an easy topic to research. But also…

“Medieval studies in general has been the last humanities-based discipline to welcome new perspectives, whether it’s research perspectives or theoretical perspectives,” said [Dr. Adam] Miyashiro. “It was previously dominated by White men and for that reason, questions surrounding race in the Middle Ages were often ignored.”

Ruf J. Diversity and the Middle Ages. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. 2020;37(1):15-17. Accessed December 27, 2020. http://search.ebscohost.com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,cpid&custid=nypl&db=aph&AN=142076355&site=ehost-live

Black Medieval Knights

Were there black medieval knights?

More than likely. Medieval Europe probably wasn’t as diverse as our modern world but it wasn’t all white either. Black/brown people weren’t simply slaves or servants or just invisible all togther.

One name keeps popping up. Sir Morien, the black knight of the roundtable. According to Smithsonian Magazine,

six percent of the Knights of the Round Table were men of color.”

Not All the Knights of the Round Table Were White

Then there’s Saint Maurice. In artwork, he’s shown as a black-skinned knight. However, some sources aren’t sure he existed or even if he had black/brown skin. According to research, he was the “first artistic depiction of a black African in Medieval Europe.”

More Resources:

Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Issues of Our Time) (Book)

Resources on Medieval Difference and Diversity

Medievalists of Color

Black Legacies: Race and the European Middle Ages (Book)

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Book)

Were there black Medieval Knights

My research is still ongoing. I’d like to read some of the books I found. A lot of experts, at least the people of color, believe Medieval Europe wasn’t as white as people claim. I hadn’t known about Sir Morien. Generally, I avoid Arthurian tales because they’re so white. Turns out, there were probably black knights of the roundtable. I’d read that story.

Sources

–Ruf J. Diversity and the Middle Ages. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. 2020;37(1):15-17. Accessed December 27, 2020. http://search.ebscohost.com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,cpid&custid=nypl&db=aph&AN=142076355&site=ehost-live

–Lampert, L. (2004). Race, periodicity, and the (neo-) Middle Ages. Modern Language Quarterly, 65(3), 391+. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A120354295/AONE?u=nypl&sid=AONE&xid=7f2282aa

–Noble Ingram Staff writer. History lesson: Scholars take aim at racist views of Middle Ages. Christian Science Monitor. September 12, 2018. Accessed December 27, 2020. http://search.ebscohost.com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,cpid&custid=nypl&db=aph&AN=131736621&site=ehost-live


1 Comment

Vivienne Sang · December 29, 2020 at 10:28 am

Of course, there was Shakespeare’s Othello. I also read once, that one of Robin Hood’s men was a man of colour. There were great civilisations in Africa at this time. I recently saw a programme dealing with some of the ruins of this period in Africa. They were stupendous, but we know nothing about them. The civilisations that supported them must have been as great as some of our Eurocentric ones.
Of course, there is a tendency to only look at one’s own history. At school. I learned British history, and only knew anything about the others when there was a war with someone.
What is very wrong is the way black people have been totally ignored in history. If they have done something amazing that cannot be ignored, then their colour isn’t mentioned. Or if they did something alongside a white person, again, they aren’t mentioned. I read once that it was likely that t he first person to reach the north pole was black. The white explorer had a black person with him at the time, but he’s never mentioned.

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