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Plaque unveiled at Chatham Historic dockyard to commemorate black history heroes William and Chatham Cuffay


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A plaque has been unveiled to commemorate the life of a mixed-race tailor who fought tirelessly for workers' rights in the 1800's.

William Cuffay was born in 1788 in Chatham as the son of a former slave and warship cook, Chatham Cuffay from St Kitts in the Caribbean.

A plaque is unveiled in memory of black historical figure William Cuffay

After becoming a journeyman tailor in his late teens, William became a leader of the Chartist movement – the first mass political movement of the British working class and a forerunner to trade unions – before his unceremonious arrest and transportation to Australia in 1849.

William was pardoned in 1856 but he and wife Mary decided to stay in Tasmania where he continued to work in politics and as a tailor. He died in July 1870.

Earlier today, members of the local community, councillors and the Medway African and Caribbean Association (MACA), gathered to unveil a plaque in his memory.

The plaque was due to be unveiled at the Historic Dockyard last year, on the 150th anniversary of his death to pay tribute to both him and his father, but this was delayed due to the pandemic.

MACA chair Carol Stewart, said: “We are really proud to be unveiling this plaque to a family that made such a significant contribution to Medway.

A depiction of William Cuffay from a drawing made while he was in Newgate Prison.
A depiction of William Cuffay from a drawing made while he was in Newgate Prison.

"So much of our Black history is hidden or unknown, and without a balanced view of history that reflects all the important people who played a part in shaping it, then we will have a world where we continue to be misrepresented.

"Installing the plaque at the dockyard builds on the amazing work we have done with the team there in bringing to life the untold stories of Black people in Kent, and their contribution to making the dockyard more inclusive.”

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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