An 18th Century slave who became Nottingham’s first black entrepreneur has had a tram named in his honour.
The George Africanus tram was unveiled at a special ceremony just before this year’s Caribbean Carnival opened at the Forest Recreation Ground on 22 August.
George Africanus was brought to England in slavery aged three, but ended his life as a wealthy businessman and a free man.
Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa in 1763, he founded what was probably the first employment agency in Nottingham.
George is the latest in an honourable line of Nottingham notables who have had trams named after them, including legendary characters and local heroes such as Robin Hood, Nurse of the Year Kim Helm, nun and health worker Mary Potter, boxing champion Carl Froch and more recently playwright Stephen Lowe.
George Africanus died in 1834 aged 71, but it was not until the late 20th Century that interest in his life – and the contribution he made – really took off.
The suggestion to name a tram after him came from the public.
NET Marketing Manager, Jamie Swift, commented: “George is obviously very well-known now as his name was put forward on numerous occasions.
“His story is real rags to riches, which inspires people. It’s fitting that we celebrate the achievements of this man, who did so well in his time.”
Local historian Norma Gregory, who unveiled the tram name, spent many years uncovering the Africanus story and led a campaign to erect a Blue Plaque on his former home in 2014.
She said: “I believe that George would be proud of this honour and his life story is a lesson many can learn from.
“George Africanus had a vision to succeed and to contribute to society. He made himself part of the community of Nottingham and through his resilience, ambition and desire to improve his life and those around him created his own employment business.”
Soon after he arrived in Britain, he was given as a “present” to wealthy businessman Benjamin Molineux, who lived in Wolverhampton. After an apprenticeship as a brass founder, George Africanus moved to Nottingham.
Documents show he married local girl Esther Shaw in Nottingham in 1788 and set up a home and business on Victoria Street in the city centre.
By the time of his death, he had become a prominent businessman. He made his fortune running his own employment agency called the Register Office for Servants in the building which is now part of the Major Oak public house.
George was also involved with the Watch and Ward group – a type of early police force which was established to protect against rioting gangs of Luddites.
His grave, in the churchyard of St Mary’s in the Lace Market, was uncovered in 2003. A plaque was later unveiled at the churchyard and in 2007, his grave was re-laid to give him a fitting and lasting memorial.
Councillor Jane Urquhart, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Housing commented: “George Africanus’ story is one of hope and triumph. His impact is rightly commemorated in the places he lived, worked and is buried.
“Naming a tram in his honour further recognises the active and important contribution he made in our city.”