The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

People of Color In the Middle Ages Not an Anachronism


I ran across the blog Medieval POC while reading an article at the Oxford University Press. The focus of the blog is to “showcase works of art from European history that feature People of Color” and to “address common misconceptions that People of Color did not exist in Europe before the Enlightenment”. Here’s a recent post:

The all-white reinvention of Medieval Europe commonly depicted in popular fiction, films, tv shows and art is entirely that: a fiction. An invention. An erasure. Obviously, people of color have been an essential and integral part of European life, European art, and European literary imagination since time immemorial. To cite “historical accuracy” as a means to project whitewashed images of the past into the future to maintain a fiction of white supremacy is an unconscionable farce.

I would go so far that it is not so much a reinvention as it is an omission and invention. To say “reinvention” would imply the initial invention included black people: it did, as an afterthought,  but not in a positive light in any stretch. You cannot look at these images without providing context.

Indeed, the 6th image of the little girl was PAINTED OUT of the picture she was in – the academics discovered that in 1940s. It was not until the late 1990s that white art historian Gabrielle Langdon brought that to light. And I was the first Black person to tell her categorically that the child was both black and a girl (she agreed and lamented the fact she had only been in contact with white scholars up to that point).

Until I got started on the project back in the nineties information about black people in the middle ages and Renaissance periods were NOT accessible – scattershot at best.  I had to go through the sources *by hand* one by one. Only in the past 5 years has Black academia caught up. The following is a result of over 15 years of cataloging and research.  I recommend that you look at the list and look up the stuff.


Author: Daniela

I will forever be grateful that I was introduced to the utility and beauty of hand crafted products early in life - from the symbolic motifs sewn into the coarse linen fabric of Croatian traditional wear to the colorful Kilim carpets that decorated the parquet floors in my grandmother's living room. I treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," the smell of the flower stalls in the open air market where my grandmother bought produce early every morning for the day’s meals and the summers spent at my great grandmother's where the village wags would come to gossip over thick, black Turkish coffee in her cool stone kitchen. Someone noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world - one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

4 thoughts on “People of Color In the Middle Ages Not an Anachronism

  1. Nice post and beautiful art. I am curious about the top Byzantine? and the bottom (looks distinctly like a Roman Fayum mummy portrait from Egypt, but I could be mistaken.) images, where are they from?

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