Earl Cameron, CBE
Pioneering actor.
Born August 8, 1917. Died July 3, 2020

Bermudian-born Earl Cameron make his mark as Britain’s first black film star.  During a career spanning more than 60 years, he appeared in more than 90 films, winning plaudits both for his acting and his positive portrayals of black characters. He refused to take roles that were demeaning to blacks.

Born in Hamilton, he left the Island to join the Merchant Marine. In 1939, he landed in London, where he struggled to find work because of his race. He eventually got a job as a dishwasher. Some years later,  he landed a part in a musical by chance.

He spent a decade working in repertory theatre before moving into film.  His breakout role was in the 1951 drama Pool of London, one of the first films in the UK to portray an interracial relationship.

Roles in films such as Simba, Guns at BatashiSafariThunderball and Sapphire would follow. He also appeared in US films and worked in television in the UK.

He took a break from acting for 15 years when he moved to the Solomon Islands, but resumed his career upon returning to the UK. He enjoyed film roles (The QueenThe Interpreter and Inception) into his 90s.

He was showered with awards in the UK and was also recognised in his home country.  In 2012, City Hall Theatre was renamed Earl Cameron Theatre and he was honoured by the Bermuda government on his 100th birthday.

Following his death at his home in Warwickshire, he was praised by black actors for paving the way. His obituary ran in numerous publications in the UK and the US, an indication of his trailblazing legacy.

>> Obituary, Hollywood Reporter
>> Obituary, The Guardian



Slavery abolished
August 1, 1834

Medal proclaiming the abolition of slavery throughout the British Dominions, 1834.

It was hard-fought and a long time coming, but freedom came to nearly 4,000 slaves in Bermuda on August 1, 1834. It occurred a year after the British Parliament passed an Abolition of Slavery Act, which affected slaves in all British territories, mostly in the Caribbean, but also in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, and Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean.

Slaveholders received financial compensation for the loss of their slaves from a £20 million fund established by the British Government, but there was no similar payout to slaves.

In addition, laws aimed at diluting blacks’ political power in Bermuda were passed. The property qualification for voters was increased from £30 to £60—and remained in effect until 1963. 

Still, emancipation was cause for celebration. While many whites expressed fears that newly freed blacks would riot, Emancipation Day was a day of reflection and quiet celebration. Churches were filled, from Somerset to St. George’s, including Cobb’s Hill Church in Warwick, which was built by slaves. More than 400 blacks packed St. John’s Church in Pembroke. 

One group of freed men in St. George’s could not suppress their joy at their new status. They gave three loud cheers in King’s Square—and then went on their way.

Sources: Chained on the Rock by Cyril Packwood and The Story of Bermuda and Her People by W.S. Zuill

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