Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann

“As early as 1489, William Caxton wrote: ‘He was so angry for it, that he became black as a Moor’. In 1550 William Thomas, in his Principal rules of the Italian grammar, defined ‘Moro’ as ‘ a Moore or blacke man’, as if the two were synonymous. Shakespeare described Othello, and Aaron in Titus Andonicus, as ‘Moors’, but references to Othello’s sooty bosom’ and Aaron’s ‘coal black’ visage make it clear that both were conceived as being dark skinned. A brief glance at Henry Peacham’s drawing of a staging of Titus Andronicus confirms that Aaron was played as a black man. Standing alone, it seems ‘moor’ had come to signify black skin.”

“With addition of “tawny’, meaning brown, ‘tawny moor’ referred to lighter skin North Africans. In the The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare described the Prince of Morocco as a ‘tawnie Moore’, and his Cleopatra as having a ‘tawny front. John Pory, the scholar who translated Leo Africanus Description of Africa in 1600, spoke of the ‘tawnie Moores’ who inhabited North Africa.”

“One Welsh squire wrote that the sunburnt peasants of Pembrokeshire are forced to ensure the heat of the sun in its greatest extremity, to parch and burn their faces, hands, legs, feets and breasts in such sort as they seem more like ‘tawny Moors’ than people of this land. But other than these literary sources, ‘tawny’ was rarely applied to a person’s complexion; to date, Anne Cobbie is the only persons frond in the archives of the period to be described this way.”

‘Tawny moor’ suggest a North African origin; that she was either from Morocco, like Mary Fillis, or from one of the other ‘Barbary States’ (Algeria, Tunisia, Tripoli) which, unlike Morocco, were part of the Ottoman Empire. Or, perhaps, given her English surname, she was the mixed-race child of a Black Tudor and an Englishman or woman. ”

Source: Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann

Iberian Moors migrated into West Africa 1492

Moor, 1) Muslim of North Africa. Although often assumed to be a black race, in fact, the Moors were of Berber and Arab descent, mixed with considerable Negroid and Iberian blood. The word probably derives from Mauri, L. by way of Gr. for ‘dark men.’ Their native lands constituted parts of Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania. One theory is that the name originally derives from Berber Amazigh, ‘freemen,’ referring to their nomadic existence, and in Greek times came to mean anyone with dark skin. By the Middle Ages the term came to be applied to any Muslims (similarly, all Europeans were called Franks in the Mohammadean world). Since Moors were thought of as being dark skinned, the word was also used generally to apply to blacks, although light-skinned Moors were well known. The word ‘blackamoor’ was also common, which implies a distinction from lighter-skinned Moors.

In any case, attitudes to race were much different then because there had been so little direct contact between the population of England and the ‘exotic races. There was also no long history of the disgusting racist theories which still burden the modern world. There were celebrity Moors in London, but the overall awareness would be of a faraway people, who to a greater or lesser degree were allied with the enemies of Christendom. After their early history (see Mauritania), the Moors were overrun by the Arabs in the 7th c., who replaced their religion and language and formed a dynamic culture. In the 8th c. the Moors defeated the Visigoths and conquered Spain.

Their attempt to move north into France was turned back by Charles Martel in 732, though they conquered Sicily in 827. Gradually the Christian reconquest drove them back until the only Moorish stronghold in Spain, Granada, fell in 1492.“The Iberian Moors, who had considerably intermarried, returned to Africa where they were known as Andalusians, and scattered over the enormous range of the Moors, from the Mediterranean to the Senegal river, and from the Atlantic to Timbuktu.” 

Source:  The Shakespeare Name Dictionary By J. Madison Davis, Daniel A. Frankforter

“Ever since the Andalusians had turned on alMutawakkil, however, al-Mansur had held them in suspicious respect, even going so far as to have a spy monitor them at the Battle of Wadi al-Makazin. After having their leader, al-Dughali, disposed of he retained substantial Andalusian troops, but drew his senior commanders from the ranks of the renegados, who commanded what was essentially a standing professional army of twenty-six thousand troops, with another twenty-five thousand scattered throughout the country.  Smith, Ahmad al-Mansur, 52. This of course changed over time. By 1602, according to Weston F. Cook, something resembling a standing national army consisted of some fifty thousand men under al-Mansur’s direct command stationed around Marrakech. Discrete units made up of Turks, Algerians, and Andalusians remained, with commanders drawn from their ranks and well as from those of renegados. Most of the cavalry were Moroccans organized by region or as jaysh tribes. By the end of his reign al-Mansur had also introduced black Sudanese slaves to the army. Cook, The Hundred Years War, 261.”

Source: MOROCCO IN THE EARLY ATLANTIC WORLD, 1415-1603 A Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History By Earnest W. Porta, Jr., J.D