Hindsight - 31 July 2011 - The Isle of Denial: William Cuffay in Van Diemens Land

In 1848 William Cuffay, the son of a freed slave, was arrested and transported to Van Diemen’s Land by a government fearful of revolution that was sweeping through Europe. Aged 60 Cuffay, a tailor and leader of the London Chartists, was campaigning for the right to vote as part of the first mass working class movement in the world. His transportation to Australia didn’t end his political activity. He continued to organise and agitate for democratic rights in Tasmania for another 20 years until his death in 1870, at the age of 82. Cuffay’s Chartist legacy is today enshrined in parliaments in Britain and Australia. His lifelong political activism remains an inspiration to those who believe in workers rights, human rights and democracy. Although Cuffay died a pauper, newspapers in three states — Tasmania, NSW and Victoria — published obituaries. One observed that his grave had been ‘marked’, should a memorial to him be built at some future time. The memorial never transpired, and Cuffay was forgotten in Australia and Britain. But now there’s a move to build one — or perhaps even a statue!

Readings, and the voice of William Cuffay, were performed by Chris Haywood.


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