Going Medieval

I’m always amazed at how many people are so quick to argue that people of color did not exist in Europe during medieval times or that black people, for instance, weren’t around during the Greek and Roman eras. And to include said PoCs during such time periods would be unrealistic and another example of shoving a PC agenda down our throats OH-EM-GEE.

This usually comes up in medieval fantasy stories. Like say for instance, Guinevere in BBC’s Merlin. Actress Angel Coulby caught heat for daring to be a beautiful powerful black queen.


This nonsense makes me laugh A LOT for two main reasons:

1.) It’s a huge double standard in that whites can always be placed in stories revolving around Egypt, China, Africa, or pre “discovered” America and no one blinks an eye.


Yet if a PoC shows up in medieval fantasy tale, it’s unrealistic. Talking animals, elves, dragons, gnomes, all totally plausible. Black people in Europe? Too many people can’t suspend disbelief at that.

2.) People of color existing in the Greek/Roman era, Medieval Europe, and frankly anywhere else is HISTORICALLY ACCURATE and those who think they’re experts, don’t know their history. AT ALL.


First of all, people of color have been in Europe for ages. Think about it. Between all the wars, travel, and trade that countries and nations do, it would only make sense that some PoCs have traveled, relocated, and settled in other lands.

  • The Egyptians who dealt with the Romans and Greeks were black. Egypt is in Africa, in case you didn’t know. Rome and Carthage went to war and Hannibal gave the Romans a run for their money. Which anytime you can give the ROMANS a fight, you’re a bona fide badass.


  • If you’re a Greek Mythology buff like myself, look up a brother named Memnon. Speaking of Greek Mythology, look up Andromeda, Perseus’ wife and see where she’s from. Here’s a hint. And by hint I mean answer: Ethiopia.
  • Blacks actually ruled in some parts of Europe and could be found in Scotland as early as the 10th century. Funny how that isn’t taught in school.
  • Still not convinced? Look up Othello.


  • Some of the knights of the Round Table were people of color such as Palamedes, Safir and Segwarides, as noted in T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. These three were also royalty in their own right from their own lands. Trust I was geeking out when I found this out when I read this novel my senior year of high school.
  • Amina of Zaria was in fact the inspiration behind Xena: Warrior Princess.

Queen Amina of Zaria, Nigeria

  • Alexandre Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo? Black excellence also.


And our accomplishments didn’t stop there. As this amazing heroine’s story illustrates.


So if you’re one of those who constantly gripe about the presence of PoCs in period fantasy as being unrealistic; your history, do learn you some.

38 thoughts on “Going Medieval

    1. I loved this book because the 3M’s is my favorite book of all time, and Dumas drew on his dad for the musketeer characters. It’s also an interesting snapshot of race at the time, since Dumas senior was raised a slave on what is now Haiti, then acknowledged by his French noble father and brought to France. There was no slavery in France itself, but blacks were still sort of second class citizens while nobles were more than first class citizens, and Dumas was both at the same time.

  1. One of my all-time fave movies is John Boorman’s EXCALIBUR, which is a film that always causes a chuckle at the sight of Guinevere battling at her father’s castle and her hair is quite full and dark and frizzy. Although, the role was played by Cherie Lunghi, a white actress, that vision was always suggestive to me that Boorman wanted to “go there,”
    but not officially.

    Here are the images:


    BTW, there is no escaping the OTHELLO EFFECT: Black Romans truly existed and this is no surprise to students of world history. Septimius Severus was the first man of color to rule England. Severus was actually a North African Libyan, who ruled England as Roman Emperor between 193-211 AD.

    And, Black and Asian people first came to the North East in Roman times. There were also the Moors of Eastern Europe and “The Balkan Blacks.”

  2. And then we have the White People Of Medieval Europe, painting and sculpting and showing us PoC who are clearly drawn from seeing REAL PEOPLE and not just using a different color for a painting of a White Model.

    Have you seen the blog thing _Medieval People of Color_ ? because it’s awesome! (and I need to go back to the college and have a chat with my Survey of Art History professor, because I’d swear, that in retrospect, it’s glaringly obvious that what pieces, and what PARTS of pieces we’re shown carefully avoid the PoC.

    How many great pieces, showing more than just those De Medici dudes have we all only seen the one or two tiny sections of?…. argggh…

    1. I went to a di Medici collection showing in Memphis, TN several years ago and saw two or three paintings with dark-skinned women in them. One was a lady who appeared to be wearing a blue silk dress. 🙂

  3. I would like to see more diversity on Game of Thrones, after all it is a fantasy show. It seems that the only PoCs are/were killed off or servants.

  4. I’d really like to see more characters from the Arab world poking around in medieval series. The Arabs were basically the reason any Greek literature or academic work survives, and the only time they usually show up is as an antagonist.

  5. The very name of Europe is African in origin. In Greek mythology Europa was the mother of King Minos of Crete, a woman with Phoenician origin of high lineage, and for whom the continent Europe was named. The original name of Ireland, Scotia, where the name of Scotland is derived (as in our Nova Scotia/New Scotland), is named after the daughter of Pharaoh Neferhotep I of Egypt and his wife Senebsen [13th dynasty].

  6. I was watching Spartacus with my husband not to long ago. I was not a huge fan of the show but I was happy to see PoC as well as a gay relationship. Slowly Hollywood is making steps towards diversity.

  7. I’ll name one movie that describes everything here perfectly,including the double standard. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

    Here you had a white guy with minimal acting talent that couldn’t even pull of f British accent as the main character. You also had an African America playing the role of a Moor to near perfection.

    It’s not that seeing a person of color in a movie kills it, it’s more the filmmaker’s take on that person. Seeing a “thug” with a New York accent wearing a suit of armor… no thanks. It doesn’t matter what color that person is, there’s just no way in Hell I’m buying it. Watching Nicolas Cage in Season of the Witch was just nauseating for this exact reason.

    1. Hmm, interesting reference to Kevin Costner, who starred in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” Although not one of my favorite variations of the Robin Hood tale, the fact that the film was a British-American production strikes me as good on balance as you had an American playing a British Robin Hood and Alan Rickman playing the Sheriff of Nottingham. [If Brits can come across the pond and play American roles, Americans can go overseas and play British roles.]

      You said: “It’s not that seeing a person of color in a movie kills it, it’s more the filmmaker’s take on that person. Seeing a “thug” with a New York accent wearing a suit of armor… no thanks.” So, I suppose you were referring to Kevin Costner as a “thug with a NY accent wearing a suit of armor.”

      But, in the off chance you were referring to the U.S. president playing Freeman, it would be a rare occurrence for anyone to regard the revered Morgan Freeman in such a manner despite the fact he once played a pimp character called “Fast Black,” when he co-starred alongside the late Christopher Reeve in the 1987 film entitled, “Street Smart.”

  8. One of King Arthur’s knights was Sir Morris, the Patron Saint of Chivalry and the Roman Emperor. He’s been described as black.

    1. You mean, Saint Maurice? The leader of the legendary Roman Theban Legion in the 3rd century, and one of the favorite and most widely venerated saints of that group. He was the patron saint of several professions, locales, and kingdoms and since the 12th Century was depicted as a Black African in Knight’s armor although some believe Maurice to have been born in Luxor, Egypt, f/k/a Thebes near Aswan Dam and here is a difference of opinion among researchers as to whether or not the story of the Theban Legion is based on historical fact, and if so, to what extent. (IF ONLY WE HAD A TIME MACHINE TO H-VERIFY!)

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  10. I never watched Merlin, but I swear to you if I had known back in 2013 that it showcased a Guinevere who was Black as portrayed by Angel Coulby I would have watched. i still can bingewatch it, and probably will but I did a little research about the “heat: Ms. Coulby received for daring to play the fictional Guinevere. I came a cross a site called Eurasian Sensation that featured this header: “How come there’s a Black Chick in Merlin?” I preused many hateful or rejecting rmarks yet came across this gem from the page’s author:

    “…A quick browse of blogs and forums reveals many viewers who find it [Angel Coulby as “Gwen”] ridiculous. Which is understandable. It seems like a blatantly PC move which flouts any notion of historical accuracy. [?] Well, maybe not historical accuracy per se, since Merlin is pure fantasy, but you know what I mean. You wouldn’t throw random European actors into Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to play Chinese noblemen, so why do the equivalent here? Since it is apparently set it Britain circa the 5th Century AD, surely they should try and capture the feel of the era. Back then, ethnic diversity meant the Angles (sic) and the Saxons.

    But then again, the show has a friggin’ dragon in it. And unicorns and fairy-type creatures. And Merlin shoots people with blue fireballs. So if you can accept all those things, why is a black woman too fantastical a creature to fathom in a medieval fantasy series?”


  11. The title, and even the story line, implied that Tom Cruise’s character would be the last samurai. After all, in the last battle, he dresses in armor and wields a sword. He survives that battle and presents the sword to the Emperor as a representative of Watanabe’s character.

    To me, the movie is just a rehash of cultural tourism, in the vein of Dances With Wolves, Avatar, Pocahontas, and Ferngully.

  12. Awesome post. 🙂 You know what didn’t exist until the end of the Middle Ages? The white, Christian, European male. As a category. The middle ages, including the crusades, were a bit part of what created that identity, and created the identification of “Christian” with “white.” (and European). Romances (like the Arthurian stories, and crusade romances, historical romances) helped to define this identity.

    So, not only is the notion that there were no POC in Europe in the MA inane, the insistence that there WERE white Christians is a bit off, too.

    1. And, I think many people are unaware of the fact that Blacks and other PoCs were present in Sub-Roman times and Medieval times and circa the 1600s and they were free people of color not slaves and would have moved freely in those societies. Thus, a Black Guinevere is not out of the question.

  13. Totally agree with the article some historical evidence is there. Some stronger cases than others. Fantasy is just fantasy and you can do what you want. So historical arguments there are moot.

    However I’d take issue with The Last Samurai image. Yes a fictional tale. Yes Tom Cruise. But, they were there because the Meiji Emperor wanted westerners in Japan as part of his modernization program. However the historical accuracy issue is more with the fact that military advisors were French until their loss in the Franco-Prussian War and then the Japanese began bringing Germans in.

    Americans were mostly brought over to Japan as advisors on law and public education.

  14. Of course Othello is a fictional character, I used the term: “The Othello Effect.”

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