Fight for freedom from slavery in Scotland turned into new play

Formerly enslaved man Joseph Knight won an historic court battle to declare himself a free man in 1778.

Enough of Him: Play about landmark ruling that saw slavery abolished in Scotland goes on tour National Theatre of Scotland

The story of a man who used the Scottish justice system to free himself from slavery has been turned into a new play.

Enough of Him is about the life of Joseph Knight, who was bought as a slave by Scottish land and sugar plantation owner John Wedderburn in the 18th century.

He was then taken from Jamaica and brought to live at Ballindean estate – halfway between Dundee and Perth.

Playwright and historian May Sumbwanyambe is behind the play about Joseph’s four-year battle for emancipation.

He told STV News: “His life fundamentally changed when John Wedderburn came back to Scotland, and he started to think very carefully about what his status was in this country and how much freedom and independence he had to love and live.

“Eventually, he ran away from that enslavement and changed Scottish history.”

It was while he was working in the Wedderburn household that Joseph met and fell in love with Annie Thomson – a maid who eventually became his wife.

Actor Omar Austin, who plays Joseph, said it was this relationship which gave Knight the determination to fight for his rights.

He said: “Something happened and it gave him the spark to want it even more.

“Freedom’s something that he wanted for so long, but when the idea of his future is really put to him, he takes it and goes with it.”

Joseph’s journey to freedom wasn’t easy, as initially the Justice of the Peace Court in Perth sided with John Wedderburn.

But after a successful appeal, judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh made the landmark ruling that slavery was not recognised in Scotland and he should be a free man.

Little is known about what happened to Joseph after the court case, but his work undoubtedly helped pave the way for the liberation of other enslaved people.

Where and when is the play?

  • November 9: Cumbernauld Theatre, Lanternhouse Arts, South Kildrum Ring Road
  • November 11-12: Brunton Theatre, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh
  • November 16-19: Perth Concert Hall, Mill Street
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