Did A BiRacial Woman help end Slavery in England? - the Root
The new film Belle, which opens Friday, introduces the world not only to a black heroine from the 18th century but also to rising star Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The 30-year-old British-born actress plays the film’s lead, Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race daughter of a white English aristocratic father and black slave mother. Mbatha-Raw’s own mother, Anne Raw, is English and white, while her father, Patrick Mbatha, is a black South African.
The film is inspired by a true story, and Belle, who was raised as a free woman, is said to have played a role in the eventual demise of slavery in England. Her uncle Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, who raised her, ruled on two crucial slave cases that changed history. It is a lesson that Mbatha-Raw tells The Root she knew little about before taking on the role, and something that she says most students in the United Kingdom do not learn about in school but maybe should.
When Mbatha-Raw is on the screen, she owns it, and in person she is even more captivating. As I walk into the room to interview her, I am greeted by a luminous smile and a cheerful disposition, even though she has spent the entire day promoting her film. I am the last journalist on her list, but she still answers all of my questions and even thanks me for wearing pearls.