In 1919 a man named Ohlohr Maigi died of tuberculosis in London, in deep poverty. He had arrived over a decade before in the imperial capital bearing different name, seeking education, fame and fortune. Some of these he had found, but ultimately he had found much more adversity than success. Ultimately, as Danell Jones
writes, he had spiraled downward on the social ladder, from barrister to worker in a munitions factory, from a satirist of the social order to a tuberculosis patient in a state hospital.
This is the story she tells in An African in Imperial London: The Indomitable Life of A.B.C. Merriman-Labor
It is a meticulously researched book about a man whose life, while it might be obscure, opens upon an interesting view. And like all good historical biography, it provokes us to think differently about the past and about ourselves–about our choices, our failures, our successes, and our luck.
Al Zambone is a historian and the host of the podcast Historically Thinking. You can subscribe to Historically Thinking on Apple Podcasts.