Dusé Mohamed Ali was an Egyptian actor, writer, businessman, entrepreneur and political activist. Between 1899 and 1904, Ali intermittently resided in Hull working as an actor and journalist. He is one of the most famous Africans to have lived and worked in the region.
By February 1899, Ali had settled in Hull. At first, Ali found it difficult to gain employment in the region and like most Africans gravitated towards Hull’s maritime sphere. According to his autobiography, at first the only work he could find was as a docker and cargo checker, and after three months he rose to assistant shipping clerk for Thomas Wilson Sons & Co. (the Wilson Line of Hull), which he followed by a brief spell as a foreman in the North Eastern Railway Company’s timber yard.
In the summer of 1901 Ali married Elizabeth Mary Brunyee, a bookkeeper from Hull. Shortly after their wedding, Ali began touring the country as an actor while working as a journalist for regional newspapers and a short-lived women’s magazine called the Hull Lady. His photograph and a brief biography appeared in a feature about the magazine’s staff in June 1902, as did an advertisement for his services as a teacher of elocution, C. L. Innes has advised that, ‘As a freelance journalist in Hull…he contributed to romantic stories, historical and autobiographical sketches, and a 286-line ode, ‘Hull’s Coronation Ode,’ to the Hull Lady.’ Towards the end of 1902, Ali performed on several occasions for audiences around East Yorkshire and established a niche for himself in Hull, becoming a founding member of the Shakespearean Society in 1903.
During his time in the region, Ali played an active role in the organisation and production of many events, demonstrating that he was accepted within the community. A sentiment that Ian Duffield has elaborated upon in volume one of his ground breaking thesis, Duse Mohamed Ali and the Development of Pan-Africanism 1866-1945. Duffield advised, “It is clear that Dusé developed a considerable affection for Hull, although he was lured away in summer 1900 to fulfil a theatre engagement in London, he returned to Hull…and in all spent…some three or four happy years… there”, adding perceptively, ‘Perhaps for this brief time he felt a fully accepted member of a British community.'
By 1911 Ali had moved to London and began to take a keener interest in racial politics. Having been annoyed by a speech about Egypt by American President, Theodore Roosevelt, he wrote In the Land of the Pharaohs which was published in 1911. Initially, it received excellent reviews from critics raving about Ali’s exploration of racism and his anti-imperial stance. The book made a great impact in America and West Africa, centralising Ali’s position as a defender of Black rights. After its publication, he received an invitation to attend the Universal Races Congress and was elected as a corresponding member of the Negro Society for Historical Research based in New York.
Ali went on to have an illustrious career as the editor of several magazines including the African Times and Orient Review which announced itself as From the 'Hull Lady', June 1902. 'a Pan-Oriental, Pan-African journal at the seat of the British Empire which would lay the aims, desires, and intentions of the Black, Brown, and Yellow races- within and without the Empire- at the throne of Caesar.’ Also an avid community organizer, Ali founded the Anglo-Ottoman Society in London and the Indian Muslim Soldiers’ Widows’ and Orphans’ War Fund. He was active in the League of Justice of the Afro-Asian Nations and the African Progress Union, an association of West Indian and African exiles founded in London in 1913
For more details about Dusé Mohamed Ali, please visit the Africans in Yorkshire Project website or the supplementary article by clicking the links below;