Martha Ricks

Martha Ricks
by Elliott & Fry, 18 July 1892
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Martha Ann Erskine Ricks (1816-1901) had been enslaved on a Tennessee plantation. She settled in Liberia in 1830, as did many freed American slaves, after her father bought the family’s freedom.

In 1892, Ricks travelled to Britain to fulfil her dream of presenting Queen Victoria with a quilt depicting a Liberian coffee tree in bloom, which took twenty-five years to make. With the help of the Liberian ambassador, Edward Blyden, she gained an audience with the queen at Windsor Castle. During her time in London, Ricks met John Archer, the first black mayor of a London borough.