Afterward: Dido Belle and Her Legacy
Today, we still know tantalizingly little about Dido Elizabeth Belle. What became of her?
What kind of life was she able to lead as a wealthy, bi-racial woman in the late 18th
The only certain facts are that following the Zong trial depicted in BELLE, she married John
Davinier, and they lived in the Pimlico section of London, where they had three sons, including a pair
of twins. When Lord Mansfield died in 1793, he left in his will the statement, "I confirm to Dido
Elizabeth Belle her freedom," suggesting the importance of making her status absolutely clear to the
Belle passed away tragically young even for those times at age 43 -- a few years after the
slave trade was abolished -- of unknown causes. Her last traceable relative, Harold Davinier, died in
1975, ironically a free white South African living in the era of apartheid.
Today, historians continue to ponder the impact that raising Dido Belle might have had on the
man who served as her father, Lord Mansfield, and in turn what impact his decision in the Zong trial
ultimately had on the abolition of slavery, a movement which would soon take hold in the newly
independent United States.
But Amma Asante hopes that audiences perceive that the end of slavery rested on no single
person. The legal battles were vital -- and forward-thinking establishment figures like Mansfield who
were willing to make bold, controversial choices were key -- but so too were the struggles of many
whose stories have been lost to history and remain anonymous, as Dido Elizabeth Belle almost did.
"I hope people will also take from this story that slavery didn't end just by the white majority
saying no. I like Belle because she also said no, and I think it's very important that black people in
history are given their own voices," says the director.
For Asante, there is a hope that Dido Belle will also be an inspiration. "So much of BELLE
is about love and courage," she concludes, "and I like to think that sometimes love and courage are
enough to conquer all."
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