Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame is an acclaimed stage musical which highlights the contributions and achievements made by black men and women in the world of sports, science and entertainment. First launched as a community project in 1987 at the Shaw Theatre in Camden, the production was created by Flip Fraser in collaboration with JD Douglas and Khareem Jamal. The show was the first all-black cast production to play in the West End. It returned in 2007 with a new line-up of characters, songs and dances, and recreated significant moments in black history including Kings and Queens of Africa, Freedom Fighters, Great Entertainers as well as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey and Nelson Mandela. The musical toured London, Croydon, Nottingham, Oxford and Bristol in 2007.
This exhibition and education programme explored connections between transatlantic slavery and the London Borough of Richmond. This included a study of the West Indies connections in Richmond, local residents involved in abolition, and the historical presence of black people in the area. It also examined the slave forts on the coast of Ghana. 'Richmond Voices' introduced local residents who were of African or African-Caribbean descent. The accompanying booklet was written by Valerie Boyes, and produced in collaboration with the Richmond Local History Society.
The theme for Notting Hill Carnival in August 2007 was Set All Free, to mark the bicentenary, and to acknowledge that slavery still exists around the world. The show featured special performances to mark the bicentenary.
Gilt of Cain was unveiled by the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in Fen Court, City of London, in September 2008. The artwork, a collaboration by sculptor Michael Visocchi and poet Lemn Sissay, commemorates the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The granite sculpture is composed of a group of columns surrounding a podium – suggesting an ecclesiastical pulpit or slave auctioneer’s block. Extracts from Lemn Sissay’s poem, ‘Gilt of Cain’, are engraved into the granite.
Fen Court is the site of a churchyard formerly of St Gabriel’s Fenchurch St and now in the Parish of St Edmund the King and St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard St. The latter has a strong historical connection with the British abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries: Reverend John Newton, a slave-trader turned preacher and abolitionist, was rector of St Mary Woolnoth between 1780 – 1807. This project was initiated by Black British Heritage and the Parish of St Mary Woolnoth and was commissioned by the City of London Corporation in partnership with the British Land Company.
'House Slave - Field Slave: A Portrait of Contemporary Slavery' was created in 2007 by Nicola Green in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International and first exhibited at Dulwich Picture Gallery. The artwork explored the concept of contemporary slavery and the stories of those still enslaved. The exhibition consisted of a large 'altarpiece' scale triptych set alongside artefacts of contemporary slavery from the International Slavery Museum and photos and text from Anti-Slavery International. It was later exhibited as part of Haringey's Black History Month at Bruce Castle Museum in 2010. The triptych is now in the permanent collection at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. Workshops were held at Dulwich Picture Gallery, The Prince’s Drawing Clubs, and International Slavery Museum in which students developed their skills in reading a work of art as a narrative, and responded by creating artworks that told their own personal story.
As descendants of enslaved Africans, Jacqueline and Sonia Brooks expressed their own independent responses to the bicentenary. Jacqueline designed a limited edition postcard to display the horrors of a slave ship. Sonia wrote the poem Amazing Trade, which was performed during the National Maritime Museum's programme for Slavery Remembrance Day.
In 2007 English Heritage (now Historic England) commissioned research into the linkages between properties in its care and transatlantic slavery, to coincide with events to commemorate the bicentenary. A report produced by historian Miranda Kaufmann identified 26 properties with some level of connection to slavery or abolition. As a result, more detailed surveys of four sites - Bolsover Castle, Brodsworth Hall, Marble Hill and Northington Grange - were commissioned in 2008, and the findings presented at the 'Slavery and the British Country House: mapping the current research' conference in 2009. The conference was organised by English Heritage in partnership with the University of the West of England, the National Trust and the Economic History Society. Findings were later published in 'Slavery and the British Country House' (2013), edited by Madge Dresser and Andrew Hann. The publication and the 2008 reports are available to download from Historic England's website.
In Autumn 2007, the opera 'The Woman Who Refused To Dance' by composer and conductor Shirley J Thompson was performed at Westminster Palace, Houses of Parliament. The piece was based on a 1792 print by Isaac Cruickshank - entitled 'The abolition of the slave trade, or the inhumanity of dealers in human flesh exemplified in the cruel treatment of a young negro girl of 15 for her virgin modesty' - depicting a woman who refused to dance on board a slave ship, and who was hung from one leg as punishment. The opera has recently been re-premiered to mark the 210th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
Eastside Community Heritage worked with young people from West Ham and Stratford to explore the significance of the bicentenary within the context of their own history in London and in British history more widely. The Road to Freedom project was devised by the young people themselves, who gathered information from the Museum of London Docklands, the National Maritime Museum, the International Slavery Museum and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Their research led to a documentary-drama and an exhibition which toured venues in Newham, accompanied by discussion sessions led by the participants.
The ‘Last Bicentenary Pilgrimage’ trip to Liverpool was organised by the Institute of Black Culture Media and Sport, in partnership with the CarAf Centre, who provide educational, social and cultural activities for disadvantaged parents and young people. Members of the local Camden community were taken on a two-day family learning trip to Liverpool, to mark the end of the bicentenary with a goodbye ceremonial event and a visit to the International Slavery Museum. The event was supported by the London Borough of Camden Council.
Word of Mouth Media Production, based in Southwark, staged a production of Celia at New Players Theatre in London. The play was directed by Malcolm Frederick and written by Richard Nyeila, inspired by Melton A. McLaurin's biography 'Celia A Slave'. Based in the mid-19th century, the story revolves around Celia, an enslaved woman on trial for murdering her abusive owner.
Commissioned by 2007's City of London Festival, artist Satch Hoyt created several sculptures made only of sugar. In St Paul's Cathedral, life-sized portraits of influential black figures - including Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho and Mary Seacole - were made of painted sugar cubes. Hoyt also created two slave ships from sugar, displayed at Museum of London Docklands.
The Print that Turned the World? was an exhibition at the London Print Studio, which examined the role played by printmaking in changing public attitudes towards the slave trade and influencing the abolition campaign. The exhibition looked in particular at the influence of the widely publicised print of the slave ship 'Brookes', first published in 1788; the crowded and inhumane conditions depicted had a significant impact on public opinion. The exhibition also examined the role of William Wilberforce in the abolitionist campaign, and the continuation of anti-slavery efforts in modern times. London Print Studio worked with local schoolchildren in creating the exhibition and associated artworks.
The official publication from the Evangelical Alliance to commemorate the bicentenary had three main aims: to draw attention to biblical perspectives on slavery and society, to examine the contributions of some key abolitionists, and to offer some suggested activities for churches and groups to mark the bicentenary.
The World Development Movement seeks to increase awareness of political views in regards to world economic and social development. The organisation published a briefing in 2007 to mark the bicentenary, exploring the stories of grassroots pressure and the historic and modern campaigns for global justice. In collaboration with the University of Leeds, the World Development Movement also organised two public events looking to explore the lessons to be learned from the struggle to end the slave trade and examining contemporary campaigns in Africa and beyond for global social justice. Speakers included the Kenyan writer and academic Ngugi wa Thiong'o.
The National Maritime Museum marked the bicentenary with a range of initiatives and events including a new exhibition, a film season, poetry, music, debates, and new publications. A new permanent gallery opened at the museum in winter 2007 exploring Britain's Atlantic empire. A catalogue of slavery-related images, artefacts and documents from the collections of the museum, 'Representing Slavery', was published. The museum also devised a transatlantic slavery trail around Greenwich.
The National Maritime Museum hosted a number of events throughout 2007. The theme of the weekend 23-25 March was 'And still I rise', marked with a series of activities, performances and discussion. On August 23, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, the ‘Freedom Festival: Contemporary Commemoration’ event saw a programme of creative events and performances exploring themes around the heritage of enslavement. The museum also offered a range of learning experiences based on its collections. For example, in November, a study session, 'Roots of Resistance: Abolition 1807' examined the roots of resistance and the abolition movement through talks by curators and contemporary artists. Activities for families were based on themes of freedom and carnival. 'The Big Conversation 2007' was a programme of debate and showcasing of diverse projects undertaken by students around the country, organised by the Understanding Slavery Initiative and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Mass Carib is a choral performance piece written by Felix Cross. In 2007 it was performed outdoors at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich by Nitro Theatre Company, as a finale to the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival. To accompany the performance, the festival collaborated with the National Maritime Museum and Nitro on a programme of workshops in schools in Greenwich exploring the themes of the production. Mass Carib was written as a Requiem using the liturgical form of the Catholic Mass. It draws on music from West Africa, eighteenth-century Europe and various Caribbean islands. Mass Carib is sung in English, French, Patois, Latin and Yoruba.
The official publication from the British Government in response to the bicentenary included a message from Prime Minister Tony Blair. It set out the history of transatlantic slavery and resistance to it, and featured a calendar of upcoming events for 2007 relating to slavery and abolition. The publication also detailed contemporary efforts to end modern slavery. Later in 2007, 'The way forward: bicentenary of the abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807-2007' reflected on some of the commemorative activity that had taken place in Bristol, Hull, Liverpool, London and Greater Manchester. With a foreword by the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the theme of the publication was 'Reflecting on the past, looking to the future' and it linked efforts for the abolition of historical and contemporary slavery. The publication also looked to how to tackle inequality and poverty in the UK, Africa and the Caribbean.
The official publication to mark the bicentenary from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), setting out the Government response to the commemorations. This included the formation of a 2007 Bicentenary Advisory Group, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott MP, to co-ordinate a national response to the bicentenary and to UNESCO International Slavery Remembrance Day on 23 August. The Group was made up of a number of influential stakeholders to encourage action across the cultural, community and faith sectors and ensure that the bicentenary was made relevant to local communities. Participating organisations included Anti-Slavery International, Amnesty International, the Archbishops Council, Bristol City Council, Churches Together in England, the Equiano Society, the Evangelical Alliance, National Museums Liverpool, National Maritime Museum, Museum of London, the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation and several faith and community leaders.
An exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in London focused on the experiences of young runaway slaves in Britain. The exhibition focused in particular on the story of Ignatius Sancho, born in 1729 on board a slave ship, who ran away from his owners in Greenwich. Sancho's letters, later published, became an inspiration for those who campaigned for abolition.