A bicentenary service in commemoration of William Wilberforce and the passing of the 200th anniversary of the Abolition Act took place in February 2007 at York Minster. The service featured Pocklington School Choir, Transglobal Drummers and the Riding Lights Theatre Company (performing extracts of the play African Snow). Organisations associated with the service included Churches Together in England and the Set All Free project, and the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull
The City of York lectures in 2007 examined the question: Did the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 really mark the beginning of the end of slavery in the modern world? The University of York organised the public lecture series, which discussed the meaning and legacy of 1807 and the persistence of human bondage and forced labour in the modern world. Speakers included the Right Reverend Dr Alastair Redfern (Bishop of Derby), Aidan McQuade (Director, Anti-Slavery International), Clare Short MP and Trevor Phillips (Commission for Equality and Human Rights).
The Lascelles Slavery Archive was a collaborative project between the Borthwick Institute for Archives and Harewood House Trust to conserve, preserve and make available records relating to slavery from the archives of the Lascelles family of Harewood House, Yorkshire. The project deals with a new discovery of papers relating to the family's fortune based on its estates in the West Indies. Key documents providing evidence for the acquisition of the family's wealth, once thought lost, were found in poor condition during an inventory of Harewood House. The Lascelles Slavery Archive is available through the Borthwick's searchrooms as an online resource, and represents an important section of the larger archive of the Lascelles family held by West Yorkshire Archive Service.
This photographic exhibition focused on human trafficking was produced by a partnership of Panos Pictures, Anti-Slavery International, Amnesty International, Eaves and UNICEF. Photographer Karen Robinson’s portraits and tales of women trafficked into prostitution explore the devastating impact on their lives. Also on display were David Rose's panoramic photographs of the ordinary British streets where the stories of modern-day slavery have been played out. The photographs were mounted on a cage-like structure which was specially designed for the exhibition at St Paul's Cathedral. The exhibition was also shown in Edinburgh, Hull and Warsaw, and in 2008, in York.
In conjunction with York Theatre Royal, Riding Lights Theatre Company produced a new play written by Murray Watts, directed by Paul Burbridge, with original music by Nigerian musician Ben Okafor. African Snow: Secrets of the trade was originally commissioned by the Church Mission Society, an organisation founded in 1799 by representatives of the abolition movement, including William Wilberforce. The play sought to explore the ideas associated with antislavery and how they can be put to use in the modern day campaign for the end of slavery. Opening at York, the play went on to have a West End Transfer followed by a national tour. The main characters are John Newton, the converted slave-trader who later wrote 'Amazing Grace', and the former slave and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano. The play saw them confronting each other’s differing perspectives, creating a dialogue in which the audience could witness alternative views towards slavery. A 'snow' was a class of ship, commonly used for the transportation of slaves. 'The African' was the first slave ship on which John Newton sailed.
The Sites of Memory project was the first research by English Heritage (now Historic England) to provide an overview for the public of the buildings, memorials and grave sites across England that reflects the role of the slave trade in British history, and resistance to it. The project explored the history of Black people in Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries by exploring the stories behind the historic built environment of local streets, buildings and landmarks. The research (by historians Angelina Osborne and S. I. Martin, on behalf of English Heritage) also identified sites associated with the slave trade and plantation wealth, and with the abolitionists who campaigned for an end to slavery. English Heritage also made recommendations for new listings for historic sites that mark the Black presence.
York Castle Museum's Unfair Trade exhibition used the museum's collections to explore slavery from the viewpoint of ordinary people, and how consumption of slave-produced everyday commodities - sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa - contributed to the slave trade. It also looked at the part played by York in the abolition of the slave trade and slavery, with the many Quakers of the city supporting William Wilberforce and helping to finance his election campaign. The exhibition continued the focus on consumption into modern life by asking visitors to consider where the products they buy come from. York Castle Museum features a recreated Victorian street, Kirkgate, with its own newspaper, 'The Kirkgate Examiner'. A special edition was distributed to coincide with the exhibition.
East Riding's Freedom Festival in 2007 commemorated the abolition of the slave trade and explored issues of modern day slavery through a multi-sensory performance featuring pupils from mainstream and special schools in the East Riding area. The play was in three parts - the transatlantic slave trade, emancipation and modern day slavery. Resources and activities from the project were then made available to schools interested in developing an inclusive arts project.
This sixty-mile walking trail was devised to commemorate the bicentenary by East Riding Local Strategic Partnership's Community Cohesion Forum and the Yorkshire and Humber Faiths Forum. The trail connects some of the important places in the life of the abolitionist William Wilberforce: it starts in Hull (where Wilberforce was born), connects with Pocklington in the East Riding of Yorkshire (where he attended school) and finishes at York (where he was declared MP for the County of Yorkshire).
This mural was painted by an anonymous artist around 2007 and no longer exists, but is an important example of both the ephemeral and guerrilla nature of murals: some last for short periods of time on buildings and streets in communities. This particular mural was created in West Harlem and focused on the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Borrowing his famous phrase from 1857, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” the muralist also adds a drumming figure to the centre of the mural.
In 2010 the Brooklyn-based muralist Jonathan Matas created a mural on Green Street in Ithaca under the Aurora Street Bridge. The 30 x 600 foot mural was approved by the Public Arts Commission and depicts Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. “I think it’s a great introduction to our city,” Ithaca Planning and Development Director JoAnn Cornish said. But this was not the general consensus around the mural. The name, 'Comrade Tubman' given to Harriet Tubman on the mural has been a point of controversy for the local community. Tompkins County historian and author Carol Kammen observed: “The word comrade is historically inappropriate and anachronistic."
In 2009, the NYC Justice Corps created a mural on Nostrand Avenue and Herkimer Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The NYC Justice Corps was created as part of the city’s strategy to combat poverty and has the mission to “develop the capacity of neighborhoods to address the reintegration challenges of their young adults re-entering from the criminal justice system, and to instil in those young adults a sense of civic responsibility and accountability.”The mural includes the faces of Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm, Bob Marley and Huey P. Newton, as well as the antislavery figures Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
Mary Patten painted Douglass Street Mural – Cityarts Workshop’s first Brooklyn-based project – in 1976. Over a five-month period, Patten led a group of 20 teens and adults to develop various themes for the mural that would be located on Douglass Street in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn - an area more commercial than residential at the time. Community meetings and bilingual flyers filled the neighbourhood in the hope of garnering community input and consensus over the choice of imagery. The three-storey mural takes advantage of the building's structure by presenting the image as book pages waiting to be read. The dystopian nightmare to the right-hand side of the mural attempts to encroach on the multicultural utopian melting pot to the left, only to be fended off by workers and important figures from U.S. history. Folded into the Puerto Rican flag and the red, white and green banner of the African National Congress, are the images of Harriet Tubman, pointing towards the nightmare-scape, alongside Frederick Douglass, Lolita Lebrón, Malcolm X and H. Rap Brown. Under the imperialist eagle and puppet-like figure in its talons, Patten depicts a recent firebombing that had destroyed the homes of several Black families a few blocks away. Speaking of the large rainbow in the image, the muralist incorporated it to show "what is possible when people work and fight together to create what we need: a community school that provides quality education; people sharing skills and tools; dancing together; making music and painting a mural."The mural sought to convey hope and determination in the face of oppression. But by the 1980s, the mural had become obscured by new housing developments.
In 1933, the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted a 21-panel mural titled Portraits of America. Created for New York City’s New Workers School, the mural focused on issues of racial inequality and depicted the antislavery figures Frederick Douglass and John Brown, as well as shackled slaves - seen here in panel five of the mural. Rivera believed art was a weapon in the class struggle and frequently produced murals about revolution. Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco were the pioneers of the Mexican mural movement, and influenced mid-century African American muralists Hale Woodruff, John Biggers and Charles White.
In 2011, the Puffin Foundation commissioned Mike Alewitz to paint a mural for the Puffin Gallery of Social Activism that would be on display in the Museum of the City of New York. Completed in 2014, the mural is a tribute to the labour and social justice movements and contains four panels. It includes slave ships and depicts the antislavery leader Frederick Douglass, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.However after viewing the mural, the museum declined to display it. They requested changes that reduced the prominence of Martin Luther King Jr. and added the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Alewitz calls this a case of censorship and continues to campaign for his mural to be displayed.
In 2001, Brooklyn-based muralist Leola Bermanzohn created a mural in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn titled Women Warriors. Bermanzohn works as a muralist for the Groundswell organisation, launched in 1996 with the mission of bringing together artists, youth and community organisations to create murals that beautify local neighbourhoods and give expression to underrepresented ideas and perspectives. Women Warriors was created in collaboration with Sister Outsider – an organisation run by and for women of colour that aimed to help women enter the professional world of work and operate in the political realm. The mural was at the organisation’s headquarters and depicted antislavery leaders Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth as well as Nefertiti, Rosa Parks and Assata Shakur, alongside a poem written by Audre Lorde. It had been destroyed by 2015.
This mural was created in 2008 by an unknown artist. Painted on a storefront on Ralph Avenue in Brooklyn, it depicted Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Nelson Mandela. As of 2014, it no longer existed.
In 1990, this mural titled Nation of Islam at Charles Place in Brooklyn was created. The mural unites many radical figures of black history, including the antislavery leader Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Elijah Muhammad, H. Rap Brown, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Eldridge Cleaver and Bobby Seale. It has now been destroyed.
In 1973, Cityarts Workshop muralist James Jannuzzi painted a mural in New York City about Puerto Rican abolition, gang culture and black heritage. The mural includes a shirtless, muscular figure playing drums in a tropical landscape, Nubian symbols such as the ankh next to pyramids, and Ramón Emeterio Betances – an abolitionist and the father of the Puerto Rican independence movement. In the centre of the mural, Jannuzzi painted seven spears, acknowledging the presence of the neighbourhood’s seven gangs through the use of colour. By 1978, the mural had already started to deteriorate. Wanting to use the mural as a background in a film, a production company sought out Jannuzzi, asking him to retouch sections of the mural. Having hung up his paintbrush already, Jannuzzi directed the production company to Cityarts' Alfredo “Freddy” Hernandez who retouched the mural with a Dancing Madonna. By 1995 all that remained of Afro Latin Coalition was the Dancing Madonna in her red and white dress, and by 2000, the entire mural has disappeared.
Two years prior to the Texas Centennial Exposition, Aaron Douglas created a four-part mural series titled Aspects of Negro Life, to be housed in the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center. The various panels portray black history from slavery through to present. The various panels are titled, The Negro in an African Setting, From Slavery Through Reconstruction, Song of the Towers, and An Idyll of the Deep South, and depict the breaking of chains, the idea of self-emancipation, liberation, and the celebration of African culture.