Durham University Library holds many archives relating to the slave trade in its Special Collections due to a connection with the family of abolitionist Granville Sharp. This is supplemented by material relating to the West Indies and the slave trade in the papers of the Prime Minister between 1830 and 1834, Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. This material had already been used in a series of online resources available to download on the 4schools website. Central to their bicentenary commemorations in 2007 was a special event to recreate the image of the slave ship ‘Brookes’ using a life-size print of the middle deck and populating it with nearly 300 students from local schools. Students were also given the opportunity to learn African dance and drumming. The handling collection, print and resources produced as a result of this event are still in use for outreach work with local schools.
The Sweet History? project saw the Bristol Architecture Centre work with young people from the Knowle West Media Centre to explore the social and economic impacts of the sugar and slave trades on the built environment heritage of Bristol. Working with local artists and historians, the young people put together the Sweet History? Trail, containing photographs and information about 23 sites in and around Bristol that have links to the sugar and slave trades. The project had a particular focus on using digital technology to develop an interactive website (which included an audio podcast of the trail) to engage youth audiences with the study of heritage buildings.
Inspired by archival research, ‘Sharp Practice’ was a touring play exploring the slave trade and the role of abolitionists from the North East of England in its demise (and, in particular, the work of Granville Sharp). The play was devised and produced by Jackass Youth Theatre, in collaboration with professional artists from Jack Drum Arts. Each performance was accompanied by an exhibition exploring the North East’s links to slavery and abolition, researched by members of the theatre group. Working with heritage professionals, their research took the performers to Newcastle, Hull, Liverpool, Gloucester, London and the University of Virginia.
The Society of Friends expressed its formal opposition to the slave trade in 1727, and from that date were vocal opponents of transatlantic slavery. A virtual exhibition of archived resources, ‘Quakers and the path to abolition in Britain and the colonies’, was launched online to commemorate the bicentenary. It traced the history of the anti-slavery movement from its Quaker beginnings and highlighted key events in the Quaker history of opposition to the slave trade, and was primarily based on material from the Library at Friends House. The exhibition also explained the important role played by Quaker women abolitionists through writing and poetry. The Quakers pioneered contemporary tactics such as boycotting, petitions, leafleting and poster campaigns.
Other resources to help people find out more about the bicentenary included ‘Abolition Journeys’, developed by Quaker Life Committee for Racial Equality with the Quaker Life Children and Young People’s Staff Team, designed to help people of all ages remember the slave trade and work to abolish its modern variations.
Ties and Lives: Kent and the Slave Trade was a project run by Kent Archives in collaboration with Creative Partnerships Kent and the educational charity Music for Change. It aimed to show how the county’s historic collections could be used by young people to support their education, particularly on contemporary issues. An education pack provided a range of sources, research and information for secondary schools about the abolition of slavery. Music for Change artists visited schools in the county and through performance workshops encouraged students to interpret stories found in the archive and local history collections and explore the impact of the transatlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement on the past lives of Kentish people. There was a particular focus on music and dance originating from the traditions of enslaved peoples.
A replica of the nineteenth-century slave ship Amistad visited Liverpool, Bristol and London as part of the Atlantic Freedom Tour in 2007-2008. The ship set sail from its home port of New Haven, Connecticut, on a 16-month 14,000 mile transatlantic voyage to retrace the slave industry triangle. The ship stopped at more than a dozen Atlantic ports, including Freetown in Sierra Leone. Students from the UK had the opportunity to join the crew of the schooner – a replica of the original ship commandeered by 53 of its African captives in 1839 – on one of its legs, and transmitted text, images and videos back to the classroom. At each UK port, the ship was open for guided tours. There were also accompanying lectures.
Bristol was major trading port for the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century. The city of Bristol marked the bicentenary of the Abolition Act with more than 100 events across the city - exhibitions, plays, debates, talks, concerts - under the umbrella organisation Abolition 200. In January 2007, city leaders signed a declaration of regret for the city's role in the trade. Over the weekend of 24-25 March, bells rang out across the city and a Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation was held at Bristol Cathedral, organised by a partnership of the Cathedral and the Council of Black Churches. 2007 was themed as the Year of Black Achievement, aiming to bring better provision of black heritage resources to schools in Bristol, with a particular focus on black attainment. Over 30 creative community projects were funded by Abolition 200 - including art installations, educational projects and community theatre - to reflect the themes of education, commemoration and legacy.
Featured here are some of the events from Abolition 200.
The Adisa project gave a group of 20 young people of African and African Caribbean heritage the chance to investigate their roots both in Bristol and Africa. The group researched the history and legacies of Bristol's involvement in the trade in enslaved Africans, and its impact on one African country: Ghana. This was a community partnership project in collaboration with the Bread Youth Project, Full Circle Youth and Family and the Mill Youth Centre. The group opened their own exhibition, 'Afrikan Footsteps' at the City Museum and Art Gallery, after a two-week research trip to Ghana to learn about the country's history and culture. The exhibition included short films made by the participants; a Quotes Wall, taken from young people’s interviews with members of their local community; a wall of their personal heroes; a photographic exhibition of their trip; and 'Ma’afa Journey', a film recording their personal reactions to places visited in Ghana.
The Slave Trade Abolition in Cambridgeshire & Suffolk (STACS) project was managed by St John's College at Cambridge University (the former college of the abolitionists Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce). Working with local schools, the project aimed to raise awareness of the often overlooked roles played by Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano within the slave trade abolition movement in East Anglia. Drama workshops led by two historical enactors led to student performances of their plays about the abolition movement. Two public presentations run by students, one in Cambridge and another at the Ipswich Caribbean Association, discussed and debated why the counties of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk should remember the life and work of Equiano and Clarkson. The final outcome of the project was the publication of new teaching resources and curriculum material to introduce students to the work of Equiano and Clarkson, and to place the transatlantic slave trade in local, national and international historical contexts. During the course of the project, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a Sunday worship service from St John's College, in association with 'Set All Free'.
Freedom Song involved young people from Derby, Leicester and Nottingham creating their own digital musical video shorts to express contemporary social and cultural experiences. The group in Derby looked to develop links to regional history and culture through the study of the songs of oppression and freedom of the slave trade and its musical legacies today. A heritage project involved participants researching music of their ancestors and predecessors in the cultural tradition, exploring the Windrush migrations, oral traditions and the impact of female artists on music cultures in the UK.
Nottingham Castle Museum held two exhibitions in 2007. Inspired by the anti-slavery medallion produced by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1790s, a group of young people from Nottingham’s African Caribbean community worked with artist Katherine Morling to explore issues surrounding slavery and the representation of black people in art. The group worked under the name Sankofa. The ceramic Globe of Freedom was fired at the Wedgwood factory in Staffordshire, and was displayed at Nottingham Castle Museum alongside the Wedgwood medallion. The word ‘FREEDOM’ is impressed on one side and ‘EQUALITY’ impressed on the other. A replica sculpture is still used as part of a handling collection loaned to schools and community groups in the Nottingham region. A second exhibition, in collaboration with the Open University in the East Midlands, looked at the British slave trade using slave narratives, telling the story of three survivors of slavery: Mary Prince, Robert Wedderburn and Quobna Ottobah Cugoano.
A’ Adam’s Bairns? is an educational resource pack produced in 2007 by a partnership of the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Development Education Centre (Scotdec). The project explored equality and diversity both past and present, and looked at the attitudes and behaviours which underpinned slavery then and now, such as racism, sectarianism, prejudice and ignorance. The resources and reference materials are aimed at school children and also community and adult learning groups. They made use of material held by the National Library of Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland, and also included contemporary and traditional music produced by Scottish music expert Dr Fred Freeman, including a rendition of 'The Slave's Lament' by Robert Burns. Modules on the programme included slavery, forced movement of people and taking action for change.
Hull Truck Theatre supported Wilberforce 2007 with two specially commissioned productions, Slavers and Sold, and a playwright festival. For one week in August 2007, Hull Truck Youth Theatre presented Slavers, set in 2007, which told the story of abolition through the eyes of young people in Hull. Written by Rupert Creed and directed by Karen Dainty, the play followed a group of school leavers and their potentially prosperous business-start up, trading in human cargo. When some started questioning the morality behind the business, the audience was transported back to the debates of Wilberforce and his allies two hundred years previously. Another play, ‘Sold’, in conjunction with Liverpool Hope University, sought to raise awareness about the victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation today.
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.
As part of the Wilberforce 2007 programme, ArtLink Exchange, a community arts organisation in Hull, worked with local schoolchildren to produce an exhibition of artwork inspired by the bicentenary. This included artwork created by pupils from Sir Henry Cooper School and Endeavour High with artist Isaac Acheampong.
Penrhyn Castle on the outskirts of Bangor in Wales is owned by the National Trust. In 2007, the bicentenary was marked with a special exhibition and accompanying events exploring the connections between the Castle and the fortune of its former owners, the Pennant family, built on Jamaican sugar from one of the largest estates on the island. The exhibition featured the story of Richard Pennant, 1st Lord Penrhyn, a wealthy merchant and MP for Liverpool who fought against abolition in Parliament. Some of the research was carried out by members of the local community, who were trained in archival research by exploring the Penrhyn Jamaica papers held at Bangor University, which included Richard Pennant's letters as absentee landowner.
The project created links between a local school near the Castle, Banks Road school in Liverpool and Mavisville school in Kingston, Jamaica. All three schools provided art, prose and poetry to the exhibition. Workshops were held for all visiting schools. Accompanying events included art days where a local artist worked with visitors to explore the meaning of landscape painting in the context of slavery; a Caribbean weekend; and a day of activities and workshops with a multi-faith groups of teenagers from Liverpool. A DVD of all the information gathered was given free to schools and libraries.
A bust of Sir Henry Tate, one of the most prominent philanthropists of the 19th century, is displayed on a plinth in Brixton. A group of young men from the ORIGIN Rites of Passage Programme produced a documentary to investigate Tate's legacy and, in particular, the tensions inherent in his acts of generosity being funded by wealth derived from sugar production. The documentary featured interviews, research, and trips to Tate & Lyle plants and buildings. New Initiatives, a youth and community association, developed ORIGIN as an Africentric rites of passage programme, to support young men of African descent in their transition to adulthood. The project, exhibition and DVD was launched at Brixton Tate Library in October 2010.
Soham Village College partnered with Soham Action 4 Youth (SA4Y) and Soham Museum in a project to record Soham at the Time of the Abolition, to commemorate the bicentenary and celebrate the life of Olaudah Equiano. Equiano, otherwise known as Gustavus Vassa, was the former slave who became an antislavery campaigner in the 18th century. His connection to the Cambridgeshire town of Soham is in his marriage to a local woman, Susannah Cullen, at St Andrew’s Church. Both of his daughters were born and baptised in the town. The research aspect of the project including mapping the town of Soham as it was in the 18th century, the results of which were published in a book by Mac Dowdy. 'Olaudah: The Life Story of Olaudah Equiano' was written by Donna Martin.
Several community events took place during the course of 2007 and 2008, including a re-enactment of Equiano’s wedding at St Andrew's Church in Soham, performed by Soham Village College theatre group Stage Chance, in partnership with Momentum Art’s Untold Stories Arts and Heritage Project. The event also comprised several speakers and performances of African dance and drumming, and the launch of a book by Angelina Osborne about the life of Joanna Vassa, Equiano’s only surviving daughter. A permanent plaque to Olaudah Equiano was unveiled in the church. The project also featured an exhibition of African art and portraits of Equiano by Soham residents and young people.
The Bicentenary Freedom Flag was displayed alongside an exhibition about Wartime Black History at Manchester Town Hall. The project was a collaboration between staff from Manchester City Council Corporate Services Black Staff Group and pupils of Trinity Church of England School in Manchester. The flag recognised the work, struggles and sacrifices of those who brought the slave trade to an end, and featured images of prominent individuals on the background of the Sierra Leone flag. Those featured on the flag included Toussaint L'Ouverture (General of the Haitian Uprising), the abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, the anti-slavery orator Frederick Douglass, the statue in Barbados of 'Bussa', the unknown slave, guide of the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman, and Joseph Cinque, leader of the Amistad slave ship revolt. The accompanying exhibition included pupils' articles and creative writing. It also examined the history and role of the West India Regiments, British colonial infantry regiments largely recruited amongst freed slaves from North America and slaves purchased in the West Indies.
An exhibition at Walsall Museum looked at Walsall's links with the slave trade, the background to the Abolition Act of 1807, and the legacies of slavery. Walsall's metal industry included chain making by local women of Cradley Heath, and the manufacture of guns used to trade for captive Africans. The exhibition was accompanied by a programme of presentations, lectures and workshops, including art sessions with local residents and the artist Pauline Bailey. Part of the wider project featured an online resource 'Abolition WYA' by Walsall Youth Arts, which encouraged young people to explore the topic of slavery and contribute poems, visual arts and music to express their views. Some of the images featured on the site are pictured here.