Remembering Slavery 2007 involved museums, galleries and other cultural organisations across the North East of England in a programme of exhibitions, events, performances, lectures and activities to explore the themes of slavery and abolition, and identify connections with the region.
The Remembering Slavery Archive Mapping and Research Project, led by the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle and assisted by local history groups, uncovered a large amount of archival material in the region’s institutions, exposing many hitherto unknown links between the North East and the slave trade. The participating record offices and libraries were Tyne and Wear Archives Service, the Literary and Philosophical Society Library, the Northumberland Record Office and the Robinson Library’s Special Collections at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. This reassessment of the North East’s involvement in slavery and the slave trade led to new published research, including John Charlton's 'Hidden Chains: the Slavery Business and North East of England 1600-1865'. There was also a lecture programme at the Literary and Philosophical Society, including talks by Professor James Walvin. Several of the project volunteers published essays based on their research in 'North East History 39' (North East Labour History Society, 2008). The North East Slavery and Abolition Group was established among the project volunteers, and further work on slavery and abolition was included in the Society’s North East Popular Politics project (NEPPP), 2010-13. Much of the material found in the 2007 project has been loaded onto the NEPPP database.
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.
This exhibition held by the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections at the University of Birmingham included material from the archives of the Church Missionary Society held there, and some of its rare book collections. The accompanying information boards are featured here. The exhibition focused on the role of religion in the abolitionist movement, the power of the African voice in literature, and the role played by Birmingham residents in the anti-slavery campaigns. A booklist on anti-slavery publications held at the library was also produced. The exhibition was part of a University-wide initiative, with additional involvement from academic departments and the Guild of Students. An online exhibition was also produced in collaboration with the Library of the Religious Society of Friends: 'Quakers and the path to abolition in Britain and the colonies'.
Cambridge University Library held a small exhibition in 2007 showcasing its collections of rare books and manuscripts relating to slavery and abolition. These include records of the Greg family, who owned a sugar plantation in Dominica, and documents relating to slave compensation for the West India colonies. Other records held by the library relate to British Quakers, the abolition campaign, and the persistence of slavery in the 20th century and into the present day.
This exhibition and booklet were produced as part of South Gloucestershire's Engage 2007 project, in partnership with Yate and District Heritage Centre. Both the exhibition and booklet explored local connections with the history of slavery and anti-slavery in South Gloucestershire. Links identified included the career of Robert Jenkinson of Hawkesbury (later Prime Minister Lord Liverpool), the Caribbean plantations of the Codrington family, the campaign efforts of abolitionist Joseph Sturge and, looking further back in history, St Wulfstan's attempts to abolish the trade in slaves to Ireland in the 11th century. The booklet was written and edited by Lorna Brooks and David Hardill. The exhibition toured the local area, including Thornbury and District Museum, pictured here.
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.
An exhibition exploring the connections between Warwickshire and the transatlantic slave trade, using the collections held at Warwickshire Record Office. Several Warwickshire families owned plantations in the Caribbean, such as the Greatheed family of Guy's Cliffe who owned an estate in St Kitts. Vice Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour was prominent in the West Indies as Commander of Britain's naval forces in the Leeward and Windward Islands. Church of England parish registers reveal the presence of black people in Warwickshire's history.
As made clear by The Long Road to Freedom exhibition in 2007, the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland contains a significant collection of documents which reveal local connections with the slave trade, and with those who campaigned for abolition. Several prominent local families owned slaves on plantations in the Caribbean and on the north coast of South America. Leading Leicester abolitionists, Elizabeth Heyrick and Susanna Watts, orchestrated a vigorous anti-slavery campaign in Leicester, including a boycott on sugar. Local landowner, Thomas Babington of Rothley Temple, was a friend of William Wilberforce and hosted meetings of anti-slavery campaigners at his home. The exhibition also highlighted a unique collection of mid-19th century papers which provide access to the voices of the enslaved in a slave court in Lagos, West Africa. It also told the stories of two former slaves, Rasselas Morjan and Edward Juba, who came to Leicestershire with their owners. This exhibition toured to various venues in the region, including Abbey Pumping Station, where it coincided with family activities focused on the work of Elizabeth Heyrick.
An exhibition to mark the bicentenary was developed by Enfield Museum Service in partnership with the British Museum and Enfield Racial Equality Council. The exhibition looked at West African culture, the development of the local African community, the links between the transatlantic slave trade and Enfield, wealthy landowners and Quaker abolitionists who lived in the area. Free family days held during school vacations offered traditional Ghanaian story-telling, dancing and drumming, crafts and object handling. Living History Days gave visitors the opportunity to meet actors portraying William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano. School workshops included a drama session and performance about a runaway slave developed from material from Lambeth Archive. The museum service also produced a book, edited by Valerie Munday, which explored further the links between Enfield and the slave trade. The book was sent to all schools in the borough, and formed the basis of a teaching resource aimed at Key Stages 2 and 3. Loan boxes and handling collections provided by the museum service include Ghanaian artefacts and items relating to the slave trade. In 2011, Enfield Racial Equality Council unveiled a plaque to commemorate abolition at the Enfield Civic Centre.
The Quaker Quilters of Norwich Quaker Meeting held the Slave Quilts Exhibition at the Friends Meeting House in Norwich in May 2007. By the 1860s in the United States there were organised flights to freedom for enslaved people from the southern plantations via the Underground Railroad – a network of paths leading to the North and Canada. The ‘safe houses’ where assistance was offered on the way were often the homes of Quakers. This exhibition looked to reproduce some of the secret codes said to be hidden within the symbols and patterns featured in quilts made by slaves, to pass on directions to those looking to escape.
London Borough of Newham Council led “The Wickedest of Cargoes…”, an exhibition at Stratford Town Hall, which used local museum and archive collections to explore the history of the slave trade and abolition. It looked at the history of slavery through different societies and cultures, and especially the Barbary pirates who enslaved seamen and passengers from ships on the west coast of North Africa. The exhibition explored the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition from a local perspective, focusing on the large Quaker community in West Ham and, in particular, John Fothergill and Samuel Gurney. Newham has many residents from an African Caribbean background, who were consulted in the development of the exhibition. Addressing the legacies of slavery, the exhibition looked at the rising Black population of the borough through history and the importance of the Coloured Men’s Institute in Canning Town, set up as a place where Black families could meet.
An exhibition at Bruce Castle Museum (in partnership with Euroart Studios) explored the transatlantic slave trade, Haringey's heritage relating to the trade and its legacy, and the historic Black presence in the borough from the 16th century onwards. There was a particular focus on the painting of Lucius and Montague Hare, sons of Lord Coleraine (former owner of Bruce Castle), with their African servant. The exhibition also looked at the extra-parliamentary popular movement against the trade by local Quakers such as Priscilla Wakefield and others. Contemporary dance workshops for secondary schools were led by dance company Movement Angol.
The Links and Liberty exhibition included 'Stolen', a life-size installation by artists at Euroart Studios (John Fowler, Lorraine Clarke and Nigel Young) of a section of a slave ship. School pupils were encouraged to climb inside to imagine conditions on board.
Hackney Museum's Abolition 07 exhibition told the story of British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, the resistance to it, and its abolition, and in particular emphasised the involvement of Hackney's residents in the abolition movement. The display included new artwork by Godfried Donkor in collaboration with young Hackney artists. A film of interviews with Hackney residents, Hear My Voice, was produced. Over 1200 children from Hackney Primary Schools took part in poetry workshops at the museum with poets Adisa and Baden Prince. Their poems and responses were published in the booklet 'And Still I Rise'.
The research into Hackney's connections to the transatlantic slave trade continued in 2013-2015 with 'Local Roots / Global Routes', a collaborative project between Hackney Museum and Archives and the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project.
TimeLine magazine is a lifelong learning project centred on exploring the history and heritage of Hackney through stories, games, interviews and memories. The magazine is distributed free to schools, libraries and healthcare providers. In March 2007 a special issue of TimeLine examined the bicentenary of the Abolition Act 1807, and Hackney connections to abolition. The special issue included a picture story of the life of Olaudah Equiano.
Southwark Council created two online resources to commemorate the bicentenary. A historic walk, produced in collaboration with the Museum of London Docklands, highlighted locations connected with the slave trade and the early presence of Africans in Southwark. A timeline detailed key dates and events that led to the transatlantic slave trade, including Southwark's local connections to the trade and its abolition. The Cuming Museum in Southwark also held an exhibition, 'Lost and Found'.
In consultation with local community groups, in 2007 the Natural History Museum commissioned new research into its collections that link slavery and the natural world. The research uncovered experiences of enslaved people and the use of plants in their everyday life, as food, medicines and poisons. It also examined the complex relationships between enslaved people and naturalists exploring newly-colonised lands. The museum ran a series of public events, co-hosted by Race on the Agenda, which aimed to bring the historical, scientific and public viewpoints together. It created online educational resources on themes such as Commercial Plants, Everyday Life, Diet and Nutrition, and Resistance. The museum also developed cross-curricular ideas for school lessons in Science using the context of slavery, looking at foods across different cultures, for example.
This booklet was produced to mark the bicentenary in 2007 and to highlight the material available in Sheffield Local Studies Library and Sheffield Archives for the study of slavery, the slave trade, abolition movements and emancipation. It looks, in particular, at the role of the city of Sheffield and the surrounding areas, and its local residents. Sheffield benefited from the slave system in that goods manufactured in the city's factories were used on the plantations in the West Indies and America. Sugar and coffee produced on the plantations was consumed by residents. There were active anti-slavery groups in Sheffield, including the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society, and petitioning and boycotts were common. Hannah Kilham, a Sheffield Quaker, published a memoir of her experiences in West Africa as a teacher in the 1820s and 1830s.
This online exhibition and learning resource linking the history of transatlantic slavery to North East Scotland was organised by an Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Bicentenary Committee, including representatives from Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council, the University of Aberdeen, the Robert Gordon University and the African and African-Caribbean communities. It followed on from a service of commemoration and a series of public lectures sponsored by the Committee in 2007. The exhibition logo is inspired by the mythical Sankofa bird, a cultural symbol of the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana in West Africa. Featured here are a number of resources available to download from the North East Story website.
identity on tyne is a group for writers and artists of colour in North-East England. The Roots Initiative was their response to the bicentenary, in partnership with the Literary and Philosophical Society. The writer Sheree Mack examined the region's involvement in the slave trade and the abolition movement through historical documents, creative writing and poetry. A heritage walk around Newcastle highlighted the events, individuals and places involved in the slave trade, slavery and the abolition movement in the North-East.
Durham Record Office held an exhibition of its original documents relating to slavery, the slave trade and abolition. These include reports, maps, and a number of letters, from, for example, Sir John Shaw Lefevre (Under Secretary for the Colonies in 1833), the abolitionist James Stephen and the prominent Quaker activist Josiah Forster. The exhibition was displayed in the Record Office and toured several venues in the region. It was also used for inspiration by members of Jackass Youth Theatre, who produced the play Sharp Practice after visiting the Record Office and consulting some of the original documents on display.