Remembering Slavery 2007 was a regional initiative involving 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, in both historical and modern contexts. The project sought to connect the North East with the slave trade, the plantation economies of the Americas, and the social and political movements for abolition.
Featured here are the 'What's On' guides detailing various initiatives across the region in 2007, plus a selection of postcards from the project.
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.
This partnership project, led by Hertfordshire Archives, investigated the links between Hertfordshire people, the slave trade and abolition through stories from original archival documents. Project outcomes included creative workshops, a booklist, a DVD documentary, a heritage trail booklet, and collaboration with the project for the restoration of the Thomas Clarkson monument in Thundridge. The monument was erected in 1879 to mark his involvement in the campaign to abolish slavery. The ceremony to re-dedicate the monument in November 2007 involved pupils from Thundridge Primary School performing a dance that they had developed with arts-led charity Theatre Is….
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.
Human Cargo was a partnership project between Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. The project consisted of two main components. The first was a historical exhibition, which explored the development of the transatlantic slave trade and, in particular, the role of Plymouth as a port, the involvement of the City's dignitaries and the South West's links with the abolition movement. The second part was a contemporary art response to modern forms of slavery and historical legacies, including the flower picking trade, sweatshop labour and the Fair Trade Movement. This work was newly commissioned and included audio visual pieces, installations, hand-printed wallpaper and participatory objects. A variety of events and activities took place alongside the exhibition including education workshops, performances, African music and storytelling activities, and Elizabethan House re-enactment sessions.
In the Recovered Histories online resource, Anti-Slavery International digitised and made accessible for the first time a collection of over 800 pamphlets dating from the 18th and 19th centuries relating to the transatlantic slave trade. The resource captured the narratives of the enslaved, the enslavers, slave ship surgeons, abolitionists, parliamentarians, clergy, planters and rebels. An accompanying touring historical exhibition and an education pack featured testimonies and pictures from Africans subjected to slavery, those participating in the enslavement and those who fought against it. An outreach and resources programme included a series of free regional seminars in April and May 2008, which encouraged dialogue about the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies by bringing together a wide range of groups and organisations who worked on these issues. The workshops were held in Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, London and Manchester. A series of short stories were published, inspired by the Recovered Histories resource.
An exhibition which explored the connections between the Isle of Man and the transatlantic slave trade between 1718 and 1807, as shown in assorted archives. Mounted in the Lower Folklife Gallery at the Manx Museum, the display revealed evidence of Manx captains, officers and crew recorded on slaving ships in the Port of Liverpool muster rolls or in probate records. Documentation shows Manx merchants dealing in ‘Guinea goods’ and investing in trading voyages; also Manx people part-owning or managing plantations in the Americas. The title quote was taken from the memoirs of Manxman Captain Hugh Crow, published posthumously in 1830. Crow wrote, ‘I have viewed the abstraction of slaves from Africa to our colonies as a necessary evil, under existing circumstances’. In July 1807 the last legal slave voyage for an English vessel began from Liverpool. Crow, aboard 'Kitty’s Amelia', took command en route to Bonny.
Changing Perspectives was a community-based initiative based around the experiences of twenty-five African and Caribbean families from the North-East, to explore how their life in the UK contrasts with the lives of their ancestors. The project created a multimedia archive of cultural responses to celebrate the heritage of these families. This included oral testimonies, creative writing, photography, digital storytelling and art, emerging from a variety of community-led workshops. A series of workshops were held at Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections (pictured), including a session aimed at children and young people, which focused on the experiences of children in the slave trade via extracts from the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. Project outputs included a book, an interactive website, an exhibition of words and pictures of the community, an oral testimony collection, and series of documentary films. A key aim of the project was to promote community cohesion and develop cross cultural awareness and understanding.
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.
Into Africa was an exhibition held at the Dorman Museum in Middlesbrough, which examined the textile collaboration between Britain and West Africa after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The exhibition focused on the textile samples of Christopher Dresser, the most prominent industrial product designer of the Victorian period. The samples were originally made for European markets, but increasingly became popular in West African textile trades in the late 19th century. The exhibition placed the samples in the context of African textile history, the Lancashire cotton trade and modern day exports.
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.
A collaborative project between Barnsley Archives and Local Studies, the Cooper Gallery and Cannon Hall exploring local connections to the slave trade. Cannon Hall is the ancestral home of the Spencer Family, who made their fortune in the local iron industry. In the mid-18th century, Benjamin Spencer became involved in the slave trade, and owned a slave ship called ‘Cannon Hall’; in contrast, Walter Spencer-Stanhope, who inherited the hall in 1775, supported the abolitionist movement. Pupils from local primary schools explored the hall’s connections to the slave trade and abolitionism, and produced artwork in response to the hidden histories, some of which were exhibited in the Cooper Gallery’s exhibition, ‘Witness’.
The ‘Hidden Stories’ project also explored the Crossley Family archive held by Barnsley Archives and Local Studies (Benjamin Crossley owned a sugar plantation in Jamaica). Barnsley Archives worked with the Barnsley Black and Ethnic Minority Initiative on a project to encourage black and minority ethnic groups in the Barnsley area to discover more about their roots. Other partners included Barnsley Out of School Study Support Network, Foulstone City Learning Centre and Just Addictive Music.
In the churchyard of St John the Baptist Church, Bishop’s Castle, is an unnamed grave, dedicated to 'I.D., a Native of Africa', who died in 1801. Nothing is known for sure about the individual remembered by this gravestone, but the inscription is one used frequently by abolitionist sympathisers: 'God hath made of one blood all nations of men'. With connections to English Heritage’s ‘Sites of Memory’ project, in 2007 researchers attempted to find out more about the occupant of the grave. Partners in the project included Bishop's Castle Heritage Resource Centre, the parish Church of St John the Baptist and the Community College in Bishop's Castle. The research leaflet was revised and reprinted in 2015, as new evidence came to light about a local family, the Oakeleys, who had an interest in a plantation in Jamaica. Bishop's Castle Heritage Research Centre volunteers continue their research into the identity of ‘ID’ and the reasons they came to Bishop's Castle.
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.
Gentlemen Slavers was a project to explore the connections between the transatlantic slave trade and the London Borough of Sutton, particularly through the activities of one family – the Taylors of St Kitts. George Taylor, and later his brother John, lived on the Carshalton Park estate, funded by a family fortune made on slave-worked sugar plantations on the islands of St Kitts and Nevis. The project also looked in detail at the story of Samuel Mudian, a black man who worked at Carshalton Park as a butler for George Taylor, and likely a native of St Kitts. The project consisted of an exhibition, booklet, education pack and activity sheets.
SCAWDI are a Birmingham based community group specialising in working with local volunteers to research the early presence of Black people in the West Midlands and learn more about their local history. Different projects sought to explore this heritage. ‘In the beginning …’ looked at enslaved Africans who came to the West Midlands to live with wealthy land owners in the area’s stately homes. ‘History Detectives’ took this work further to identify and construct biographies for the black individuals who came to the West Midlands before 1918. The project created a database of almost 200 individuals: the characters explored connect to themes of slavery, class, migration and religion. ‘A day in the life …’ created a black heritage trail detailing the locations attached to these stories.
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 Bristol Black Archives Partnership (BBAP) was set up to collect, protect and make available the heritage of Bristol's local black history. The partnership involved communities, heritage organisations and academic organisations coming together to collect and make accessible the archives - films, photographs, documents and objects - that reflected the experience and contribution of black people in Bristol. BBAP aimed to provide learning resources for a better understanding of Bristol's multicultural history: the 'Me, We, Making History' calendars celebrated local black achievers; 'My Legacy Journal' was made available for African-Caribbean people to record their own family identity, history and stories. A Black Bristolians Teaching Pack was produced, alongside a travelling exhibition based on the project's research entitled 'The Black Presence in Bristol - 16th Century to the Present Day'.
As part of the Abolition 200 programme, the Bristol 1807 project set out to explore the lives of ordinary Bristolians in 1807. An exhibition in the Central Library, and a series of touring exhibitions in Bristol's libraries and community centres explored society, culture, trade and travel in 19th century Bristol, a city and port with many ties to transatlantic slavery. The project collaborated with local schools to provide creative art workshops for children around themes of slavery and freedom. There were also 'Treasures in Store' hands-on sessions with rare library artefacts concerned with the period of abolition including books, newspapers and everyday objects. A book emerging from the project, 'Bristol in 1807: Impressions of the City at the Time of Abolition' by Anthony Beeson, was published in 2009.
DEED (Development Education in Dorset) works within the community to develop understanding of global education and cultural diversity. The charity produced and made available to hire the Dorset's Hidden Histories touring exhibition, which explored 400 years of the stories of people with African and Caribbean heritage across Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole. Many Dorset families were involved in slavery, either owning or trading in African slaves, and Black people were brought to Dorset by slave traders to live as servants in the large country houses. The exhibition, which is still available to borrow, also includes details of African American GIs on Poole Quay, a freed enslaved American living in Bournemouth, and Belle Davis, the African-American singer and dancer who performed in Weymouth in 1917. The organisation worked with Louisa Adjoa Parker, a local poet and black history researcher, to provide creative writing workshops to explore the exhibition. An accompanying booklet, written by Parker, can be purchased from DEED.