The museum was established by Dr. Charles Wright, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who envisioned an institution to preserve Black history after visiting a memorial to Danish World War II heroes in Denmark. It opened in 1965 as Detroit’s first international Afro-American museum. After expansions in 1978 and 1992, the museum was finally named the Charles H. Wright museum after its founder in 1998. It has since received monetary support from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government sources. The mission statement of the museum is to open minds and change lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture.
Current exhibitions on display in the museum include a large 22,000 square-foot exhibition that examines Ancient and Early Modern African history and the experiences of the enslaved during the Middle Passage, alongside the experiences of those who resisted the horrors of bondage and self-emancipation. Throughout this exhibition, entitled ‘And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture,’ there is a clear emphasis on the efforts of the everyday African American people who built families, businesses, educational institutions, and civic organisations in Detroit, past and present. The museum also offers exhibitions that look at the contributions of African Americans in science and technology, as well as showcasing examples of stained glass art by Samuel A. Hodge.
The museum has a busy events programme that includes community health and fitness programs, as well as lectures and education sessions for both children and adults. There are group tours for all ages, as well as led workshops for pre-school children. All of these workshops aim to highlight the lessons portrayed in the ‘And We Rise’ exhibition, prompting reflection and discussion from visitors.
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.
The Freedom! sculpture was created by a group of Haitian artists to represent Haiti's struggle for freedom and human rights. It was commissioned in 2007 by a collaboration of the international development charity Christian Aid and National Museums Liverpool to mark the bicentenary. The Freedom! sculpture is made from recycled objects such as metal car parts and junk found in the slums of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. It was created by sculptors Eugène, Céleur and Guyodo from Atis Rezistans in collaboration with the Haitian artist Mario Benjamin. The sculpture was first displayed at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in 2007 before touring to Stratford Circus Arts Centre in London, the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol and the Eden Project in Cornwall. It became a permanent exhibit in the International Slavery Museum when the venue opened on 23 August 2007 (Slavery Remembrance Day).
During the Industrial Revolution Nottingham was famous for the manufacture of lace. In 2007 British-Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor, supported by The New Art Exchange and the Centre for Contemporary Art in the city, investigated the often-neglected connections between this luxurious commodity and the cotton picked by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and American South. The research culminated in an exhibition, ‘Once Upon a Time in the West There Was Lace’, at the Yard Gallery at Wollaton Hall in early 2008. The Elizabethan manor is also home to the Industrial Museum which holds lace-making machinery. A key part of the display were outfits created from brightly coloured lace, now a prized material in West Africa. Donkor's paintings on pages of the Financial Times represented people, culture and goods crossing the Atlantic in different eras. The exhibition was accompanied by a series of public events which looked at the links between the city’s past lace-making industry and slavery, including lectures and a free symposium.
First opened in 2004, the Museu Afro Brasil is a contemporary museum which seeks to showcase the contributions of black communities to Brazil and its culture. There are over six thousand objects in the collection, including paintings, sculpture, photographs, ceramics and textiles. Through all of these items the museum illustrates the creative nature of Brazilian people. The exhibitions grew from the private collection of visual artist Emanoel Araujo who has led the museum as Director since its opening. The site also houses a theatre and a specialised library.
In its permanent exhibition space, which displays around seventy percent of its collections, the Museu Afro Brasil emphasises the rich culture of the African continent from the fifteenth century through to today. There are a variety of art mediums and artefacts on display, including masks, sculpture, jewellery and archival material.
These objects link to social themes, such as celebrations and religions, amongst communities of African descent in Brazil. There is also a section that explores the memory of key figures in the Afro-Brazilian community. Another explores the work done by these communities. Historically, this area examines the work done when many African people in Brazil were enslaved. The display features a model sugar mill, different kinds of tools for use on plantations, and sugar loaf moulds.
The Sounds of Slavery was a project by the performance and visual arts group River Niger Arts to research, record and develop a performance-related programme around the musical heritage and legacy of slavery. The project took particular interest in these themes in relation to the City of Liverpool, but also addressed them in global terms. The project created a database of songs and narratives from the period of slavery. Members of the River Niger Orchestra also performed at a Sounds of Slavery performance at Liverpool Hope University. Some of the songs performed included 'The Chase', 'No More Auction Block' and the African American spiritual 'The Jubilee Song'. The project was accompanied by a series of performance and visual arts education workshops with schools.
Several one-day events to mark the bicentenary and Black History Month were organised by the Griffon Area Partnership, a creative arts group in North Walsham. Totem poles were created and displayed at a community festival, which also featured crafts, mask-making, storytelling, dance and colour therapy healing.
Easton Lodge is a historic estate in Essex, with gardens open to the public. The Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Trust led two projects to mark the bicentenary. Liberation Song involved three local schools working with Grand Union Orchestra to explore the roots of musical instruments and styles, culminating in a community concert. A visual arts project involving seven local schools examined the history of Easton Lodge and trading links during the 18th century. Children decorated and displayed cotton reusable carrier bags and displayed them on yew hedges in the gardens. Connections were made with the story of the 18th century Ghanaian anti-slavery campaigner Ottobah Cugoano and the modern day Fair trade movement.
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 Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent held the Seeing Slavery exhibition from October to December 2007, with an associated programme of events and activities. Objects from the museum's collection relating to slavery and abolition were on display, including an 18th century punch bowl, inscribed with 'Success to the Africa Trade'. The museum commissioned new work by the artist Pogus Caesar: the piece '80 lbs of chains' included a soundscape depicting the sounds of a slave ship. The museum held digital workshops in which visitors were able to create their own soundtrack to the exhibits.
To commemorate the bicentenary, St Mungo Museum of Religious Art and Life (with support from the Scottish Museum Council) explored the social and economic legacies of slavery, including racism and cultural stereotyping. The museum worked with members of Glasgow's African and African Caribbean communities on reinterpreting objects from across Glasgow Museums. As part of the project, artist Beth Forde was commissioned to create an artwork to explore some of the issues raised, titled 'The shadow of the object fell upon the ego'. Voices from Africa was part of a year-long programme of lectures, schools events and exhibitions highlighting the life of African communities in Glasgow. This included a photographic project with photographer Roddy Mackay to represent African heritage in Scotland, and a series of free workshops exploring aspects of faith and belief.
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.
Part of the Equiano Project led by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Culture Clubs were a series of outreach projects enabling contributions by local schools and community groups to the way Equiano’s story is told and the issues surrounding how his experience is represented. The four groups - Techno Elders, Hockley Youth Project, Deansfield Secondary School and King George V Primary School - worked closely with the project teams and professional artists to produce work based upon Equiano’s life story. Their work featured within the Gas Hall and Soho House exhibitions.
The Hockley Youth Project’s work was displayed in the ‘Unshackled’ exhibition at Soho House in Birmingham, once home of the industrialist Matthew Boulton. Working with visual artist Nicola Richardson, the group produced a series of suits and artworks which explore themes around Equiano’s life, particularly his success as a businessman and entrepreneur.
In 2007 the artist Faisal Abdu'Allah was commissioned by Tate Britain to work collaboratively with a group of young people from Park High School in Harrow and St George's Roman Catholic School in Westminster to explore ideas related to the commemoration of the 1807 Abolition Act. The group engaged with creative research and artistic processes to produce narratives capturing their personal viewpoints on the themes of freedom of expression, liberty, revolution and slavery. The project Stolen Sanity resulted in a series of large scale photographic portraits that were displayed in the main galleries of Tate Britain. The project integrated the factual historic time line of Tate Britain's display, 1807: Blake, Slavery and the Radical Mind, with fictional personal reflections through audio and visual art.
2007 saw a number of different projects taking place at Harewood House in West Yorkshire, home of the Lascelles family. The bicentenary was used as an opportunity to explore the family connections with the transatlantic slave trade and the sugar plantations of the West Indies.
The art installation Crop Over by British Afro-Caribbean artist Sonia Boyce was shown in the public galleries at Harewood House throughout 2007. Crop Over is a Barbadian festival which has evolved from a celebration by plantation slaves of the end of the sugar crop. Sonia Boyce's two-screen film visually depicts the traditions, histories and cultural practices of this festival, which culminates with a carnivalesque parade known as Kadooment. It also responds to the history of Harewood House. The Lascelles family association with Barbados began in the 17th century when Edward Lascelles and his son Daniel were based in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The Freedom Sculpture was conceived by Mary Thompson, a teacher at Dog Kennel Hill Primary School in East Dulwich, as a way for the school to mark the bicentenary. Year 6 pupils worked with Kevin Boys, a blacksmith from Surrey Docks City Farm, to translate their ideas of freedom into a visual image. A butterfly was chosen to represent the concept of freedom. Kevin Boys made the butterfly's wings on a mobile forge in the school playground, and Year 5 children designed patterns to place inside. The Freedom Sculpture was opened in the school grounds in November 2008 by Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty, the civil liberties advocacy group.
The sculpture Blue Earth 1807-2007 by African artist Taslim Martin was permanently installed in the newly updated African Worlds Gallery at the Horniman Museum in 2007, to mark the bicentenary. The large iron globe, inscribed with the 18th century image of the slave ship Brookes, traces the routes along which enslaved Africans were transported to the New World, alongside the movement of the products of enslaved labour. The major British ports of Liverpool, London and Bristol are depicted, as well as ports in West Africa and some of the destination ports in North America, the Caribbean and South America. Visitors are encouraged to spin the globe to view slave routes across the world. In 2007-2008, the Horniman Museum also hosted 'La Bouche du Roi' by Romuald Hazoumé.
Abolition was an art project devised and led by artist Jack Brown, in collaboration with Tidemill Primary School in Deptford. It took place during Black History Month 2007, and aimed to commemorate the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade while recognising the existence of modern day slavery. Every child in the school made a 'step', an artwork representing their perspective on the writing, discussion and petitioning that drove abolition. The children visited the Laban Building at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and laid their step on the studio theatre floor. Taken together, the steps were conceived as a 'stairway to change'.
Curated by Predrag Pajdic, BOUND was an exhibition of works by international contemporary artists representing personal perspectives on the physical and psychological impact of slavery on humanity, in historical and modern contexts. BOUND incorporated archival material, conceptual work, photography, video, live art performance, interventions and installations. It was a partnership project between the Open Eye Gallery, FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) and Tate Liverpool. The exhibition opened at Open Eye Gallery and then ran at various venues across Liverpool. Associated events included open table discussions, talks and film screenings.