M Shed opened in 2011 and is housed in a warehouse on Bristol’s dockside, a clear and tangible link to the history it interprets. The free-to-enter museum focuses on social history, exploring the development of Bristol as a city through people, places and daily life. It is a popular site, attaining over half a million visitors per year since 2013.
Through this local viewpoint, the museum explores Bristol’s involvement with the transatlantic slave trade and the abolition movement in its ‘Bristol People’ gallery which aims to ‘explore the activities past and present that make Bristol what it is.’ Voices from all factions of the slavery debate feature in the display, with proslavery, the enslaved, particularly those who fought for emancipation, and abolitionists all interpreted within dedicated cases. Each case contains a mix of objects, archive materials and text panels to tell the story. Quotations from key figures also bring to life the voices of those who were personally involved: for example, John Pinney, a plantation owner and sugar agent; Hannah More, a writer and Abolition campaigner; John Kimber, a slave ship captain accused (and acquitted) of murder; Silas Told, an ordinary sailor on slaving voyages. These Bristolian voices give different perspectives on how those involved in the trade saw it at the time. Quotations printed around the gallery also provide the views of today’s visitors to the trade. The exhibition also has sections about the legacies of the slave trade within Bristol, particularly in relation to the representation of African or Afro-Caribbean communities in popular culture, the presence of racism in the city, and the legacies of prominent slave owners in some of Bristol's public institutions.
The theme of antislavery also features as the starting point for a display on public protest movements. One case focusses on Thomas Clarkson’s visit to Bristol to collect information against the trade, another on the campaign to abstain from slave-produced sugar in the 18th century and the Bristol bus boycott against racist employment practices in the 20th century. This display then goes on to look at other popular campaigns and protest movements including women’s suffrage, riots, strikes and the Occupy movement. This perspective, situating the abolition campaign as the beginning of a British tradition of society campaigning, is a unique one across UK museums.
In the Bristol Life gallery, the stories of two Black Bristolians look at the new life for the runaway enslaved man, Henry Parker, and the Windrush generation Princess Campbell.
The International Slavery Museum (ISM) is the first museum in the world to focus specifically on slavery, both historical and modern. Managed by National Musuems Liverpool, it opened to great acclaim in 2007 and has since welcomed over 3.5million visitors. Through its displays and wide-ranging events programme, the ISM aims to tackle ignorance and misunderstanding in today’s society by exploring the lasting impact of the transatlantic slave trade around the world. On entering the ISM, visitors immediately arrive in a space designed to provoke thoughts and discussion- the walls are etched with powerful quotations from historical figures and contemporary activists, many from the African diaspora. There is a display of West African culture, designed to showcase the breadth and depth of African civilisation before the devastation caused by the transatlantic slave trade, which includes examples of textiles, musical instruments and other ethnographic material. The display then goes on to look at the trade itself; the logistics, the processes and who benefitted on one hand, whilst also exploring the experience of the enslaved through multisensory interpretive techniques, including an emotive film of what the Middle Passage may have been like. All of these displays are supported by the rich, local archival collections, drawing on Liverpool’s own history as a prosperous, slave-trading port. Moving forward along a chronological timeline, the exhibition then covers abolition, significantly beginning with the acts of resistance from the enslaved themselves, through to organised abolition movements and then discussing the continued fight for freedom through the post-emancipation then civil rights era, right into the twenty-first century. The lasting legacies of the trade are thoroughly examined, from racism and the under-development of African countries, to the spread of African culture and diverse nature of Liverpool’s communities. A unique feature of the ISM is its ‘Campaign Zone’, opened in 2010, which houses temporary exhibitions just off the main gallery space. These are frequently run in conjunction with campaign organisations and usually focus on aspects of modern slavery, highlighting to visitors that it is very much still a live issue and not one that has been relegated to history. Recent exhibitions in this space have included 'Broken Lives' organised with the Daalit Freedom Network and 'Afro Supa Hero' with artist Jon Daniels.
The World Development Movement seeks to increase awareness of political views in regards to world economic and social development. The organisation published a briefing in 2007 to mark the bicentenary, exploring the stories of grassroots pressure and the historic and modern campaigns for global justice. In collaboration with the University of Leeds, the World Development Movement also organised two public events looking to explore the lessons to be learned from the struggle to end the slave trade and examining contemporary campaigns in Africa and beyond for global social justice. Speakers included the Kenyan writer and academic Ngugi wa Thiong'o.
Breaking Chains - Sheffield Civil Rights was a project by Sheffield Galleries and Museum Trust to look at the slave trade and to celebrate Sheffield’s heritage by exploring the role local campaigners played in securing workers' rights. The resources targeted Key Stage 2 pupils. There was a particular focus on the visit to Sheffield by the African abolitionist Olaudah Equiano in 1790. Actor Joe Williams played Equiano in a dramatisation still available to view on the teaching resource. Featured here are some of the downloads available.
In consultation with the Black community in Haringey, the programme for Black History Month 2007 included many events to commemorate the bicentenary of the Abolition Act. Several took place at the Marcus Garvey Library in Tottenham, including poetry writing workshops, African drumming and dance workshops, and an exhibition and presentations led by Anti-Slavery International. There were several events to mark the bicentenary, including by Bedale House Supported Housing Scheme (featuring tenants' video diaries, a short film, poetry and guest speakers) and by Efiba Arts, supported by The Bridge New Deal for Communities. Haringey Council ran a poetry competition on the theme of slavery for young people aged 13-15. The winning entries were published in a pamphlet distributed to schools and libraries in the borough. Historian S. I. Martin led a guided tour of Haringey's places relating to the abolition of the slave trade. There was also a series of seminars by Robin Walker addressing 'Transatlantic Enslavement: What really happened?'.
Set All Free: ACT TO END SLAVERY was a project of Churches Together in England, based in London. It was also a collaboration between church-related groups, societies and organisations around the UK working together with a Christian ethos to assess the relevance of the bicentenary, and in particular the legacies of slavery. The project aimed to highlight how the values of the abolitionists can transform relationships on an individual, community and society level. The project included building a network coalition, campaigning, producing research and resources for churches, schools and individuals. Set All Free also worked closely with Anti-Slavery International and Rendezvous of Victory, a leading African community-led organisation.
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.
In contrast to the trope that brands individuals’ experiences onto their backs, the No Project released a poster in 2012 titled “Wearing Her Story,” made by the artist Ismini Black. A woman’s dress hangs alongside carcasses in a butcher’s window. There are letters cut out of the dress and the words are impossible to piece together. By replacing a woman’s body with just her dress, the poster refuses to inscribe slavery’s story onto her flesh. She might wear her story like a removable item of clothing, but it is not the last word on her total identity. Instead it remains impossible to grasp and therefore consume, unlike the poster’s chunks of meat.
The world's oldest human rights organisation, Anti-Slavery International, led several initiatives in response to the bicentenary. The Fight for Freedom 1807-2007 Campaign, launched in 2005, called for measures to address the continuing legacies of the slave trade. The publication '1807-2007: Over 200 years of campaigning against slavery' looked back at the work of Anti-Slavery International and its predecessor organisations. The Spotlight on Slavery series of exhibitions and events included debates, lectures, film screenings and photography exhibitions. Anti-Slavery International also collaborated with a number of other organisations and projects in 2007, including Rendezvous of Victory and Set All Free, and contributed exhibition material to various exhibitions around the UK, including the Remembering Slavery exhibition at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.