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.
This collaborative community initiative celebrated African and Caribbean culture in Leeds, with a focus on commemorating the Abolition Act by 'highlighting African achievement, liberation and aspirations'. New exhibitions, publications and resources were produced and over 100 bicentenary events organised under different themes: Education and Museums; Arts and Carnival Culture; Churches and Abolition; Legacy; Black History and Community Development; Media and Communications. Highlights included the photographic exhibition and pamphlet 'From Abolition to Commonwealth', which remembered indentured labour in Africa and the Caribbean after 1807, and the 40th anniversary of Leeds West Indian Carnival, with themes that highlighted heritage, liberation, respect and freedom. Project outputs included an education pack, black history classes, concerts, church services, lectures and performances.
'Freedom and Culture' was a year-long nationwide programme to mark the bicentenary, conceived by Baroness Lola Young of Cultural Brokers (London) and Dr Nima Poowaya-Smith of Alchemy (based in Leeds). In partnership with artists, activists and cultural commentators, the programme explored the dimensions of oppression and freedom around the bicentenary, culminating in a weekend 'celebrating creativity and the African Diaspora' at the Southbank Centre in November 2007. One of several exhibitions that took place as part of the initiative was ‘Crossing the Waters’ at Cartwright Hall in Bradford, which took its central metaphor from the transatlantic slave trade. Almost all the works shown – from Sonia Boyce, Yinka Shonibare and others – were drawn from the permanent collections of Bradford Museums, Galleries and Heritage. The exhibition later toured to the City Gallery, Leicester in 2008.
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.
In Sunderland, the Museum and Winter Gardens hosted a varied programme of activities under the Remembering Slavery 2007 umbrella, including African drumming sessions, African inspired textile crafts, poetry workshops and storytelling. There were also guided walks around the sites associated with James Field Stanfield, the leading Sunderland campaigner against the slave trade. Elsewhere in the city, The Power of Words: an Image of Africa Past and Present was a creative writing project in collaboration with the Sunderland African Association. Participants worked with poet and writer Sheree Mack to produce poems exploring slavery and its relevance in contemporary times.
The 'Routes to Freedom' season of events took place throughout Autumn 2007 at The Drum, an intercultural arts venue in Birmingham. The programme explored the struggle for social justice and equality in relation to African, Asian and Caribbean communities, and marked two key historical events and their impact: the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and the 60th anniversary of the partition of the Indian subcontinent. The programme was made up of theatre productions, touring exhibitions, film screenings, readings, dance performances and special events, including 'Coolies of the Caribbean' and a conference about Olaudah Equiano.
FWords was a creative response of eight Yorkshire writers and artists to the commemoration of the Abolition Act, in a project led by Peepal Tree Press in Leeds. Focusing on the many variations of the theme of 'Freedom', Fwords was created to raise the profile of Yorkshire's rich heritage of talented artists, descendants of those who migrated, forcefully and otherwise from Africa and beyond. The work of six writers was illustrated with work from two visual artists, and with a foreword from Caryl Phillips. The project was supported by printed materials, broadcasts, digital and dedicated web pages.
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.
Written by composer Paul Field, Cargo premiered in Hull City Hall in March 2007, sponsored by Hull City Council. Cargo featured contemporary songs, narration, dance and images that told the story of the struggles of slaves, the historical work of William Wilberforce and the abolition movement, through to the contemporary struggles against slavery today. Performers included the singer Coco Mbassi, saxophone player Mike Haughton and Springs Dance Company. The narrators and choir were local people, including members of City of Hull Youth Choir, Redemption Gospel Choir and Hot Gospel in Hull. Cargo was also performed in London, Plymouth, Bristol and Liverpool. Smaller events were put on by church and community groups around the UK, assisted by the script, score and backing track of the music being made available on CD-Rom.
Hull's parish church of Holy Trinity is where William Wilberforce was baptised in 1759. The Church held a number of performances and events throughout 2007. The Together for Freedom commemorative service took place on 25 March 2007, led by the Archbishop of York and featuring the Redemption Gospel Choir from Hull and Middlesbrough. The Freedom Flower Festival took place in June and the Songs of Freedom Music Festival in September, featuring performances by leading gospel performers and local schoolchildren. The London Community Gospel Choir gave a powerful concert, which highlighted the important role of music in the lives of slaves living on plantations. In August, the Freetown Society of Hull hosted a performance of the Milton Margai School for the Blind Choir from Freetown, Sierra Leone. A Panos photographic exhibition at the Church, Slave Britain, revealed the realities of contemporary human trafficking.
Liverpool is a port city with a long association with transatlantic slavery. Located on Liverpool's Albert Dock, National Museums Liverpool opened the new International Slavery Museum in 2007, the first stage of a two-part development. The museum aims to promote the understanding of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade and the permanent impact the system has had on Africa, South America, the USA, the Caribbean and Western Europe. It features displays about West African society, the transatlantic slave trade and plantation life, but also addresses issues of freedom, identity, human rights, reparations, racial discrimination and cultural change. The museum also has strong ties with Liverpool’s large Black community. The museum opened on 23 August 2007, designated by UNESCO as Slavery Remembrance Day.
Threads of Strength and Fortitude was an exhibition of a series of textiles by artist Penny Sisto, created as a personal response to the bicentenary. The quilts were shipped over from New Albany, Indiana, and exhibited at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Eight quilts explored the theme of slavery through depictions of servitude, emancipation and the flight to freedom. Pieces on show include 'Slave Ship 1,' which depicts eight enslaved Africans chained by their necks on a slave ship. Another quilt, 'Ran Away', showed a farmer leading Underground Railroad travellers by lantern light. The exhibition was accompanied by an interactive DVD, 'Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage: Men and Women of the Underground Railroad in the Indiana and Kentucky Borderland'. There was also a series of events, including guest lectures and workshops on the subject of the abolition of slavery aimed at school and community groups. Art-based workshops explored the themes of peaceful resistance.
The African and African Caribbean Kultural Heritage Initiative (ACKHI) is a not-for-profit Black Afrikan-led community organisation, with the aim is to promote, protect and preserve the history, heritage and culture, of peoples of Black African heritage living or working in Oxfordshire. The Out of Africa programme of events in 2007 included an exhibition of books about slavery and the slave trade, which toured Oxfordshire libraries, and performances of African music and contemporary dance. The ‘Remembering Slavery’ commemorative service was held in Christ Church Cathedral. ‘Connections’ was a research project looking at Oxfordshire’s links to the system of slavery and the slave trade. ‘InTentCity’ was a visual arts project, in partnership with Fusion Arts, bringing together cultural groups, primary schools and artists to transform tents into works of art – one theme addressed was ‘Freedom’. Reflecting the legacy of the system of slavery and the slave trade, ‘Common Threads’ was an exhibition of textile work by the Textiles for Peace group, local women representing multi-cultural Oxfordshire. In ‘Ancestral Souls’, the African Women’s Art Collection (AWAC) collaborated with women of African descent to produce and exhibit 200 dolls to represent the diaspora of African peoples.
Abolition Truths was a panel-led talk and Q&A session at Harrow Civic Centre in October 2007, led by a creative arts community group Beyond the Will Smith Challenge (BTWSC). The event had a particular emphasis on the role of African freedom fighters and abolitionists, the Haitian Revolution, and the revolts, campaigns and boycotts leading to the passing of the 1807 Act. The event was interspersed with music and poetry, including a musical piece 'Then to Now' performed by Africanus Britanicus, and featuring HKB Finn & Co, which told the story of slavery and its legacy across the African diaspora. Teenage poet Stefan Testsola performed a poem on the theme of abolition. There was also a presentation of the Professor Allotey Science Prize, awarded to Harrow students of African descent.
Other BTWSC events in November 2007 included a discussion session with Ms Serwah, 'Putting the Abolition & Slavery Into Perspective' at Willesden Green Library, presented in association with Brent Black History Brent Library. 'From The Talking Drums to Rap & Grime' at Tavistock Hall in Harlesden commemorated the Abolition Act through narration and a musical concert.
The Southwark 2007 & Beyond Steering Group was established to correct perceived misinformation about Britain's role in perpetuating slavery, and to promote education and dialogue on anti-slavery resistance and human rights. The Steering Committee was composed of representatives from Southwark's Afrikan, Afrikan Caribbean and Afro-descendant communities, and the year-long programme of events was funded by Southwark Council. August 2007 was a key month of the commemorative programme, focused on 23 August, the United Nations International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, and the anniversary of the beginning of the Haitian Revolution. A 'Vigil of Remembrance, Resistance and Repairs' included speakers, performances and a libation ceremony. Other events included 'A Bicentennial Dialogue' featuring a keynote address by Dr Joy DeGruy-Leary. The publication 'Abeng Soundings: Abolitionist Landmarks of our Freedom March', co-authored by Esther Stanford of Rendezvous of Victory, provided an overview of the resistance efforts of African freedom fighters against slavery.
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 Freedom Roads exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery was one of several initiatives led by London Metropolitan Archives to mark the bicentenary. The exhibition featured contemporary photographic portraits of people of African origin whose work has contributed to the continuing struggle for human rights in different fields. Colin Prescod, Shirley Thompson, Eric and Jessica Huntley and Rudolph Walker were amongst the individuals featured. Others like the young people from BEAT (Black Experience Archive Trust) were engaged in a project to find out about significant people in their local community. Each person was photographed with an image of an object or place which has a special significance to them. The other part of the exhibition focused on relevant archival materials held by London Metropolitan Archives, including the South African Bill of Rights and a copy of the Constitution signed by Nelson Mandela, Cyril Ramaphosa, F. W. De Klerk and Roelf Meyer. Other material relating to slavery and abolition included a letter from John Julius, a plantation owner on the island of St. Kitts.
To mark the bicentenary, Manifesta (a not for profit company delivering projects addressing cultural diversity) and the Runnymede Trust (an independent policy research organisation focusing on equality and justice) joined forces to launch a youth and digital media initiative, Video ART (Anti-Racist Trails) Postcards. The project explored connections between slavery, colonialism and contemporary issues of racism and related injustice. In the summer of 2007, two groups of teenagers aged 14-19 from the London Borough of Newham participated in workshops to uncover sites related to historical racism and anti-racism in the West India Docks area of London, assisted by video artists and historians. Using video for self-expression, each participant interpreted this history and heritage by producing a short personal video or 'postcard' - there were 33 videos in total. The videos were made available on an online resource, and a Teacher's Guide was created to be used alongside the website.
The National Maritime Museum marked the bicentenary with a range of initiatives and events including a new exhibition, a film season, poetry, music, debates, and new publications. A new permanent gallery opened at the museum in winter 2007 exploring Britain's Atlantic empire. A catalogue of slavery-related images, artefacts and documents from the collections of the museum, 'Representing Slavery', was published. The museum also devised a transatlantic slavery trail around Greenwich.
The National Maritime Museum hosted a number of events throughout 2007. The theme of the weekend 23-25 March was 'And still I rise', marked with a series of activities, performances and discussion. On August 23, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, the ‘Freedom Festival: Contemporary Commemoration’ event saw a programme of creative events and performances exploring themes around the heritage of enslavement. The museum also offered a range of learning experiences based on its collections. For example, in November, a study session, 'Roots of Resistance: Abolition 1807' examined the roots of resistance and the abolition movement through talks by curators and contemporary artists. Activities for families were based on themes of freedom and carnival. 'The Big Conversation 2007' was a programme of debate and showcasing of diverse projects undertaken by students around the country, organised by the Understanding Slavery Initiative and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre opened in August 2004 and has since strived to tell the stories of those who have fought for freedom from the Underground Railway to the present day in the hope of challenging people’s ideas about inclusivity and freedom. The museum also aims to encourage and inspire people to promote and work towards freedom. Its position next to the Ohio River is a poignant reminder of its purpose as this river separated the southern slave states from the free states of the North. The National Underground Freedom Centre examines America’s heritage alongside discussions of contemporary slavery and human trafficking. It also forms part of a group of 'Museums of Conscience' alongside three others across the United States, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre reveals stories about freedom’s heroes: the men, women and children who challenge inequities to pursue greater freedom for their brothers and sisters. Through a series of rolling ‘special exhibitions’ and its vast collections displayed in several permanent exhibition spaces, the museum highlights the long history of enslavement in America, and its continuing legacy in the modern world.
The centre's most significant artifact is an original slave pen (or prison) originally built in 1830, and thought to be the only surviving example in the world. Visitors can walk through the pen and see some of the names of the people who were once held there. Alongside the pen, which is housed in its own exhibition space on the museum's second floor, there is a permanent exhibition, 'From Slavery to Freedom.' This exhibition covers three hundred years of slavery from its introduction to the Americas to its abolition. 'From Slavery to Freedom' is funded by the Oprah Winfrey Foundation and features a range of collections, including artefacts, archaeological specimens and paintings.
The centre also houses the 'world's first museum-quality, permanent exhibition on the subjects of modern-day slavery and human trafficking'; 'Invisible: Slavery Today' uses the experiences of five individuals who have been caught up in different forms of contemporary slavery and exploitation to highlight the issue in the modern world, as well as including examples of modern antislavery work around the world.
The centre also contains examples of interactive exhibits, with films, hands-on activities and live gallery talks, aimed at providing their visitors with a multi-sensory experience.
The UN has estimated that the number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people around the world has topped 65 million. Many of these people live in refugee camps across the globe. In Myanmar (Burma), thousands of people have fled civil war and found themselves confined to refugee camps in Thailand where they are vulnerable to human trafficking. In an attempt to provide for their families, refugees are lured for employment in Thailand and Malaysia then sold to employers as forced labourers. Saw Pol Lu fled Myanmar (Burma) to escape the civil wars and now lives in Mae La refugee camp along the Thai boarder. Here the widespread corruption and failed Thai policy led Saw Pol Lu, along with thousands of other refugees, in to the hands of human traffickers. Saw Pol Lu tells of the conditions and dangers faced by Burmese refugees in Thailand.