The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum opened in 1983. It was set up by Drs. Elmer and Joanne Martin as a cultural and educational institution that focusses solely on the study and preservation of African American history. It is a unique organisation as it represents the histories it interprets through the use of life size wax figures, presented in historical settings. The museum has several objectives, including to increase interest in African American history, to use inspiring examples from history to motivate young people to achieve, and to improve race relations by dispelling myths of racial inequalities. The museum attracts around 300,000 visitors annually.
The museum features thirty-five installations of 'great blacks' in a range of scenarios. These cover a large temporal and geographic span, beginning with representations of key figures in pre-slavery Africa, through to dioramas of the space race and modern science. The key focus is on black achievement through all sectors of society, including politics, the military, sport and business.
Many of these installations link to the history of slavery in the United States. They examine the Middle Passage and captivity, plantation life and resistance with graphic displays of the instruments of brutality utilised in the system of enslavement. Others depict key characters in African American journeys to freedom including Henry 'Box' Brown and W.E.B. Dubois. The abolition movement is incorporated into the installations with the characters of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. The Underground Railroad is also depicted in a display with Harriet Tubman, amongst others. Many of these dioramas also incorporate models of children.
The displays continue to chart the twentieth century, examining the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, and the Jim Crow Laws. Some of these dioramas illustrate the abhorrent nature of the racial violence that dominated the United States, such as lynching, in graphic detail.
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.
Built on the site of the Black settlement that Rev. Josiah Henson helped found in 1841, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site preserves the settlement where Henson and his wife Nancy lived. The site is situated within 200 acres and was named after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s popular 1852 antislavery novel which featured an enslaved African man named Tom (based on Josiah Henson) as its protagonist. The area of land was purchased in 1841 to establish the Dawn Settlement - a refuge for the many fugitives from slavery who escaped to Canada from the USA. Today thousands of visitors travel to the site every year to learn and understand more about this history. The site includes a number of buildings which originally composed the British-American Institute, an all-ages teacher training and general education manual school. Present day visitors will find examples of a sawmill, smokehouse, and pioneer church, as well as the Henson family cemetery. The house where Josiah Henson and his wife Nancy lived has also been restored to 1850s period fashion. Also located on the site is the Josiah Henson Interpretive Centre which houses a collection of 19th century artefacts relating to the abolitionist era and to Henson himself. Highlights include a rare early edition of Henson’s autobiography and a signed portrait of Queen Victoria presented to him in 1877. Upon arrival at the Interpretive Centre, visitors are guided into the North Star Theatre where they are shown a film titled Father Henson: His Spirit Lives On. A further gallery named Underground Railroad Freedom Gallery displays a narrative of the history of African freedom seekers from initial capture in Africa and enslavement in the United States to freedom in Canada. The site also runs a variety of educational programmes aimed at children and young adults, alongside a popular programme of guided tours.
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.
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.