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.
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.
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.
Slavery here! was a project hosted by museums across the Tees Valley led by Preston Hall Museum. It featured an interactive exhibition to explore the story of the Tees Valley’s connections with slavery. For example, the town of Stockton-on-Tees had its own Sugar House, a refinery that processed sugar from the Caribbean. The exhibition also looked at the work of local abolitionist campaigners Dr Robert Jackson and Elizabeth Pease, and the impact of contemporary slavery on today's society. Alongside the exhibition at Preston Hall Museum, other special events included workshops on African drumming and culture, object handling, and introductions to Fair Trade products. The project also produced a commemorative quilt (in collaboration with Newtown Community) and a film, ‘Manacles and Money’.
The Gas Hall at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery was host to a biographical exhibition of the life and adventures of Olaudah Equiano, a leading African figure in the British abolition movement in the 18th century. The project was led by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Equiano Society. The national exhibition was inspired by Equiano's autobiography 'The Interesting Narrative' (1789), by international and national artworks, and objects from Birmingham museums’ collections. It provided a narrative of Equiano’s life, and also explored wider local links between the West Midlands and the transatlantic slave trade. The Equiano Project also created a website, educational packages (available to buy via the project website), and a series of events and outreach activities. The exhibition publication 'Equiano - Enslavement, Resistance and Abolition' was edited by Arthur Torrington, Rita McLean, Victoria Osborne and Ian Grosvenor, and provided new insights into enslavement, resistance, abolition, and the African presence in Britain in the 18th century. Two touring exhibitions were loaned to community centres, libraries and other venues, including Walsall Museum, Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association and the Hudawi Cultural Centre in Huddersfield.
During the Civil Rights Movement, African American activists held rallies and conventions at the Church of the Advocate. But people started to notice the absence of black figures from the church artwork. Father Washington remembered: “there were people who came into the church, and as they looked around they saw nothing and no one, including the figures in the stained glass windows, with whom they could identify. Everything they looked at was white, white, white. ‘How can we look at this white image for our liberation when it is our experience that it is the white man who is our oppressor?’" Upon hearing these questions, Father Washington realised that “we could see the black experience revealed and defined in religious terms, and find parallel situations in what we read in the Old Testament every Sunday.” He commissioned a series of murals for the side of the church, painted by Walter Edmonds and Richard Watson, that show parallels between the experiences endured by Hebrew slaves in Egypt and those suffered by African slaves in America.
Two years prior to the Texas Centennial Exposition, Aaron Douglas created a four-part mural series titled Aspects of Negro Life, to be housed in the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center. The various panels portray black history from slavery through to present. The various panels are titled, The Negro in an African Setting, From Slavery Through Reconstruction, Song of the Towers, and An Idyll of the Deep South, and depict the breaking of chains, the idea of self-emancipation, liberation, and the celebration of African culture.
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.
Bolton Museum and Archives was one of eight heritage bodies in the 'Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery’ partnership in Greater Manchester. The project set out to explore the history, impact and legacy of slavery on Britain through collections and community links in the North West.
Bolton Museum and Archive Service launched a trail around its galleries to re-interpret objects on display in the context of slavery and its legacies. At the centre of the trail was Samuel Crompton's spinning mule, a machine which helped to revolutionize the British cotton industry. As part of the project, Bolton Council republished and distributed 'The Narrative of the Life of James Watkins', originally published in 1852. Watkins escaped slavery in the southern United States and travelled to Lancashire to become an anti-slavery campaigner. The museum also hosted African folk storytelling sessions, and produced a Key Stage 3 education pack, 'Chains and Cotton: Bolton’s Perspective on the Slave Trade'. A special event day, 'Facing up to the past' featured performances, poetry reading and debate.
The Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery project sought to uncover the North West's involvement in the slave trade (and the consequent social and economic effects of this involvement) and the region's contribution to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and colonial slavery. Eight museums and galleries across Greater Manchester collaborated to commemorate the lasting legacies of the transatlantic slave trade. The participating venues were: Bolton Museum and Archive Service; Gallery Oldham; Manchester Art Gallery; The Manchester Museum; Museum of Science and Industry; People's History Museum; Touchstones Rochdale; and Whitworth Art Gallery. A collaborative website and a programme of exhibitions, trails, performances, films and events took a new look at the collections of these museums and galleries and the buildings in which they are housed, revealing hidden histories of the region's involvement in the slave trade. The project also examined slavery's contemporary legacy and relevance.
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.
Freedom Think Tank was a time limited Black-led voluntary group established to influence the agendas of organisations in the North East commemorating the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. The group also organised commemorative events, focusing on themes of promoting social solidarity and raising awareness of the participation of Black people in abolition.
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 Inhuman Traffic project was led by Gloucestershire Archives, in partnership with the Set All Free initiative. The virtual exhibition and accompanying web resource were based on documents held at Gloucestershire Archives and, in particular, the papers of the anti-slavery campaigner Granville Sharp (1735-1813). The exhibition explored topics such as the contribution of black people to the abolition movement, aspects of the legacies of slavery, including racism and domestic violence. Over 400 copies of the exhibition DVD were sent to schools, churches, tourist information venues and individuals across Gloucestershire. The associated programme of events included performances of the play 'Inhuman Traffic', developed in collaboration with a local theatre company, Spaniel in the Works. The play features four interacting characters with different perspectives on slavery. A cross-curricular teaching resource was later developed, which included a second performance, 'Master and Slave', in partnership with Stroud District Museums Service, Spaniel in the Works, and Parliament Primary School, Stroud.
'One for Me' was a touring play by the Fairgame Theatre Company that was performed at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. Set in 2007, the play focuses on a local MP driven by a mysterious stranger to explore the history of slavery and the wealth it generated.
This exhibition and booklet were produced as part of South Gloucestershire's Engage 2007 project, in partnership with Yate and District Heritage Centre. Both the exhibition and booklet explored local connections with the history of slavery and anti-slavery in South Gloucestershire. Links identified included the career of Robert Jenkinson of Hawkesbury (later Prime Minister Lord Liverpool), the Caribbean plantations of the Codrington family, the campaign efforts of abolitionist Joseph Sturge and, looking further back in history, St Wulfstan's attempts to abolish the trade in slaves to Ireland in the 11th century. The booklet was written and edited by Lorna Brooks and David Hardill. The exhibition toured the local area, including Thornbury and District Museum, pictured here.
A touring exhibition from Herefordshire Museums, which explored Herefordshire's hidden history of slavery. Local connections include Moccas Court near Hereford, the country house once home to the Cornewall family, owners of a sugar plantation on Grenada at the time of the Grenadian uprising of 1795. Another county connection to the history of slavery is Lady Hawkins' School in Kington, the construction of which was bequeathed in 1632 by the widow of Sir John Hawkins, England's first slave trader. The nineteenth-century poet and abolitionist Elizabeth Barrett Browning also had family connections in Herefordshire. The exhibition was taken on tour around Herefordshire and Warwickshire on a specially commissioned Abolition Bus.
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.
As made clear by The Long Road to Freedom exhibition in 2007, the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland contains a significant collection of documents which reveal local connections with the slave trade, and with those who campaigned for abolition. Several prominent local families owned slaves on plantations in the Caribbean and on the north coast of South America. Leading Leicester abolitionists, Elizabeth Heyrick and Susanna Watts, orchestrated a vigorous anti-slavery campaign in Leicester, including a boycott on sugar. Local landowner, Thomas Babington of Rothley Temple, was a friend of William Wilberforce and hosted meetings of anti-slavery campaigners at his home. The exhibition also highlighted a unique collection of mid-19th century papers which provide access to the voices of the enslaved in a slave court in Lagos, West Africa. It also told the stories of two former slaves, Rasselas Morjan and Edward Juba, who came to Leicestershire with their owners. This exhibition toured to various venues in the region, including Abbey Pumping Station, where it coincided with family activities focused on the work of Elizabeth Heyrick.