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.
The 'Slavery Connection' project researched Bexley’s links with the transatlantic slave trade through the London borough's residents and buildings. The exhibition, which included objects from Bexley Museum, aimed to raise the level of understanding in local communities about the history of the slave trade, by highlighting numerous local connections - such as Danson House, once home to the sugar merchant and slave trader Sir John Boyd, while archives of the East Wickham estate reveal evidence of a West African coachman called Scipio. Over a two year period, the travelling exhibition was displayed at 14 sites, including local African Caribbean groups, youth centres, libraries and churches. The launch event at the Bexley African Caribbean Community Association was accompanied by displays of African dancing, drumming and drama. An educational handling box and teachers’ pack were created for use in local schools.
Am I Not a Man and a Brother? was a piece of documentary theatre devised by Reveal Theatre Company in partnership with North Staffordshire Racial Equality Council. It used stories and testimony from the African Caribbean community in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, interwoven with historical and contemporary slave stories. The play was produced by Robert Marsden and Julia Barton. The production was launched at the Stoke-on-Trent Racial Equality Council - where it was performed to the local people who had contributed their stories and was accompanied by a performance by a local Black choir - and then toured to venues in Bristol, London and Liverpool.
‘Bromley’s Hidden History’ was led by Bromley Museum, with assistance from Bromley Local Studies and Archives. A touring exhibition, education pack, programme of events and web resources were produced to highlight Bromley’s connections with slavery and abolition. Bromley slave owners and those with capital invested in the Caribbean were highlighted, alongside the influence of William Pitt (who lived at Holwood House) and his political circle in the abolitionist campaign. Consideration was also given to historical black figures living in the borough, such as the actor Ira Aldridge.
'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.
The Lifeline Expedition began in 2000 as a reconciliation journey linking the European and African nations. The March of the Abolitionists was organised for 2007, aiming to bring an apology for the slave trade (especially the role of the church); to promote understanding of slavery and abolition by engaging with schools and the media; and to remember black and white abolitionists of the past, and of current campaigns. For the first stage in March 2007 (the Meridian Walk), a group of walkers included Africans and descendants of enslaved Africans, while white people from the former slave trading nations wore yokes and chains on their 250-mile journey from Hull to London. In the capital they joined the Walk of Witness at Westminster, led by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The second stage of the march (the Sankofa Walk) linked the former slave ports of London, Liverpool and Bristol in June and July 2007.
This project was the Church of England’s official response to the bicentenary, as CMEAC (established by the Archbishops’ Council) explored the Church’s multi-faceted role in the history of slavery in Britain. Making our Mark focused on connections with local communities, opening access to heritage, and raising awareness of the legacies of slavery. The project had two main strands. The first was a set of regional dialogues – the Bicentenary Hearings – which represented local opportunities for discussion about experiences of slavery, as a way to make new connections between past and present, education and action. The Hearings took place in Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Hull and Southwark in February and March 2007. The second strand was the Walk of Witness, a heritage trail through London on 24 March 2007. Participants included government representatives, leaders in the Church of England, social justice organisations, ecumenical and multi-faith partners, and schools. A pack was produced for schools, including a DVD with footage from the Walk and Hearings.
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.
Gentlemen Slavers was a project to explore the connections between the transatlantic slave trade and the London Borough of Sutton, particularly through the activities of one family – the Taylors of St Kitts. George Taylor, and later his brother John, lived on the Carshalton Park estate, funded by a family fortune made on slave-worked sugar plantations on the islands of St Kitts and Nevis. The project also looked in detail at the story of Samuel Mudian, a black man who worked at Carshalton Park as a butler for George Taylor, and likely a native of St Kitts. The project consisted of an exhibition, booklet, education pack and activity sheets.
A replica of the nineteenth-century slave ship Amistad visited Liverpool, Bristol and London as part of the Atlantic Freedom Tour in 2007-2008. The ship set sail from its home port of New Haven, Connecticut, on a 16-month 14,000 mile transatlantic voyage to retrace the slave industry triangle. The ship stopped at more than a dozen Atlantic ports, including Freetown in Sierra Leone. Students from the UK had the opportunity to join the crew of the schooner – a replica of the original ship commandeered by 53 of its African captives in 1839 – on one of its legs, and transmitted text, images and videos back to the classroom. At each UK port, the ship was open for guided tours. There were also accompanying lectures.
Written by Ghanaian playwright Ama Ata Aidoo, The Dilemma of a Ghost deals with colliding cultures in 21st century Africa. An African-American woman accompanies her Ghanaian husband as he returns home, but the couple are haunted by ghosts of the inheritance of the slave trade. A collaboration between London theatre company Border Crossings and the National Theatre of Ghana, the production used music and dance to celebrate 50 years of Ghana’s independence and 200 years since the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The play was performed in Birmingham, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, London, Plymouth and Slough. The production was was accompanied by a new book from Border Crossings, working in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International. ‘Theatre and Slavery: Ghosts at the Crossroads’ explored the ways in which world theatre responds to key issues in modern society and politics, including the issue of contemporary slavery.
A play by Lonne Elder, 'Splendid Mummer' looks at the life of Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), the goundbreaking 19th century actor. Aldridge overcame racism and prejudice in European theatres to break away from stereotypical comedy roles and become one of the first Black Shakespearean actors. In 2007, the play was presented by CETTIE (a London charity working with schools, libraries, theatres, and community venues), directed by Malcolm Frederick, and starred Shango Baku. It was performed in various venues in London and at The Drum in Birmingham, and was accompanied by a feature exhibition on Aldridge by Positive Steps. 'Splendid Mummer' was produced in collaboration with the Ira Aldridge Bicentenary Project.
A one-act play by Jonathan Payne, 'Slavery' re-tells the personal stories of enslaved Black Americans, using original recordings of interviews conducted by the United States Government's Federal Writers Project in the 1930s. The play brings together a collection of personal testimonials and spirituals (Christian songs created by African slaves in the United States), to explore the consequences of slavery. Presented in 2007 by the cross-cultural London theatre company Tara Arts and directed by Laura Kriefman, the play toured nationally during Black History Month. An Education Resource Pack was produced and drama workshops for schools were held after the performances to explore the issues raised.
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 main aim of the 2007 Bicentenary Cross-Community Forum (2007BCCF) was to facilitate space for dialogue and alliance building in areas of work connected to the legacies of enslavement, related global injustices today and contemporary forms of slavery. The forum was jointly convened by Rendezvous of Victory, Anti-Slavery International and the World Development Movement. The education initiative aimed to assist in discussion and alliance-building on issues arising from the legacies of African Enslavement such as Maangamizi (Afrikan Holocaust) Awareness, Afriphobia, reparations, global injustices today and contemporary forms of enslavement. Open meetings were held in London between 2005 and 2007, and the group produced the 2007 Cross-community e-bulletin three times a year, including comment pieces about the significance of 2007. Task Action Groups were set up, such as the Cross-Community Dialogue Action Group on Education (CCODAGE), jointly hosted by the Council for Education in World Citizenship and the School of Education at Kingston University. A Global Justice Forum was developed out of the 2007BCCF in order to advance work beyond 2007.
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.
A bust of Sir Henry Tate, one of the most prominent philanthropists of the 19th century, is displayed on a plinth in Brixton. A group of young men from the ORIGIN Rites of Passage Programme produced a documentary to investigate Tate's legacy and, in particular, the tensions inherent in his acts of generosity being funded by wealth derived from sugar production. The documentary featured interviews, research, and trips to Tate & Lyle plants and buildings. New Initiatives, a youth and community association, developed ORIGIN as an Africentric rites of passage programme, to support young men of African descent in their transition to adulthood. The project, exhibition and DVD was launched at Brixton Tate Library in October 2010.
The Sites of Memory project was the first research by English Heritage (now Historic England) to provide an overview for the public of the buildings, memorials and grave sites across England that reflects the role of the slave trade in British history, and resistance to it. The project explored the history of Black people in Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries by exploring the stories behind the historic built environment of local streets, buildings and landmarks. The research (by historians Angelina Osborne and S. I. Martin, on behalf of English Heritage) also identified sites associated with the slave trade and plantation wealth, and with the abolitionists who campaigned for an end to slavery. English Heritage also made recommendations for new listings for historic sites that mark the Black presence.
Kenwood House in North London is closely connected to the history of the slave trade through the lives of two of its former inhabitants. Lord Chief Justice Lord Mansfield made a milestone ruling in 1772 towards abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Dido Elizabeth Belle - born to an enslaved mother - is believed to have been Lord Mansfield's illegitimate great-niece. This exhibition by English Heritage, and sponsored by the Friends of Kenwood, explored their relationship, and the social dimensions of the British slave trade intertwined with the history of Kenwood. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to leave a creative literary response. The Wall of Words, a literary mural in the form of a poem inspired by the recorded responses, was created by Beyonder, a multimedia artist and educator.
The Buxton Memorial Fountain was built by Charles Buxton to celebrate the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 and the achievement of his father, the abolitionist Thomas Fowell Buxton, and his associates who led the parliamentary campaign to abolish slavery. The memorial fountain was built in Parliament Square in 1865-6, and re-erected in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, in 1957. Following extensive restoration by The Royal Parks, the memorial was unveiled on 27 March 2007, to mark the bicentenary. The listed monument was also upgraded from Grade II to II* in 2007.