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.
In conjunction with York Theatre Royal, Riding Lights Theatre Company produced a new play written by Murray Watts, directed by Paul Burbridge, with original music by Nigerian musician Ben Okafor. African Snow: Secrets of the trade was originally commissioned by the Church Mission Society, an organisation founded in 1799 by representatives of the abolition movement, including William Wilberforce. The play sought to explore the ideas associated with antislavery and how they can be put to use in the modern day campaign for the end of slavery. Opening at York, the play went on to have a West End Transfer followed by a national tour. The main characters are John Newton, the converted slave-trader who later wrote 'Amazing Grace', and the former slave and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano. The play saw them confronting each other’s differing perspectives, creating a dialogue in which the audience could witness alternative views towards slavery. A 'snow' was a class of ship, commonly used for the transportation of slaves. 'The African' was the first slave ship on which John Newton sailed.
Samuel Ajayi Crowther was Britain's first Black Anglican Bishop. He was born in Yorubaland, part of modern South Western Nigeria. After being enslaved, he was rescued at sea by the Royal Navy and began his missionary education in Sierra Leone. Crowther studied in Islington on two separate occasions: first, at St Mary’s Parochial School, and later, at the Church Missionary Society College on Upper Street. He was ordained at St Mary's Church in Upper Street before returning to Africa to begin his missionary work. His ordination as Bishop was in recognition of the success of his missionary efforts in the Niger region. His life, and connections to the London Borough of Islington, were the subject of this exhibition at Islington Local History Centre.
Southwark Pensioners Centre Black History Group led a project to explore the life of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther. Born in Yorubaland, Nigeria, kidnapped and sold into slavery, Crowther became the Anglican church's first African-born bishop and an influential missionary in West Africa. The Crowther's Journey project involved weekly research and discussion sessions and visits to places of significance, such as the church of St Mary in Islington, where Crowther was ordained. This booklet focuses on the responses and reflections of members of the group on Crowther, his life and his legacy.
Bombay Africans 1850-1910 was exhibited at the Royal Geographical Society as part of the wider ‘Crossing Continents: Connecting Communities’ project, which with community partners aimed to develop new resources to advance the importance of geography. Based on the research of Clifford Pereira and with community consultation partners, Bombay Africans explored the histories of a group of African men who assisted British explorers such as John Hanning Speke, Richard Burton and David Livingstone on mapping expeditions in East Africa in the late 19th century. The name 'Bombay Africans' was given to Africans who had been rescued from the slave ships operating in the Indian Ocean. The exhibition examined the roles of these men in the anti-slavery movement and in Christian organisations like the Church Missionary Society. Focusing on the East Coast of Africa and the slave trade routes in the Indian Ocean, the exhibition also explored enslavement, forced migration, liberation and the African diaspora in the Asian subcontinent.