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.
This online exhibition and learning resource linking the history of transatlantic slavery to North East Scotland was organised by an Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Bicentenary Committee, including representatives from Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council, the University of Aberdeen, the Robert Gordon University and the African and African-Caribbean communities. It followed on from a service of commemoration and a series of public lectures sponsored by the Committee in 2007. The exhibition logo is inspired by the mythical Sankofa bird, a cultural symbol of the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana in West Africa. Featured here are a number of resources available to download from the North East Story website.
Bristol was major trading port for the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century. The city of Bristol marked the bicentenary of the Abolition Act with more than 100 events across the city - exhibitions, plays, debates, talks, concerts - under the umbrella organisation Abolition 200. In January 2007, city leaders signed a declaration of regret for the city's role in the trade. Over the weekend of 24-25 March, bells rang out across the city and a Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation was held at Bristol Cathedral, organised by a partnership of the Cathedral and the Council of Black Churches. 2007 was themed as the Year of Black Achievement, aiming to bring better provision of black heritage resources to schools in Bristol, with a particular focus on black attainment. Over 30 creative community projects were funded by Abolition 200 - including art installations, educational projects and community theatre - to reflect the themes of education, commemoration and legacy.
Featured here are some of the events from Abolition 200.
This exhibition held by the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections at the University of Birmingham included material from the archives of the Church Missionary Society held there, and some of its rare book collections. The accompanying information boards are featured here. The exhibition focused on the role of religion in the abolitionist movement, the power of the African voice in literature, and the role played by Birmingham residents in the anti-slavery campaigns. A booklist on anti-slavery publications held at the library was also produced. The exhibition was part of a University-wide initiative, with additional involvement from academic departments and the Guild of Students. An online exhibition was also produced in collaboration with the Library of the Religious Society of Friends: 'Quakers and the path to abolition in Britain and the colonies'.
Abney Park is a non-denominational cemetery in Stoke Newington, London. The walking tour Abolition Voices from Abney Park was developed to highlight the individuals connected with the abolition of slavery buried there, including the Baptist missionary Reverend Thomas Burchill (associated with Samuel Sharpe and the 'Baptist War' in Jamaica), Reverend Newman Hall and Reverend James Sherman (both associated with abolition in the USA). The grave of Joanna Vassa, daughter of Olaudah Equiano, was identified and restored. The monument to Joanna Vassa was designated Grade II listing by Historic England in 2008 as part of the bicentenary commemorations. There were accompanying talks and school workshops. Abney Park Cemetery Trust was also responsible for the carving of a new memorial stone for the writer Eric Walrond.
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.
The Bicentenary Freedom Flag was displayed alongside an exhibition about Wartime Black History at Manchester Town Hall. The project was a collaboration between staff from Manchester City Council Corporate Services Black Staff Group and pupils of Trinity Church of England School in Manchester. The flag recognised the work, struggles and sacrifices of those who brought the slave trade to an end, and featured images of prominent individuals on the background of the Sierra Leone flag. Those featured on the flag included Toussaint L'Ouverture (General of the Haitian Uprising), the abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, the anti-slavery orator Frederick Douglass, the statue in Barbados of 'Bussa', the unknown slave, guide of the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman, and Joseph Cinque, leader of the Amistad slave ship revolt. The accompanying exhibition included pupils' articles and creative writing. It also examined the history and role of the West India Regiments, British colonial infantry regiments largely recruited amongst freed slaves from North America and slaves purchased in the West Indies.
The official publication from the British Government in response to the bicentenary included a message from Prime Minister Tony Blair. It set out the history of transatlantic slavery and resistance to it, and featured a calendar of upcoming events for 2007 relating to slavery and abolition. The publication also detailed contemporary efforts to end modern slavery. Later in 2007, 'The way forward: bicentenary of the abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807-2007' reflected on some of the commemorative activity that had taken place in Bristol, Hull, Liverpool, London and Greater Manchester. With a foreword by the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the theme of the publication was 'Reflecting on the past, looking to the future' and it linked efforts for the abolition of historical and contemporary slavery. The publication also looked to how to tackle inequality and poverty in the UK, Africa and the Caribbean.
Breaking Chains - Sheffield Civil Rights was a project by Sheffield Galleries and Museum Trust to look at the slave trade and to celebrate Sheffield’s heritage by exploring the role local campaigners played in securing workers' rights. The resources targeted Key Stage 2 pupils. There was a particular focus on the visit to Sheffield by the African abolitionist Olaudah Equiano in 1790. Actor Joe Williams played Equiano in a dramatisation still available to view on the teaching resource. Featured here are some of the downloads available.
A play written and directed by Suzanne Hawkes, 'Breaking the Chain' is a dramatic account of Thomas Clarkson's role in the movement to abolish the slave trade. The abolitionists Olaudah Equiano, Granville Sharp and Joseph and Katherine Plymley are also portrayed in the production. Equiano's accounts of the slave trade from his 'Interesting Narrative' feature as dramatic imagery, and the play also examines infamous events that aided the abolitionist cause, such as the uproar surrounding the case of the slave ship 'Zong' and the decision by its Captain to throw overboard 133 enslaved Africans. In 2007, 'Breaking the Chain' was performed at various venues in Suffolk.
‘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.
Changing Perspectives was a community-based initiative based around the experiences of twenty-five African and Caribbean families from the North-East, to explore how their life in the UK contrasts with the lives of their ancestors. The project created a multimedia archive of cultural responses to celebrate the heritage of these families. This included oral testimonies, creative writing, photography, digital storytelling and art, emerging from a variety of community-led workshops. A series of workshops were held at Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections (pictured), including a session aimed at children and young people, which focused on the experiences of children in the slave trade via extracts from the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. Project outputs included a book, an interactive website, an exhibition of words and pictures of the community, an oral testimony collection, and series of documentary films. A key aim of the project was to promote community cohesion and develop cross cultural awareness and understanding.
Emancipation of the Dispossessed was a local community project exploring the local history of Deptford and the surrounding areas and the connections with the transatlantic slave trade. Community groups and students from Lewisham College worked with theatre educators to research and develop 'Blood Sugar', a promenade performance through the Queen's House, Greenwich. The play, written and directed by John Turner, tells the story of slavery and abolition from a local angle, and the script was built around first-hand and eyewitness accounts, campaign pamphlets and reports to parliament. The project also produced learning resources aimed at Key Stage 3 History and Citizenship.
A guided walk explored Deptford’s links to the history of the transatlantic slave trade, uncovering stories of some of the local people who played an important role in the beginnings of the slave trade or the campaign for its abolition. London was an important slave trading port before Bristol and Liverpool dominated the trade. The trade and British colonies were protected by the Royal Navy, whose ships were built and prepared for voyages at the Royal Dockyards at Deptford.
An exhibition to mark the bicentenary was developed by Enfield Museum Service in partnership with the British Museum and Enfield Racial Equality Council. The exhibition looked at West African culture, the development of the local African community, the links between the transatlantic slave trade and Enfield, wealthy landowners and Quaker abolitionists who lived in the area. Free family days held during school vacations offered traditional Ghanaian story-telling, dancing and drumming, crafts and object handling. Living History Days gave visitors the opportunity to meet actors portraying William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano. School workshops included a drama session and performance about a runaway slave developed from material from Lambeth Archive. The museum service also produced a book, edited by Valerie Munday, which explored further the links between Enfield and the slave trade. The book was sent to all schools in the borough, and formed the basis of a teaching resource aimed at Key Stages 2 and 3. Loan boxes and handling collections provided by the museum service include Ghanaian artefacts and items relating to the slave trade. In 2011, Enfield Racial Equality Council unveiled a plaque to commemorate abolition at the Enfield Civic Centre.
The Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society led a number of commemorative events to mark the bicentenary. In March 2007 an oak tree was planted in the churchyard of St John’s Church Leytonstone. At the ceremony there were a number of speeches, after which community nurse and local campaigner Mrs Zena Edmund-Charles was invited to plant the commemorative tree. There was also an art exhibition at St John's featuring artefacts and mementos of the period. A commemorative ‘Freedom Walk’ was led by local historian Peter Ashan, following a route around Leyton, Leytonstone and Walthamstow. The exhibition was shown again during Black History Month, alongside a video story of Olaudah Equiano.
On Sunday 25 March 2007, a ceremony was held on Cathedral Green in Exeter to mark the bicentenary. Organised by Exeter City Council, the ceremony was attended by members of the public and individuals representing local organisations. Historian Lucy MacKeith examined the links between Devon, the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition. Extracts were read from the Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, and names read aloud of some of the Africans who came to Devon because of the county's connection to the slave trade.
The play 'Albert and the Story of Equiano' was performed at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in October 2007. It told the story of Olaudah Equiano, a leading African figure in the British abolition movement in the 18th century.
In 2007 Westminster City Council supported a programme of events in the libraries, galleries and archives of the area, including films, walks and exhibitions, designed to provide opportunities to learn about the culture of Westminster's communities. Highlights included guided heritage walks with historian S. I. Martin, exhibitions of images from the Royal Geographical Society in Paddington Library, Maida Vale Library and Westminster Reference Library, and film screenings (in partnership with 100 Black Men of London). A partnership between the City of Westminster Archives Centre, Tate Britain, Parliamentary Archives, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery produced a heritage trail 'On the Road to Abolition: Ending the British Slave Trade', which takes in key sites, events and individuals in Westminster relating to the slave trade, between Trafalgar Square and Pimlico. In celebration of Black History Month, Westminster City Council produced a booklet, 'Black History in Westminster', detailing some of the borough's influential Black residents.
Commissioned by 2007's City of London Festival, artist Satch Hoyt created several sculptures made only of sugar. In St Paul's Cathedral, life-sized portraits of influential black figures - including Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho and Mary Seacole - were made of painted sugar cubes. Hoyt also created two slave ships from sugar, displayed at Museum of London Docklands.
The Diasporian Stories Research Group includes writers, historians, educators and performing artists working to uncover Black history associated with Yorkshire. To mark the bicentenary, the group published its first book 'From Africa Baht 'at', exploring links between Yorkshire and the Atlantic trading world. This included influential Black men and women who lived in or visited Yorkshire, and the shipbuilding industry of the Yorkshire coast that supplied ships for slaving voyages. The Fisk Jubilee Singers toured Britain in order to raise money to build a University for African-Americans. One of the singers settled in Yorkshire.
This project was a collaboration between the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes and North Yorkshire Record Office to research people and places of the Yorkshire Dales connected with Africa, the Caribbean and India. 'Hidden History' collected local stories of slave owners and traders, abolitionists, Africans and Asians who moved to the Dales, and others like the actor Ira Aldridge who passed through. The project included various community activities. Working with actor Joe Williams, pupils from the Wensleydale School explored the life of Olaudah Equiano and performed alongside Joe at the exhibition opening. There were drop-in sessions on exploring family history, carnival costume making, talks and music. The exhibition toured to other locations in Yorkshire, including Boroughbridge Library. The Dales Countryside Museum has continued to collect information relating to individuals who were connected with the Yorkshire Dales and the wider world.