The Museum of London Docklands opened the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery in 2007, and it remains a permanent exhibition. The museum, housed in an old sugar warehouse on London’s West India Dock, retold the narrative of the transatlantic slave trade from the perspective of London, once the fourth largest slaving port in the world. Through personal accounts, film, music, interactive exhibits and over 140 objects, the exhibition looks at the various stages of the transatlantic slave trade, including life and trade on the West India Dock, and conditions for the enslaved on the Middle Passage and the Caribbean plantations. The final section of the gallery focuses on the legacies of the slave trade for British society today. Community collaborations also helped shape the gallery.
The museum also created a walking trail for the local area, highlighting key architectural features and buildings that had a role in the transatlantic slave trade. The Slave Map of London was developed in collaboration with three London museums: the Cuming Museum in Southwark, Bruce Castle Museum in Haringey and Fulham Palace Museum. Users navigated an online map to discover over 100 different locations throughout London which played a part in the transatlantic slave trade and the fight to end it. A schools programme that accompanied the opening of the exhibition included drama performances and workshops. Courses that ran alongside the exhibition in 2007 included ‘Resistance and Achievement: the story of African and Caribbean people in Britain’, in partnership with Middlesex University.
In 2018, the museum reflected on the 10 year anniversary of London, Sugar and Slavery with a workshop to explore the significance of the gallery, with contributions from artists, museum practitioners and emerging artists.
Nsala of Wala with the severed hand and foot of his five year old daughter murdered by ABIR militia. (Anglo-Belgian India Rubber company). Sketch based on a photograph taken by Alice Seeley Harris. This image formed part of the Harris Lantern Slide Collection. Under King Leopold II the Congo Free State used mass forced labour to extract rubber from the jungle for the European market. As consumer demand grew King Leopold II's private army - the Force Publique - used violent means to coerce the population into meeting quotas, including murder, mutilation, rape, village burning, starvation and hostage taking. Alice Seeley Harris and her husband Reverend John H. Harris were missionaries in the Congo Free State from the late 1890s. Alice produced a collection of images documenting the horrific abuses of the African rubber labourers. Her photographs are considered to be an important development in the history of humanitarian campaigning. The images were used in a number of publications. The Harrises also used the photographs to develop the Congo Atrocity Lantern Lecture which toured Britain and the the USA raising awareness of the issue of colonial abuses under King Leopold II's regime.Source: Antislavery International and Panos Pictures.
Nsala of Wala with the severed hand and foot of his five year old daughter murdered by ABIR militia. (Anglo-Belgian India Rubber company). This image formed part of the Harris Lantern Slide Collection. Under King Leopold II the Congo Free State used mass forced labour to extract rubber from the jungle for the European market. As consumer demand grew King Leopold II's private army - the Force Publique - used violent means to coerce the population into meeting quotas, including murder, mutilation, rape, village burning, starvation and hostage taking. Alice Seeley Harris and her husband Reverend John H. Harris were missionaries in the Congo Free State from the late 1890s. Alice produced a collection of images documenting the horrific abuses of the African rubber labourers. Her photographs are considered to be an important development in the history of humanitarian campaigning. The images were used in a number of publications. The Harrises also used the photographs to develop the Congo Atrocity Lantern Lecture which toured Britain and the the USA raising awareness of the issue of colonial abuses under King Leopold II's regime.Source: Antislavery International and Panos Pictures.
Redbridge Museum's exhibition to mark the bicentenary examined the London Borough of Redbridge's connections to the slave trade and abolition. These links included local resident Josiah Child, once Governor of the East India Company, an investor in the Royal African Company and owner of plantations in Jamaica. The Mellish family of Woodford had connections with the West India Docks in London, built for the sugar trade. Alexander Stewart of Woodford owned Jamaican plantations and acted on behalf of owners of enslaved Africans in compensation claims after abolition. The exhibition also examined church records detailing some of the Black residents of Redbridge in the 17th and 18th centuries. Music from the Caribbean island of Dominica was included, as was a series of personal responses to the bicentenary by local residents.
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.
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.
Gallery Oldham 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.
A number of objects from Gallery Oldham's collections were identified as having links to the histories of the slave trade and slavery, focused on the themes of sugar, abolition, the American Civil War and the cotton industry. Two exhibitions also played a role in this trail. 'Cops and Bobbins', exploring Oldham's textile industry, illuminated the links with American slavery in the 19th century. 'Oldham Votes' looked at the significance of the election of 1832, during which slavery and abolition were debated. In collaboration with Touchstones Rochdale, Gallery Oldham also hosted a special day event, 'Slavery - what's it got to do with us?', featuring family activities, debate, and performances of African dance.
The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) 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.
An exhibition and trail at MOSI explored the connections between Manchester’s economic success from the late eighteenth century onwards and its international trade, particularly the cotton trade with the USA, with its associated links to the transatlantic slave trade. Items identified in the collection included an American Civil War patriotic envelope from 1861, which satirised Britain's willingness to ignore the plight of American slaves. Other events included the creation of a series of terracotta figures depicting slaves on a slave ship by artist Annette Cobley. Workshop sessions to accompany this artwork were based on the theme of silence surrounding slavery.
Touchstones Rochdale 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.
Rochdale's connections to slavery were explored though two exhibitions at Touchstones Rochdale, which featured museum trails and family events. 'The Fight to End Slavery: A Local Story' examined the town's role in the struggle to end slavery in North America, including the work of prominent abolitionists from Lancashire. The exhibition also looked at the impact of the Lancashire cotton famine, which occurred as a result of the blockade of southern American ports during the Civil War. 'Linking Threads: Textile Industrialists and the Art Collection' focused on works given to the Rochdale Art Gallery collection by benefactors who had links to the local textile industry, such as Robert Taylor Heape and Richard Heape.
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.
In 2007 English Heritage (now Historic England) commissioned research into the linkages between properties in its care and transatlantic slavery, to coincide with events to commemorate the bicentenary. A report produced by historian Miranda Kaufmann identified 26 properties with some level of connection to slavery or abolition. As a result, more detailed surveys of four sites - Bolsover Castle, Brodsworth Hall, Marble Hill and Northington Grange - were commissioned in 2008, and the findings presented at the 'Slavery and the British Country House: mapping the current research' conference in 2009. The conference was organised by English Heritage in partnership with the University of the West of England, the National Trust and the Economic History Society. Findings were later published in 'Slavery and the British Country House' (2013), edited by Madge Dresser and Andrew Hann. The publication and the 2008 reports are available to download from Historic England's website.
Antislavery International commissioned poster. By foregrounding international currency symbols the image draws attention to the relationship between slavery and capitalism.
An exhibition developed by Cromarty Courthouse Museum in the Scottish Highlands recording the role of Highland Scots in the slave trade and slave plantations of the Caribbean and South America and, in particular, British Guiana. The striking illustrations were by John McNaught. The exhibition told individual stories of Scottish merchants, plantation owners and their slaves, such as a slave called Inverness, bought, sold, exploited and hunted as a runaway by Scots in Demerara. It also looked at the freed slaves who found a place in Scottish society. Connected to this project was the placing of a plaque in the former Royal Northern Infirmary (now the executive office of the University of the Highlands and Islands). It remains one of the few acknowledgements of the use of profits from the slave plantations to fund charitable public institutions, and the only known one in Gaelic.
Penrhyn Castle on the outskirts of Bangor in Wales is owned by the National Trust. In 2007, the bicentenary was marked with a special exhibition and accompanying events exploring the connections between the Castle and the fortune of its former owners, the Pennant family, built on Jamaican sugar from one of the largest estates on the island. The exhibition featured the story of Richard Pennant, 1st Lord Penrhyn, a wealthy merchant and MP for Liverpool who fought against abolition in Parliament. Some of the research was carried out by members of the local community, who were trained in archival research by exploring the Penrhyn Jamaica papers held at Bangor University, which included Richard Pennant's letters as absentee landowner.
The project created links between a local school near the Castle, Banks Road school in Liverpool and Mavisville school in Kingston, Jamaica. All three schools provided art, prose and poetry to the exhibition. Workshops were held for all visiting schools. Accompanying events included art days where a local artist worked with visitors to explore the meaning of landscape painting in the context of slavery; a Caribbean weekend; and a day of activities and workshops with a multi-faith groups of teenagers from Liverpool. A DVD of all the information gathered was given free to schools and libraries.
This exhibition explored the links between industry in the West Midlands and the commercial gains of slavery. Wolverhampton's role as a manufacturer of iron was crucial to the economy of slavery, as implements of restraint and punishment were needed to repress those who fought their enslavement. The exhibition emerged from a collaboration between photographer Vanley Burke and blacksmith Lofty Wright. They re-created 40 cast iron instruments used in the slave trade: forked wooden yokes that controlled captives; irons, muzzles and braces that were used to constrain and as punishment. Each of the metal items was symbolically coated in sugar.
With this exhibition, the RMCA aims to contribute to the highly topical debate concerning the colonial history of Congo and Belgium.
Visitors learn more about this controversial period through little-known objects, works of art, documents, films, and photographs. Filmed interviews with Belgians and Congolese give a voice to the past in a lively confrontation with memories and emotions. Memory of Congo, through specific themes and diverse narratives, revisits this turbulent chapter in history
To mark the bicentenary, the National Trust for Scotland put together a wide-ranging programme of events to engage their audiences with Scottish connections to slavery and abolition. Three National Trust for Scotland properties in the West of Scotland – Culzean Castle, Brodrick Castle and Greenbank House – illustrate the ways in which Scotland was involved in the transatlantic slave trade. A touring exhibition based on this new research was shown at these sites and others in the West of Scotland. The Beckford Collection of furniture, silver and China at Brodrick Castle, on the Isle of Arran, once belonged to William Beckford, owner of several sugar plantations in the West Indies. Scipio Kennedy from ‘Guinea’ lived at Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, from 1710, first as a slave and then as a paid servant. The Allason brothers of Greenbank House were traders in tobacco and slaves. David Livingstone spent much of his life campaigning against the slave trade based in East Africa. His work is remembered at the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre.
The 2007 Learning Programme involved workshops for local community groups and a resource pack for teachers and youth leaders. Events included a celebration of Scottish and African culture at the David Livingstone Centre; a survey and excavation in search of the ex-slave Scipio Kennedy’s home in the grounds of Culzean Castle; and a Commemoration Service arranged in partnership with Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS).
The Whitworth Art Gallery 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.
'Trade and Empire: Remembering Slavery' explored the themes of trade and empire, commerce and collecting, and the impact of the experience of slavery and its legacy. Four invited artists and academics (SuAndi, Kevin Dalton-Johnson, Dr Emma Poulter and Dr Alan Rice) worked with Whitworth curators and learning staff to create the exhibition. It comprised of selections from the Whitworth's collections, contemporary works by Black artists, and objects on loan from Manchester Museum, John Rylands University Library Manchester, Bolton Museums and Archives Service and private collections. Areas of focus included a history of the Benin Bronzes, representations of Black people in British art, photographs of West Africa belonging to Tom Singleton Gardner, and printed textiles designed by Althea McNish. The exhibition was accompanied by a series of community engagement events.
An exhibition at Walsall Museum looked at Walsall's links with the slave trade, the background to the Abolition Act of 1807, and the legacies of slavery. Walsall's metal industry included chain making by local women of Cradley Heath, and the manufacture of guns used to trade for captive Africans. The exhibition was accompanied by a programme of presentations, lectures and workshops, including art sessions with local residents and the artist Pauline Bailey. Part of the wider project featured an online resource 'Abolition WYA' by Walsall Youth Arts, which encouraged young people to explore the topic of slavery and contribute poems, visual arts and music to express their views. Some of the images featured on the site are pictured here.
The official publication produced to mark the bicentenary from the Wales Office.