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.
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.
The Freedom Performance was a collaboration between Tyne and Wear Museums, Dance City (a dance school in Newcastle), professional artists, performers and community and youth groups from across Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. The performance was inspired by music, dance, literature and objects relating to the slave trade and its legacy.
Hammersmith and Fulham Urban Studies Centre is a voluntary educational organisation which offers opportunities to children and young people to learn about the local urban environment. The online curriculum resource 'Remembering Slavery' aimed to inform teaching and learning about the transatlantic slave trade by tracing the links of people and places in Hammersmith and Fulham to enslavement, the slave trade and its abolition. It explored the lives of enslaved Africans and their descendants, detailing their experiences and contributions in the local area. The resource aimed to encourage teachers to develop a locally-based Black history focus across curriculum programmes. It consisted of resource guides and animated films across four broad time frames: pre-Victorian, Victorians, Britain in the 1930s and 40s, and Britain since 1948.
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.
Two plays, Slave Ship by Amiri Baraka and Land by Edson Burton, were presented in Bristol by Say It Loud, a multicultural arts development organisation. Slave Ship was first performed in the United States in 1967. Land was written especially for the bicentenary project. In conjunction with the project, Say It Loud organised drama workshops on the subject of slavery in Bristol schools.
Slavery Remembrance Day, as designated by UNESCO, took place in Liverpool on 23 August 2007. The day was commemorated with a series of events, marked first by a multi-faith act of worship at Liverpool's Parish Church of St Nicholas. A traditional African libation ceremony, calling on ancestors to bless the event, took place on the city's waterfront at Otterspool Promenade. A programme of music and drama showcased Black culture and heritage around the themes of life in Africa, the Middle Passage and the legacies of transatlantic slavery. The International Slavery Museum at the Albert Dock had its official opening on the same day. The symbol of the day was the Sankofa, a mythical African bird that files forward while looking backward.
Soham Village College partnered with Soham Action 4 Youth (SA4Y) and Soham Museum in a project to record Soham at the Time of the Abolition, to commemorate the bicentenary and celebrate the life of Olaudah Equiano. Equiano, otherwise known as Gustavus Vassa, was the former slave who became an antislavery campaigner in the 18th century. His connection to the Cambridgeshire town of Soham is in his marriage to a local woman, Susannah Cullen, at St Andrew’s Church. Both of his daughters were born and baptised in the town. The research aspect of the project including mapping the town of Soham as it was in the 18th century, the results of which were published in a book by Mac Dowdy. 'Olaudah: The Life Story of Olaudah Equiano' was written by Donna Martin.
Several community events took place during the course of 2007 and 2008, including a re-enactment of Equiano’s wedding at St Andrew's Church in Soham, performed by Soham Village College theatre group Stage Chance, in partnership with Momentum Art’s Untold Stories Arts and Heritage Project. The event also comprised several speakers and performances of African dance and drumming, and the launch of a book by Angelina Osborne about the life of Joanna Vassa, Equiano’s only surviving daughter. A permanent plaque to Olaudah Equiano was unveiled in the church. The project also featured an exhibition of African art and portraits of Equiano by Soham residents and young people.
The Songs of Slavery CD and booklet were produced by a community-based project, led by the Hull and East Riding branch of the Historical Association. The project was part of the Wilberforce 2007 initiative in Hull. Songs of Slavery recorded 19 songs relating to slavery, alongside six short narratives. Most of the songs date from the mid-19th century and were originally composed and sung by enslaved peoples. Some were based on religious beliefs, others also contained coded messages to aid escape and resistance. The Songs of Slavery tracks were sung or narrated by local choirs, singers and musicians, together with students from local schools and colleges.
The Adventures of Ottobah Cugoano is a book written for young readers, written by Marcia Hutchinson and Pete Tidy, and published by Primary Colours as part of the Freedom and Culture 2007 initiative. Ottobah Cugoanao was an African abolitionist, captured in 1770 in Fante (present-day Ghana) and sold into slavery. He was eventually made free and baptized John Stuart in London. Stuart became active in Sons in Africa and through his publications campaigned for abolition. A Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 Teaching Pack was produced to accompany the adventure story, written by Marcia Hutchinson, Pete Tidy and Shazia Azhar, with a foreword by David Lammy MP.
'The Cotton Tree Passage' was a dance theatre production by Koromanti Arts performed at The Drum in Birmingham as part of the Routes to Freedom season. The production depicted the spiritual passage of slavery from Africa to the Caribbean and the UK. A collaboration between 'H' Patten and dance, music, film and visual artists, this piece combined multimedia techniques and contemporary African, Caribbean and urban dance, including African hip-life and Jamaican dancehall.
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.
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum opened in 1983. It was set up by Drs. Elmer and Joanne Martin as a cultural and educational institution that focusses solely on the study and preservation of African American history. It is a unique organisation as it represents the histories it interprets through the use of life size wax figures, presented in historical settings. The museum has several objectives, including to increase interest in African American history, to use inspiring examples from history to motivate young people to achieve, and to improve race relations by dispelling myths of racial inequalities. The museum attracts around 300,000 visitors annually.
The museum features thirty-five installations of 'great blacks' in a range of scenarios. These cover a large temporal and geographic span, beginning with representations of key figures in pre-slavery Africa, through to dioramas of the space race and modern science. The key focus is on black achievement through all sectors of society, including politics, the military, sport and business.
Many of these installations link to the history of slavery in the United States. They examine the Middle Passage and captivity, plantation life and resistance with graphic displays of the instruments of brutality utilised in the system of enslavement. Others depict key characters in African American journeys to freedom including Henry 'Box' Brown and W.E.B. Dubois. The abolition movement is incorporated into the installations with the characters of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. The Underground Railroad is also depicted in a display with Harriet Tubman, amongst others. Many of these dioramas also incorporate models of children.
The displays continue to chart the twentieth century, examining the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, and the Jim Crow Laws. Some of these dioramas illustrate the abhorrent nature of the racial violence that dominated the United States, such as lynching, in graphic detail.
Threads of Strength and Fortitude was an exhibition of a series of textiles by artist Penny Sisto, created as a personal response to the bicentenary. The quilts were shipped over from New Albany, Indiana, and exhibited at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Eight quilts explored the theme of slavery through depictions of servitude, emancipation and the flight to freedom. Pieces on show include 'Slave Ship 1,' which depicts eight enslaved Africans chained by their necks on a slave ship. Another quilt, 'Ran Away', showed a farmer leading Underground Railroad travellers by lantern light. The exhibition was accompanied by an interactive DVD, 'Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage: Men and Women of the Underground Railroad in the Indiana and Kentucky Borderland'. There was also a series of events, including guest lectures and workshops on the subject of the abolition of slavery aimed at school and community groups. Art-based workshops explored the themes of peaceful resistance.
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.
Wilberforce House Museum is one of the world's oldest slavery museums. It opened in 1906 after the building, the house where leading abolitionist William Wilberforce was born, was bought by the Hull Corporation to preserve it for reasons of learning and of civic pride. Initially a local history museum, at the centre of Hull's historic High Street, the collections soon expanded through public donations and, unsurprisingly, these donations focussed heavily on items relating to Wilberforce. Today the museum and its collections are owned by Hull City Council and managed by Hull Culture and Leisure Limited. It forms part of Hull's 'Museums Quarter' alongside museums on transport, local social history and archaeology. In addition to the Wilberforce displays, the museum also features period room settings, silver, furniture and clocks, as well as a gallery exploring the history of the East Yorkshire Regiment.
The galleries at Wilberforce House Museum tell many different stories. An exploration of the history of the house welcomes visitors into the museum, followed by displays about William Wilberforce from his childhood, to his work and his family life. These galleries have examples of costume, books, domestic items and even the 1933 Madame Tussauds wax model of Wilberforce himself. Up the grand cantilever staircase, installed by the Wilberforce family in the 1760s, the displays continue. Here they look at the history of slavery and the origins of the British transatlantic slave trade. One gallery contains items that illustrate the richness of African culture prior to European involvement, dispelling the traditional myth that Africa was empty and uncivilised before the intervention of the Western world. Following that, the exhibition narrative goes on to look at the process of enslavement, the logistics of the trading system, the Middle Passage and slave auctions. Again, a wide range of collections are used to illustrate the informative panels. This is repeated in the displays about plantation life and resistance.
Of course no museum about William Wilberforce would be complete without an exhibition on antislavery and the abolition movement. This is extended with two galleries which look at the legacies of such a campaign in terms of modern slavery and human rights today. There are opportunities in these galleries for visitors to provide their comments and opinions, through several interactives, as well as engage with ideas as to how they can actively participate in today's campaign to end modern slavery.