An exhibition which explored the connections between the Isle of Man and the transatlantic slave trade between 1718 and 1807, as shown in assorted archives. Mounted in the Lower Folklife Gallery at the Manx Museum, the display revealed evidence of Manx captains, officers and crew recorded on slaving ships in the Port of Liverpool muster rolls or in probate records. Documentation shows Manx merchants dealing in ‘Guinea goods’ and investing in trading voyages; also Manx people part-owning or managing plantations in the Americas. The title quote was taken from the memoirs of Manxman Captain Hugh Crow, published posthumously in 1830. Crow wrote, ‘I have viewed the abstraction of slaves from Africa to our colonies as a necessary evil, under existing circumstances’. In July 1807 the last legal slave voyage for an English vessel began from Liverpool. Crow, aboard 'Kitty’s Amelia', took command en route to Bonny.
Bluecoat Display Centre is a contemporary craft and design gallery in Liverpool. The 200 Years: Slavery Now exhibition aimed to draw attention to modern slavery, both within the UK and in the wider international context. It brought together ten artists whose work reflected these concerns, and who were committed to highlighting the existence of slavery today through the creation of artefacts and the development of personal narratives. Materials used included ceramics, mixed media installations and textiles. Some of the themes covered included the exploitation of migrant workers, sex trafficking, 'sweat shop' mass production, and commemorating the Middle Passage and the workers of Manchester's cotton mills. The exhibition was curated by Professor Stephen Dixon, with the support of the Craft and Design Research Centre, MIRIAD, at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Hackney Museum's Abolition 07 exhibition told the story of British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, the resistance to it, and its abolition, and in particular emphasised the involvement of Hackney's residents in the abolition movement. The display included new artwork by Godfried Donkor in collaboration with young Hackney artists. A film of interviews with Hackney residents, Hear My Voice, was produced. Over 1200 children from Hackney Primary Schools took part in poetry workshops at the museum with poets Adisa and Baden Prince. Their poems and responses were published in the booklet 'And Still I Rise'.
The research into Hackney's connections to the transatlantic slave trade continued in 2013-2015 with 'Local Roots / Global Routes', a collaborative project between Hackney Museum and Archives and the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project.
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.
The Bitter Aftertaste project included a range of schools’ workshops, an inter-generational outreach project, and a web-resource exploring the material culture and legacies of the transatlantic slave trade in art and society today. There were also two related exhibitions. For 'From Courage to Freedom', the gallery commissioned three leading visual artists from West Africa - El Anatsui, Romuald Hazoumè and Owusu-Ankomah - to create works to mark the bicentenary. 'Voyages' saw works by four artists - Julien Sinzogan, Tapfuma Gutsa, Pierrot Barra and Gérard Quenum - reflecting on the notion of voyages, in particular the movement of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Middle Passage.
The museum was established by Dr. Charles Wright, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who envisioned an institution to preserve Black history after visiting a memorial to Danish World War II heroes in Denmark. It opened in 1965 as Detroit’s first international Afro-American museum. After expansions in 1978 and 1992, the museum was finally named the Charles H. Wright museum after its founder in 1998. It has since received monetary support from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government sources. The mission statement of the museum is to open minds and change lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture.
Current exhibitions on display in the museum include a large 22,000 square-foot exhibition that examines Ancient and Early Modern African history and the experiences of the enslaved during the Middle Passage, alongside the experiences of those who resisted the horrors of bondage and self-emancipation. Throughout this exhibition, entitled ‘And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture,’ there is a clear emphasis on the efforts of the everyday African American people who built families, businesses, educational institutions, and civic organisations in Detroit, past and present. The museum also offers exhibitions that look at the contributions of African Americans in science and technology, as well as showcasing examples of stained glass art by Samuel A. Hodge.
The museum has a busy events programme that includes community health and fitness programs, as well as lectures and education sessions for both children and adults. There are group tours for all ages, as well as led workshops for pre-school children. All of these workshops aim to highlight the lessons portrayed in the ‘And We Rise’ exhibition, prompting reflection and discussion from visitors.
An exhibition at the Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard explored the role of the Royal Navy squadron established after 1807 to patrol the West African coast and suppress the transatlantic slave trade. Using illustrations, contemporary accounts and original diaries of Royal Navy personnel, the exhibition examined key aspects of the campaign against Atlantic slave traders. It also looked at the Royal Navy's efforts against human trafficking and in the pursuance of humanitarian rights today. There was an accompanying programme of schools workshops and community events. Two specially produced films discussed the legacy of the squadron's work and recreated the abolition debates of the time.
The Cowper & Newton Museum is a very small, local museum managed by a charitable trust and staffed predominantly by volunteers. The museum is situated in Orchard House, the home of poet and author William Cowper between 1768 to 1786. Since it opened in 1900, the museum has focussed on telling the story of Cowper’s life in the thriving Georgian market town of Olney, Buckinghamshire. The museum also examines Cowper's relationship with his friend and neighbour, slave-trader turned ordained priest and abolitionist, Reverend John Newton.
The museum’s mission is for visitors to ‘relive Georgian life in Olney.’ Using items of personal collections relating to both of the museum’s namesakes, the displays bring the house to life in the form of period room settings combined with display cases and interpretive panels. Both Cowper and Newton published writings against the slave trade and corresponded with other abolitionists, including William Wilberforce. The displays provide some context on the slave trade before outlining Cowper and Newton’s involvement in abolition. This is represented through a range of objects including archive material, portraits and furniture both from the museum’s collection, and loaned pieces from Wilberforce House Museum, Hull.
As well as being a theme which runs throughout the whole museum, with Cowper’s ‘The Negro’s Complaint’ on display in the Georgian History Room for instance, there is one particular room on the first floor of the house which focuses predominantly on the slave trade and abolition. Like most of the museums analysed here, the interpretive panels in this display were created using funds made available for the bicentenary in 2007.
An exhibition exploring the connections between the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway and the transatlantic slave trade toured Dumfries Museum, the Stewartry Museum in Kirkcudbright and Stranraer Museum. At each venue, the exhibition was accompanied by displays of material and a lecture. The catalogue of new research to supplement the exhibition by Frances Wilkins set out to correct misunderstandings about the role of people from the region in the transatlantic slave trade, to prove a history of connections independent of Glasgow or anywhere else. Evidence suggests that men from smaller towns such as Dumfries and Kirkcudbright were involved in the transatlantic slave trade as merchants, slave traders or plantation owners. For example, in the late 18th century, plantation supplies were sent from Kirkcudbright to the island of Grenada; the vessels returned with rum, sugar, and cotton wool.
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.
The museum is located on Gorée Island, 3 km off the coast of Senegal. The structure was built in 1776 as a holding centre for Africans waiting to be exported across the Atlantic. It was converted into a museum and memorial in 1962. According to the original curator of the museum, Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye, the island played a pivotal role in the containment and transportation of slaves to America during the transatlantic slave trade. The aim of the museum and memorial is to help its visitors come to terms with the extent of the transatlantic slave trade and the effects of the trade on Africa and its people. It was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1978.
The content of the museum includes murals and artwork showcasing traditional African techniques, and depicting the process of enslavement. There is also a variety of objects such as chains, manacles, and cages which emphasise the brutal nature of slavery. The site itself is accessed via a ferry and the tourism industry of nearby Dakar is linked closely with the island. The key voices addressed within the museum are those of the enslaved; the museum brings visitors into close approximation with the living conditions faced by the enslaved during the transatlantic slave trade. One of the most poignant features is the 'Door of No Return' which is said to be the point where enslaved Africans were boarded onto ships ahead of the Atlantic voyage.
The In Stitches project was led by the African Families Foundation (TAFF) and brought together British, African and African-Caribbean women's quilting groups meeting in London, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham. The In Stitches Quilt, designed by Janice Gunner, included 60 squares of embroidered images, texts and symbols, depicting historic figures, scenes and artefacts associated with the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition. The Quilt used several of the Adinkra symbols from Africa, originally printed on fabrics worn at funerals by the Akan peoples of Ghana. The accompanying work pack was designed to support learning about slavery based on the four themes of the Quilt: Capture, the Middle Passage, Life in the 'New World', and Proscription of Slavery. The Quilt was unveiled at City Hall in London, and then toured to the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (Bristol), Central Library (Liverpool), Soho House (Birmingham), the International Quilt Festival (Birmingham) and Central Library (Manchester).
The International Slavery Museum (ISM) is the first museum in the world to focus specifically on slavery, both historical and modern. Managed by National Musuems Liverpool, it opened to great acclaim in 2007 and has since welcomed over 3.5million visitors. Through its displays and wide-ranging events programme, the ISM aims to tackle ignorance and misunderstanding in today’s society by exploring the lasting impact of the transatlantic slave trade around the world. On entering the ISM, visitors immediately arrive in a space designed to provoke thoughts and discussion- the walls are etched with powerful quotations from historical figures and contemporary activists, many from the African diaspora. There is a display of West African culture, designed to showcase the breadth and depth of African civilisation before the devastation caused by the transatlantic slave trade, which includes examples of textiles, musical instruments and other ethnographic material. The display then goes on to look at the trade itself; the logistics, the processes and who benefitted on one hand, whilst also exploring the experience of the enslaved through multisensory interpretive techniques, including an emotive film of what the Middle Passage may have been like. All of these displays are supported by the rich, local archival collections, drawing on Liverpool’s own history as a prosperous, slave-trading port. Moving forward along a chronological timeline, the exhibition then covers abolition, significantly beginning with the acts of resistance from the enslaved themselves, through to organised abolition movements and then discussing the continued fight for freedom through the post-emancipation then civil rights era, right into the twenty-first century. The lasting legacies of the trade are thoroughly examined, from racism and the under-development of African countries, to the spread of African culture and diverse nature of Liverpool’s communities. A unique feature of the ISM is its ‘Campaign Zone’, opened in 2010, which houses temporary exhibitions just off the main gallery space. These are frequently run in conjunction with campaign organisations and usually focus on aspects of modern slavery, highlighting to visitors that it is very much still a live issue and not one that has been relegated to history. Recent exhibitions in this space have included 'Broken Lives' organised with the Daalit Freedom Network and 'Afro Supa Hero' with artist Jon Daniels.
Situated on the grounds of a nineteenth-century merchant’s house and slave quarters, Kura Hulanda is an anthropological museum that focuses on the cultures of Curacao. Its displays examine a wide range of subjects from the origins of man, the African slave trade, and West African Empires, to Pre-Colombian gold, Mesopotamian relics and Antillean art. The museum is located in the central harbour of Willemstad, where Dutch merchants traded enslaved Africans and commercial goods. Kura Hulanda Museum demonstrates the influence that African and other diverse cultural heritages have had on Curaçaoan and Caribbean societies through time to the present day. It is managed by the Curaçao Tourist Board. The museum's exhibits trace Curaçaoans African roots and the legacy of the slave trade in the region with collections of art and artefacts from West Africa, illustrating the African influences on Caribbean culture. Displays chart African civilisations, the Middle Passage, life on the plantations, abolition and apprenticeship. There is a model of a slave ship, alongside examples of African bronze work, and instruments that showcase the brutal nature of enslavement. Other displays bring the narrative closer to the present day, examining the Civil Rights movement in the USA with panels relating to the Black Panthers, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
La Bouche du Roi was created by artist Romauld Hazoumé, who lives and work in the Republic of Benin, West Africa. The multi-media artwork is named after a place on the coast of Benin from where enslaved Africans were transported. It comprised 304 plastic petrol can 'masks', each representing a person, arranged in the shape of the woodcut of the Liverpool slave ship Brookes. The aroma of tobacco and spices are represented alongside the terrible smells of a slave ship. The artwork was accompanied by a film showing the motorcyclists who transport petrol illegally between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. The cans and motorcyclists are metaphors for modern forms of enslavement and resistance. First exhibited at the British Museum in London, La Bouche du Roi toured to the following venues during 2007-9: Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery, Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, and the Horniman Museum in London.
The Mobee Royal Family Original Slave Relics Museum is a small museum housed in a nineteenth century colonial building. It showcases the role of the local 'Chief Mobee' in the enslavement of local Africans during the transatlantic slave trade, as well as the role of his son (and successor) in abolishing slavery in the area.
The museum houses one exhibition which discusses the arrival of Europeans to the Badagry area and the origins of the trade in human beings. Artefacts highlight the brutal nature of the capture and the enslavement of African people. These include yokes, chains, a mouth lock that presented the captives from speaking, and handcuffs for children. Other objects are examples of trade goods that were received by the Chief in exchange for a supply of people. Text interpretation also provides visitors with information about the terrible conditions faced by the enslaved during the Middle Passage, and images provide representations of life on the plantations.
The museum is often visited as part of a 'Black History Tour' with the former slave market and the Black History Museum.
The Museum of London Docklands houses the Port and River collections of the Museum of London. The aim of these museums is to showcase the growth and development of London, from the Roman era through to the present day. In a period of expansion for the Museum of London, the Museum of London Docklands was opened in 2003 in a Grade I listed warehouse on West India Quay, the historic trading heart of London.
Due to its location in a warehouse which would very likely have stored sugar, and other slave-produced items, the history of the transatlantic slave trade and its impact on London fits well within this space. ‘London, Sugar and Slavery’ was originally produced in 2007 as part of the bicentenary commemorations but has since become a permanent part of the museum. The displays have a local focus, supported through a wide range of objects, and consider the impact of the slave trade on London historically and today.
On entering the gallery visitors are met with a list of ships that traded slaves from the West India Quay- placing them right there in the story. Next there are discussions of the economics of slavery, and indications of how the money made from it changed the city of London forever. The exhibition also includes discussions of resistance, and abolition- centring the movement on the mass movement in the wider population with a case entitled ‘Abolition on the Streets.’ To bring the display up to date there is a discussion of representations of black people in popular culture, with objects including children’s books, film memorabilia, toys and prints, in line with a further piece on racism in London.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy is located in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard. Its aim is, ‘to make accessible to all the story of the Royal Navy and its people from earliest times to the present.’ The museum, housed in a former naval storehouse, receives almost one million visitors per year.
Through five galleries, the museum charts the development of the Royal Navy and the experiences of the people who served in it. In the ‘Sailing Navy’ gallery, visitors can find out about the initial professionalisation of the navy during the eighteenth century. There are exhibits which discuss rations, health, hand-to-hand combat and available honours.
In this gallery, there is also a section of the display which discusses the other roles played by the Royal Navy, in addition to participation in conflict. The most striking exhibit in this section is a diorama model which depicts the use of the Royal Navy in the suppression of the slave trade, after the abolition of 1807. A little-known story in the British antislavery narrative, the model is accompanied by interpretive text which provides some context about the transatlantic slave trade and the campaign to abolish it. In addition, it also goes some way to outlining the prolonged involvement of Britain in eliminating other European slave trading in the years following 1807. While there are no artefacts used in narrating this story, the diorama itself provides a visualisation of the practice of suppression.
This sculpture of the abolitionist Olaudah Equiano was made by London-based sculptor Christy Symington in 2006 to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade, with the intent to further share Equiano's story. It was first exhibited by selection at the Society of Portrait Sculptors 'FACE 2007' annual exhibition. The sculpture portrays Olaudah Equiano’s social standing through his clothing and hairstyle which was unusual for a black man in that time. The continent of Africa is implied by the shape of the back of his shoulders arrived at by chance whilst modelling. Broken shackles and chains are sculpted down the side of the sculpture, prompting his opposition to slavery as an abolitionist and his path to freedom. The Brookes slave ship diagram and an enlarged detail of a single enslaved female figure from the diagram are found on the stem of the sculpture - a reminder that there were women and children on the ships as well as men.
Since 2007, the sculpture has featured in several other exhibitions including a solo 'OLAUDAH EQUIANO MAN AND BROTHER' at the Stephen Lawrence Centre Gallery (2015); 'Black Georgians: The Shock of the Familiar' at the Black Cultural Archives (2016); 'Revelation of the Head' at Messums Wiltshire (2018); 'Untold Stories: A Celebration of Black People in Kent' (2018); Royal Society of Sculptors Members' 'Summer Exhibition' (2018); and Salon d'Automne Paris (2019). There is a bronze edition and in 2017 a black and white duo edition (featured in exhibition 'OLAUDAH EQUIANO in BLACK and WHITE' at SPACE). The bronze sculpture is now in the permanent collections of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool (2017), Royal Museums Greenwich (2018) and Parliament UK (2019).
Photos: Tontxi Vazquez / Sylvain Deleu © Christy Symington MRSS/DACS 2019
The Old Residency Museum is housed in a colonial building, designed in Scotland and shipped to Nigeria during the 1880s. It previously housed the British colonial administration in Nigeria. The museum holds the largest collection of Nigerian documents and artefacts in the world. It focusses on the history of the Calabar and Cross River Regions, as well as slavery, and is managed by the National Commission for Museums.
The first exhibition encountered by visitors on their entry to the museum explores the four centuries of the trade in people that permeated Nigeria and the region. There is a significant display of European items that were used as trade goods in exchange for enslaved Africans. This includes Venetian glass beads, pewter pots, ceramic pots, shaving sets and guns. Other displays include items that illustrate the brutal nature of enslavement, including chains and manacles.
The museum's other exhibition examines the production processes of palm oil, as one of the most important exports to Calabar, after the abolition of the slave trade.