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.
'Freedom and Culture' was a year-long nationwide programme to mark the bicentenary, conceived by Baroness Lola Young of Cultural Brokers (London) and Dr Nima Poowaya-Smith of Alchemy (based in Leeds). In partnership with artists, activists and cultural commentators, the programme explored the dimensions of oppression and freedom around the bicentenary, culminating in a weekend 'celebrating creativity and the African Diaspora' at the Southbank Centre in November 2007. One of several exhibitions that took place as part of the initiative was ‘Crossing the Waters’ at Cartwright Hall in Bradford, which took its central metaphor from the transatlantic slave trade. Almost all the works shown – from Sonia Boyce, Yinka Shonibare and others – were drawn from the permanent collections of Bradford Museums, Galleries and Heritage. The exhibition later toured to the City Gallery, Leicester in 2008.
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'.
The 'Routes to Freedom' season of events took place throughout Autumn 2007 at The Drum, an intercultural arts venue in Birmingham. The programme explored the struggle for social justice and equality in relation to African, Asian and Caribbean communities, and marked two key historical events and their impact: the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and the 60th anniversary of the partition of the Indian subcontinent. The programme was made up of theatre productions, touring exhibitions, film screenings, readings, dance performances and special events, including 'Coolies of the Caribbean' and a conference about Olaudah Equiano.
'Three Continents, One History' was a community project led by the African-Caribbean Millennium Centre (ACMC) to explore the historical links between Birmingham, the transatlantic slave trade and the Caribbean. Research focused on themes such as the region's manufacturing history and its links to slavery, the role of local regiments in keeping order on Caribbean plantations, the African presence in the West Midlands, and the region’s role in the abolitionist movement. The project aimed to examine the contemporary relevance of 1807 and the slave trade to Birmingham’s diverse communities, to contribute to a reshaping of the National Curriculum, to establish a physical archive and an interactive website. The research was shared with the public via weekly broadcasts on New Style Radio (a community radio station housed in ACMC) and simulcasts with Caribbean and African radio stations. Other events included conferences, dramatisations and discussion workshops.
The main aim of the 2007 Bicentenary Cross-Community Forum (2007BCCF) was to facilitate space for dialogue and alliance building in areas of work connected to the legacies of enslavement, related global injustices today and contemporary forms of slavery. The forum was jointly convened by Rendezvous of Victory, Anti-Slavery International and the World Development Movement. The education initiative aimed to assist in discussion and alliance-building on issues arising from the legacies of African Enslavement such as Maangamizi (Afrikan Holocaust) Awareness, Afriphobia, reparations, global injustices today and contemporary forms of enslavement. Open meetings were held in London between 2005 and 2007, and the group produced the 2007 Cross-community e-bulletin three times a year, including comment pieces about the significance of 2007. Task Action Groups were set up, such as the Cross-Community Dialogue Action Group on Education (CCODAGE), jointly hosted by the Council for Education in World Citizenship and the School of Education at Kingston University. A Global Justice Forum was developed out of the 2007BCCF in order to advance work beyond 2007.
The Gloucestershire Set All Free initiative was organised by Churches Together in Gloucester and other organisations to mark the bicentenary. An Events Guide set out some of the events, lectures, film screenings, music festivals and exhibitions taking place in Gloucestershire to remember the horrors of transatlantic slavery, while also making clear the imperative to take action to end modern forms of slavery. There were bicentenary related activities at Gloucester City Museum and Art Gallery and Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum. There were also a number of events at Gloucester Cathedral and local churches, including St Mary's in Wotton-under-Edge. Two exhibitions focused on contemporary slavery were organised by the Anti-Slavery International League. The Guide also includes details of various festivals with a focus on the bicentenary, including the 1 World Festival Freedom 07, the Gloucester International Rhythm and Blues Festival and Cheltenham Music and Literature Festivals.
Leeds-born businessman Richard Oastler was a leading figure in the 19th century campaign to end child slavery in the factories and mills of Yorkshire. The University of Huddersfield Archives, West Yorkshire Archives, Huddersfield Local History Library and Kirklees Museums and Galleries hold significant sources relating to the Huddersfield centred campaign against 'Yorkshire Slavery'. This project devised an exhibition ('The Past and Present of the Slave Trade') and heritage trail, and ran workshops for school children, local societies and youth theatres. A conference was held, and the University of Huddersfield Press later published John A. Hargreaves and E. A. Hilary Haigh, 'Slavery in Yorkshire: Richard Oastler and the campaign against child labour in the Industrial Revolution' (2012).
Uncomfortable Truths at the Victoria and Albert Museum sought to expose how embedded the transatlantic slave trade was within British culture during the 18th and 19th centuries through art and design. A series of five trails - 'Traces of the Trade' - explored the permanent collections on display through the following themes: Consuming the Black Atlantic, Black Servants in British Homes, Britain and the West Indies, Representing Slavery and Abolitionism, Gold and Slaves Transnational Trade Links. An exhibition of contemporary art examined the impact of the legacies of slavery on modern art and design. The Victoria and Albert Museum commissioned new works by Yinka Shonibare, Romauld Hazoume, Julien Sinzogan and Keith Piper. These and other contemporary interventions by a total of 11 artists were displayed throughout the museum. This exhibition later toured to Ferens Art Gallery in Hull.
The 'Truth and Rights' season of events highlighted often untold stories of Black British heroes, including focus on the actor Ira Aldridge. Visitors were also offered discussions, debates, displays and an eight week free art course. A two-day conference, 'From Cane Field to Tea Cup: The Impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on Art and Design' focused on V&A collections took place in February 2007.
The Towards Understanding Slavery: Past and Present initiative by Glasgow City Council aimed to increase understanding of the human effects of the transatlantic slave trade, and explore its impact on Scotland's national heritage and Glasgow's history. A series of events, exhibitions and education programmes ran across the city throughout 2007. These included an exhibition of William Blake's works relating to the idea of slavery at the Burrell Collection, and a photographic exhibition by Graham Fagen, 'Downpresserer', at the Gallery of Modern Art, examining the cultural heritages of Scotland and Jamaica. There was a series of performances and talks at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and events at the People's Palace and Winter Gardens focused on links between Glasgow's tobacco trade and slavery through the family portrait of the 'tobacco lord' John Glassford (there is said to be a figure of a young black man behind Glassford's chair that has been deliberately obscured or painted over). A year-long programme of lectures, schools events and exhibition highlighting the life of African communities in Glasgow took place at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art.
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.