Remembering Slavery 2007 was a regional initiative involving 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, in both historical and modern contexts. The project sought to connect the North East with the slave trade, the plantation economies of the Americas, and the social and political movements for abolition.
Featured here are the 'What's On' guides detailing various initiatives across the region in 2007, plus a selection of postcards from the project.
The Sweet History? project saw the Bristol Architecture Centre work with young people from the Knowle West Media Centre to explore the social and economic impacts of the sugar and slave trades on the built environment heritage of Bristol. Working with local artists and historians, the young people put together the Sweet History? Trail, containing photographs and information about 23 sites in and around Bristol that have links to the sugar and slave trades. The project had a particular focus on using digital technology to develop an interactive website (which included an audio podcast of the trail) to engage youth audiences with the study of heritage buildings.
The 'Slavery Connection' project researched Bexley’s links with the transatlantic slave trade through the London borough's residents and buildings. The exhibition, which included objects from Bexley Museum, aimed to raise the level of understanding in local communities about the history of the slave trade, by highlighting numerous local connections - such as Danson House, once home to the sugar merchant and slave trader Sir John Boyd, while archives of the East Wickham estate reveal evidence of a West African coachman called Scipio. Over a two year period, the travelling exhibition was displayed at 14 sites, including local African Caribbean groups, youth centres, libraries and churches. The launch event at the Bexley African Caribbean Community Association was accompanied by displays of African dancing, drumming and drama. An educational handling box and teachers’ pack were created for use in local schools.
This partnership project, led by Hertfordshire Archives, investigated the links between Hertfordshire people, the slave trade and abolition through stories from original archival documents. Project outcomes included creative workshops, a booklist, a DVD documentary, a heritage trail booklet, and collaboration with the project for the restoration of the Thomas Clarkson monument in Thundridge. The monument was erected in 1879 to mark his involvement in the campaign to abolish slavery. The ceremony to re-dedicate the monument in November 2007 involved pupils from Thundridge Primary School performing a dance that they had developed with arts-led charity Theatre Is….
This exhibition from Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) in collaboration with local communities uncovered Reading’s links with the slave trade, the campaign for its abolition and its aftermath. Exploring Reading’s involvement in historical slavery and the impact on the town’s development, the exhibition focused on, for example, wealthy families in the area, the role of the Royal Berkshires in Caribbean colonies, and the story of Mary Smart, the earliest known Sierra Leonean resident in Reading. The project also sought to raise awareness of modern forms of slavery and injustice. It included workshops, a conference, and a quiz.
‘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.
Human Cargo was a partnership project between Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. The project consisted of two main components. The first was a historical exhibition, which explored the development of the transatlantic slave trade and, in particular, the role of Plymouth as a port, the involvement of the City's dignitaries and the South West's links with the abolition movement. The second part was a contemporary art response to modern forms of slavery and historical legacies, including the flower picking trade, sweatshop labour and the Fair Trade Movement. This work was newly commissioned and included audio visual pieces, installations, hand-printed wallpaper and participatory objects. A variety of events and activities took place alongside the exhibition including education workshops, performances, African music and storytelling activities, and Elizabethan House re-enactment sessions.
Slavery here! was a project hosted by museums across the Tees Valley led by Preston Hall Museum. It featured an interactive exhibition to explore the story of the Tees Valley’s connections with slavery. For example, the town of Stockton-on-Tees had its own Sugar House, a refinery that processed sugar from the Caribbean. The exhibition also looked at the work of local abolitionist campaigners Dr Robert Jackson and Elizabeth Pease, and the impact of contemporary slavery on today's society. Alongside the exhibition at Preston Hall Museum, other special events included workshops on African drumming and culture, object handling, and introductions to Fair Trade products. The project also produced a commemorative quilt (in collaboration with Newtown Community) and a film, ‘Manacles and Money’.
Bath Preservation Trust curated a series of exhibitions across five of their sites, with a focus on ‘unlocking the legacies of the slave trade'. Beckford’s Tower & Museum hosted Big Spenders: The Beckfords and Slavery; displays here and at the Holburne Museum were designed to explore the Beckford family connections to plantations in Jamaica, through objects, paintings and furniture. The Herschel Museum's Slaves to Fashion exhibition, and Number 1 Royal Crescent's Elegance and Exploitation trail looked at how involvement with the slave trade enhanced the luxury of 18th century life in Bath. At the Building of Bath Museum, Selina’s Web revealed the complex attitudes of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who sought to promote the publications of free slaves whilst also being a slave owner. A lecture series ran alongside these exhibitions.
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 Remembering Slavery Archive Mapping and Research Project, led by the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle and assisted by local history groups, uncovered a large amount of archival material in the region’s institutions, exposing many hitherto unknown links between the North East and the slave trade. The participating record offices and libraries were Tyne and Wear Archives Service, the Literary and Philosophical Society Library, the Northumberland Record Office and the Robinson Library’s Special Collections at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. This reassessment of the North East’s involvement in slavery and the slave trade led to new published research, including John Charlton's 'Hidden Chains: the Slavery Business and North East of England 1600-1865'. There was also a lecture programme at the Literary and Philosophical Society, including talks by Professor James Walvin. Several of the project volunteers published essays based on their research in 'North East History 39' (North East Labour History Society, 2008). The North East Slavery and Abolition Group was established among the project volunteers, and further work on slavery and abolition was included in the Society’s North East Popular Politics project (NEPPP), 2010-13. Much of the material found in the 2007 project has been loaded onto the NEPPP database.
This project was the Church of England’s official response to the bicentenary, as CMEAC (established by the Archbishops’ Council) explored the Church’s multi-faceted role in the history of slavery in Britain. Making our Mark focused on connections with local communities, opening access to heritage, and raising awareness of the legacies of slavery. The project had two main strands. The first was a set of regional dialogues – the Bicentenary Hearings – which represented local opportunities for discussion about experiences of slavery, as a way to make new connections between past and present, education and action. The Hearings took place in Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Hull and Southwark in February and March 2007. The second strand was the Walk of Witness, a heritage trail through London on 24 March 2007. Participants included government representatives, leaders in the Church of England, social justice organisations, ecumenical and multi-faith partners, and schools. A pack was produced for schools, including a DVD with footage from the Walk and Hearings.
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.
In the churchyard of St John the Baptist Church, Bishop’s Castle, is an unnamed grave, dedicated to 'I.D., a Native of Africa', who died in 1801. Nothing is known for sure about the individual remembered by this gravestone, but the inscription is one used frequently by abolitionist sympathisers: 'God hath made of one blood all nations of men'. With connections to English Heritage’s ‘Sites of Memory’ project, in 2007 researchers attempted to find out more about the occupant of the grave. Partners in the project included Bishop's Castle Heritage Resource Centre, the parish Church of St John the Baptist and the Community College in Bishop's Castle. The research leaflet was revised and reprinted in 2015, as new evidence came to light about a local family, the Oakeleys, who had an interest in a plantation in Jamaica. Bishop's Castle Heritage Research Centre volunteers continue their research into the identity of ‘ID’ and the reasons they came to Bishop's Castle.
Ties and Lives: Kent and the Slave Trade was a project run by Kent Archives in collaboration with Creative Partnerships Kent and the educational charity Music for Change. It aimed to show how the county’s historic collections could be used by young people to support their education, particularly on contemporary issues. An education pack provided a range of sources, research and information for secondary schools about the abolition of slavery. Music for Change artists visited schools in the county and through performance workshops encouraged students to interpret stories found in the archive and local history collections and explore the impact of the transatlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement on the past lives of Kentish people. There was a particular focus on music and dance originating from the traditions of enslaved peoples.
SCAWDI are a Birmingham based community group specialising in working with local volunteers to research the early presence of Black people in the West Midlands and learn more about their local history. Different projects sought to explore this heritage. ‘In the beginning …’ looked at enslaved Africans who came to the West Midlands to live with wealthy land owners in the area’s stately homes. ‘History Detectives’ took this work further to identify and construct biographies for the black individuals who came to the West Midlands before 1918. The project created a database of almost 200 individuals: the characters explored connect to themes of slavery, class, migration and religion. ‘A day in the life …’ created a black heritage trail detailing the locations attached to these stories.
The Bristol Black Archives Partnership (BBAP) was set up to collect, protect and make available the heritage of Bristol's local black history. The partnership involved communities, heritage organisations and academic organisations coming together to collect and make accessible the archives - films, photographs, documents and objects - that reflected the experience and contribution of black people in Bristol. BBAP aimed to provide learning resources for a better understanding of Bristol's multicultural history: the 'Me, We, Making History' calendars celebrated local black achievers; 'My Legacy Journal' was made available for African-Caribbean people to record their own family identity, history and stories. A Black Bristolians Teaching Pack was produced, alongside a travelling exhibition based on the project's research entitled 'The Black Presence in Bristol - 16th Century to the Present Day'.
As part of the Abolition 200 programme, the Bristol 1807 project set out to explore the lives of ordinary Bristolians in 1807. An exhibition in the Central Library, and a series of touring exhibitions in Bristol's libraries and community centres explored society, culture, trade and travel in 19th century Bristol, a city and port with many ties to transatlantic slavery. The project collaborated with local schools to provide creative art workshops for children around themes of slavery and freedom. There were also 'Treasures in Store' hands-on sessions with rare library artefacts concerned with the period of abolition including books, newspapers and everyday objects. A book emerging from the project, 'Bristol in 1807: Impressions of the City at the Time of Abolition' by Anthony Beeson, was published in 2009.
'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.
DEED (Development Education in Dorset) works within the community to develop understanding of global education and cultural diversity. The charity produced and made available to hire the Dorset's Hidden Histories touring exhibition, which explored 400 years of the stories of people with African and Caribbean heritage across Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole. Many Dorset families were involved in slavery, either owning or trading in African slaves, and Black people were brought to Dorset by slave traders to live as servants in the large country houses. The exhibition, which is still available to borrow, also includes details of African American GIs on Poole Quay, a freed enslaved American living in Bournemouth, and Belle Davis, the African-American singer and dancer who performed in Weymouth in 1917. The organisation worked with Louisa Adjoa Parker, a local poet and black history researcher, to provide creative writing workshops to explore the exhibition. An accompanying booklet, written by Parker, can be purchased from DEED.
Bury Archives and Museum collaborated on an exhibition based on the journals, letters and other papers of John Hutchinson. The Hutchinson family's cotton spinning business had links to slavery in the United States: in 1848, John Hutchinson travelled to America to buy cotton produced by slaves. The exhibition at Bury Art Gallery featured archives, museum objects and paintings that put the papers into a social context. Cotton Threads went on tour to branch libraries, where talks and family workshops explored family histories and the cotton business. Volunteers assisted in conserving, cataloguing and digitising the Hutchinson papers, which were made available online. Primary school pupils took part in workshops held in the exhibition and a resource pack for secondary schools was produced with local teachers (available to download from the Cotton Threads website).