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.
The Georgian House was built in around 1790 for a plantation owner and sugar merchant named John Pinney (1740-1818), who settled in Bristol when he left Nevis. Two black servants, one bought as a child, the other born on Pinney’s Nevis plantation, also lived and worked in the house: Pero Jones (c.1753-1793) and Fanny Coker (1767-1820). Fanny had been given her freedom at the age of 11, Pero remained enslaved.
The House was presented to the city in 1937 and Bristol City Council has operated the site as a period-house museum since 1939. Rooms are open to visitors across four floors, and it is divided into life above and below stairs. Life above stairs features rooms such as the Dining Room and Drawing Room across the upper three floors, while life below stairs has the kitchen and housekeeper’s rooms in the basement. Information cards provide details about the objects within the rooms including furniture and paintings, and some information on the people who lived there. It is located in central Bristol near the University and Cathedral.
On the second floor there is a small 2D exhibition, in a room next to the bedroom, giving information on the family, the Nevis plantations, and the black servants. Panels have been present in the room since the 1990s, but they were updated and re-installed in April 2018. A large board features the names of the known enslaved people on the Pinney plantations over 200 odd years, and a graphics panel covers nine topics including Bristol and Slavery, John Pinney, Pero Jones, Fanny Coker, Hard Labour and Resistance. They connect the site, and city, to Transatlantic Slavery, through the stories of individual people.
In addition to this display there are implicit and explicit references to slavery throughout the house. Slavery is included on the introductory board and first information card on John Pinney. There are also objects, particularly downstairs, including a sugar cone in the larder and a newspaper discussing the slave trade on the kitchen table. Further audio and information is planned to be added at the house, which will tell more about the slavery connections of the family and house.
Freedom Park opened in 2006 having been established as a Legacy Project of South Africa’s second democratically-elected president, Thabo Mbeki. Nine sites were established as Legacy Projects, receiving ample state funding as spaces considered priority sites in preserving national history. Freedom Park was conceived as a national memorial, with a central feature being the 'Wall of Names'; a memorial wall displaying the names of people associated with eight ‘struggle’ epochs which the site considers to define South African history. Elsewhere, evidence of the influence of Mbeki’s ‘African renaissance’ philosophy is prominent. Memorial features in the ‘Isivivane’ area include a symbolic burial ground titled ‘Lesaka’, and ‘Lekgotla’, an African meeting place surrounding the trunk of a uMlahlankosi tree.
A museum, named //hapo (‘dream’ in Khoi) opened in 2013, introducing explicitly didactic content to Freedom Park for the first time. Much like the ‘Wall of Names’, this is grouped into eight ‘struggle’ epochs. It weaves an Africanist narrative beginning by positing the continent as the cradle of mankind, and ending by suggesting that Africans can look to the past to solve the problems of the present, many of which it links with European colonisation. Freedom Park operates a substantial educational and visitor tour programme.
Freedom Park is the only museum in South Africa outside the former slave trading epicentre which is now the Western Cape to cover slavery in any detail. Slavery features as an epoch on both the ‘Wall of Names’ and in //hapo. With the former, it is not clear whether the names displayed are actually those of people enslaved in South Africa, as some of the names are more indicative of transatlantic slave naming patterns. In //hapo, the epoch titled ‘Peopling’ details how Europeans viewed Africa as a market for human beings. A number of artefacts – some of which were created for the museum – depict African life prior to the arrival of Europeans, whilst an installation by the Johannesburg-based artist Clive van den Berg portrays departure. Slavery depicted in //hapo therefore is transatlantic slavery, rather than the very different system of slavery evident in South Africa.
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.
Eastside Community Heritage worked with young people from West Ham and Stratford to explore the significance of the bicentenary within the context of their own history in London and in British history more widely. The Road to Freedom project was devised by the young people themselves, who gathered information from the Museum of London Docklands, the National Maritime Museum, the International Slavery Museum and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Their research led to a documentary-drama and an exhibition which toured venues in Newham, accompanied by discussion sessions led by the participants.
The ‘Last Bicentenary Pilgrimage’ trip to Liverpool was organised by the Institute of Black Culture Media and Sport, in partnership with the CarAf Centre, who provide educational, social and cultural activities for disadvantaged parents and young people. Members of the local Camden community were taken on a two-day family learning trip to Liverpool, to mark the end of the bicentenary with a goodbye ceremonial event and a visit to the International Slavery Museum. The event was supported by the London Borough of Camden Council.
Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance (GARA) organised a programme of events for Black History Month in October 2007 with a particular focus on the bicentenary and engaging people in the importance of Black history. GARA were supported by Glasgow City Council Education Services and Culture and Sport Glasgow. Events included talks at the Hunterian Museum, interactive exhibits at the Glasgow Science Centre and film showings, capoeira and African drumming workshops at the Glasgow Film Theatre. Sugar & Spice Sunday on 14 October marked the bicentenary with a festival of commemoration and celebration through films and events. GARA also hosted Black History Tours around Glasgow to explore the city's hidden slavery history.
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.
The National Maritime Museum marked the bicentenary with a range of initiatives and events including a new exhibition, a film season, poetry, music, debates, and new publications. A new permanent gallery opened at the museum in winter 2007 exploring Britain's Atlantic empire. A catalogue of slavery-related images, artefacts and documents from the collections of the museum, 'Representing Slavery', was published. The museum also devised a transatlantic slavery trail around Greenwich.
The National Maritime Museum hosted a number of events throughout 2007. The theme of the weekend 23-25 March was 'And still I rise', marked with a series of activities, performances and discussion. On August 23, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, the ‘Freedom Festival: Contemporary Commemoration’ event saw a programme of creative events and performances exploring themes around the heritage of enslavement. The museum also offered a range of learning experiences based on its collections. For example, in November, a study session, 'Roots of Resistance: Abolition 1807' examined the roots of resistance and the abolition movement through talks by curators and contemporary artists. Activities for families were based on themes of freedom and carnival. 'The Big Conversation 2007' was a programme of debate and showcasing of diverse projects undertaken by students around the country, organised by the Understanding Slavery Initiative and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
An exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in London focused on the experiences of young runaway slaves in Britain. The exhibition focused in particular on the story of Ignatius Sancho, born in 1729 on board a slave ship, who ran away from his owners in Greenwich. Sancho's letters, later published, became an inspiration for those who campaigned for abolition.
In consultation with local community groups, in 2007 the Natural History Museum commissioned new research into its collections that link slavery and the natural world. The research uncovered experiences of enslaved people and the use of plants in their everyday life, as food, medicines and poisons. It also examined the complex relationships between enslaved people and naturalists exploring newly-colonised lands. The museum ran a series of public events, co-hosted by Race on the Agenda, which aimed to bring the historical, scientific and public viewpoints together. It created online educational resources on themes such as Commercial Plants, Everyday Life, Diet and Nutrition, and Resistance. The museum also developed cross-curricular ideas for school lessons in Science using the context of slavery, looking at foods across different cultures, for example.
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.
In 2007 Westminster City Council supported a programme of events in the libraries, galleries and archives of the area, including films, walks and exhibitions, designed to provide opportunities to learn about the culture of Westminster's communities. Highlights included guided heritage walks with historian S. I. Martin, exhibitions of images from the Royal Geographical Society in Paddington Library, Maida Vale Library and Westminster Reference Library, and film screenings (in partnership with 100 Black Men of London). A partnership between the City of Westminster Archives Centre, Tate Britain, Parliamentary Archives, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery produced a heritage trail 'On the Road to Abolition: Ending the British Slave Trade', which takes in key sites, events and individuals in Westminster relating to the slave trade, between Trafalgar Square and Pimlico. In celebration of Black History Month, Westminster City Council produced a booklet, 'Black History in Westminster', detailing some of the borough's influential Black residents.
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 display in the entrance foyer of Guernsey Museum in 2007 explored the island's connections with slavery and the slave trade. Relevant items from the museum's collection included a slave collar and chain from a slaver intercepted by a Guernsey captain on anti-slavery patrols, and a 17th-century portrait of Anne de Beauvoir and a slave child. Guernsey was involved in the transatlantic slave trade via islanders directly involved in the traffic (for example, Thomas Ebworthy of the ship 'Anne Galley'); ships known to be involved, such as the 'African' and the 'Fanny'; and islanders' involvement with the supply of goods or services.
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.
A Giant with One Idea told the story of the anti-slavery campaign through the personal narrative of the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, who was born and raised in Wisbech. The exhibition included an overview of the transatlantic slave trade, major campaigners in the abolition movement, the antislavery campaign after 1807, and details of Clarkson’s travelling chest, which he used to help illustrate the cruelty of the slave trade. The exhibition later travelled to other venues in the area. Accompanying the exhibition was a handling box based on Clarkson’s chest available for schools and community groups, as well as a children’s activity booklet led by the character of Clarkson himself. The museum also supported the publication of a number of books telling the life stories of Thomas Clarkson, and his less well known brother, the naval officer John Clarkson.
Everywhere in Chains was an umbrella project created for the bicentenary commemorations in 2007, by a collaboration between Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, the National Library of Wales, University of Wales, Bangor and CyMAL: Museum Archives and Libraries Wales (part of the Welsh Assembly Government). An exhibition explored Welsh involvement in slavery, especially focusing on the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition, the Black presence in Wales, and legacies of slavery. This was shown at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea from May to November 2007 before touring to Wrexham County Borough Museum. The touring version of the exhibition was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government. The exhibition in Wrexham included discussion of the painting 'A Negro Coachboy', thought to commemorate a black servant of John Meller, owner of the Erddig estate in the 18th century.
Alongside the exhibition, the Everywhere in Chains programme also included lectures, formal learning activities and performances. An educational pack was produced by CyMAL and distributed to every school in Wales in 2009-2010. A community project created a forum in which participants from many cultural backgrounds could voice their ideas about enslavement. The Everywhere in Chains Community Heritage Toolkit captured the learning from this project. The toolkit, launched in 2009, was produced to help individuals, groups and organisations to work with culture and heritage providers to undertake projects focused on the role of Wales in the transatlantic slave trade and issues of modern slavery.
The Hidden Connections exhibition was a result of partnership between the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. The exhibition explored Ulster's links with slavery after 1807 via people, events and places, and looked at both the pro and anti-slavery debates in Northern Ireland. It drew on documents from PRONI’s archives, artefacts from the Ulster Museum and contemporary books and pamphlets from the Linen Hall Library and elsewhere. After its launch at Linen Hall Library, the exhibition toured Northern Ireland, travelling to Down Museum, the Harbour Museum in Derry, Lisburn City Library and the Ulster American Folk Park.
The wider Hidden Connections programme featured workshops exploring archival sources, performances and lectures by leading scholars. There was a panel discussion on ‘Slavery Now’, a walking tour of Belfast sites associated with the slavery issue, and a boat trip on the Lagan focusing on the port’s links with slave colonies. Gerry McLaughlin’s ‘Blood sugar’ is a drama documentary devoted to the literature of slavery, music and song. 'Freedom and Liberty' was the theme of the UK-wide Archives Awareness Event. PRONI organised special events and produced a catalogue, 'Ulster and Slavery', listing the references to slavery to be found in the archive.
A guide to bicentenary activities and events in museums, archives and other venues across the East Midlands - Leicestershire and Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire - was produced by Museums, Libraries and Archives East Midlands and Renaissance East Midlands. These events commemorated local connections to the abolitionist movement and to slavery. For example, Manor House Museum in Kettering produced a loans box containing material on William Knibb, a local abolitionist. Rothwell Arts and Heritage Centre produced an exhibition on the life of Rothwell-born missionary John Smith. Derby City Museums and Gallery worked with an artist and young people to explore Derby's industrial heritage and its links to the slave trade using The Silk Mill, Derby's Museum of Industry and History, as inspiration. Chesterfield Local Studies put together a touring exhibition to explore Derbyshire connections to the slave trade. A community commemorative event organised by Lincolnshire County Council and Lincolnshire African and Caribbean Support Group included a service of remembrance and the release of 200 'Freedom' balloons from Lincoln City Square on 24 March 2007.