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 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'.
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.
Cambridge University Library held a small exhibition in 2007 showcasing its collections of rare books and manuscripts relating to slavery and abolition. These include records of the Greg family, who owned a sugar plantation in Dominica, and documents relating to slave compensation for the West India colonies. Other records held by the library relate to British Quakers, the abolition campaign, and the persistence of slavery in the 20th century and into the present day.
Inspired by the bicentenary, the Distorted Image exhibition at Hereford Cathedral explored how distorted perceptions throughout history have resulted in prejudice, discrimination and enslavement. Incomplete or misleading images of human beings, who are black or female or in some way considered 'other', have resulted in unjust behaviour against them, particularly in the case of restricted legal and political rights. Alongside the example of slavery, this exhibition also looked at the invariably inferior position of women within church teaching. Distorted Image was part of the ongoing Mappa Mundi and Chained Library exhibition. The Hereford Mappa Mundi is a 13th century map featuring drawings of the history of humankind and the natural world, which records how medieval scholars interpreted the world in spiritual as well as geographical terms.
This small exhibition at Norwich Castle was part of the Norfolk's Hidden Heritage project. It included portraits of Norfolk-based Thomas Fowell Buxton, who was instrumental in the cause for abolition of British colonial slavery, and Amelia Opie, Norwich poet, author and anti-slavery campaigner. The exhibition also featured rare decorative items from the Castle collections relating to the consumption of tea and sugar, and 18th century books loaned by the Norfolk Heritage Centre. An events programme included lunchtime gallery talks and school activities.
The African and African Caribbean Kultural Heritage Initiative (ACKHI) is a not-for-profit Black Afrikan-led community organisation, with the aim is to promote, protect and preserve the history, heritage and culture, of peoples of Black African heritage living or working in Oxfordshire. The Out of Africa programme of events in 2007 included an exhibition of books about slavery and the slave trade, which toured Oxfordshire libraries, and performances of African music and contemporary dance. The ‘Remembering Slavery’ commemorative service was held in Christ Church Cathedral. ‘Connections’ was a research project looking at Oxfordshire’s links to the system of slavery and the slave trade. ‘InTentCity’ was a visual arts project, in partnership with Fusion Arts, bringing together cultural groups, primary schools and artists to transform tents into works of art – one theme addressed was ‘Freedom’. Reflecting the legacy of the system of slavery and the slave trade, ‘Common Threads’ was an exhibition of textile work by the Textiles for Peace group, local women representing multi-cultural Oxfordshire. In ‘Ancestral Souls’, the African Women’s Art Collection (AWAC) collaborated with women of African descent to produce and exhibit 200 dolls to represent the diaspora of African peoples.
An exhibition held in the Special Collections Gallery at the Hartley Library, University of Southampton. The exhibition took a broad view of the subject of transatlantic slavery across the 18th and 19th centuries, featuring accounts of the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, the case for abolition, and contemporary tracts and pamphlets putting forward the arguments for total abolition. Alongside these were discussions of the place of slavery in the economy of the West Indies, and the detail of measures taken by governments, such as that of the first Duke of Wellington in 1828-30, and the work of the third Viscount Palmerston, as Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister. The exhibition also looked at the efforts of the Royal Navy to enforce legislation and treaties against slave trading.
‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother?’, an online exhibition to mark the bicentenary, was launched by the Bodleian Library of African and Commonwealth Studies at Rhodes House. Some of the items were also on view in an exhibition at Rhodes House in April and May 2007. The exhibition included manuscripts and books from the Library, among them the manuscript journal of Rev. James Ramsay, who wrote and worked against slavery after seeing for himself the conditions on board a slave ship while a Royal Navy surgeon. Also exhibited were related artefacts from the collection of Franklin Smith, including a tobacco jar and a clay pipe bowl, both in the shape of the head of a slave (indicating that their owners may have been slave owners), and the late 18th-century engraving of a slave market in the West Indies, published by an anti-slave trade body.
A special display at Tate Britain to mark the bicentenary focused on William Blake and the circle of radical writers and artists associated with the publisher Joseph Johnson in the 1790s and 1800s. Blake's poetry and art protested against mental, physical and economic enslavement and inspired generations of artists, writers and political dissenters. The display was accompanied by a variety of events, including talks, performances and music for adults, families and young people and schools.