The Freedom Roads exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery was one of several initiatives led by London Metropolitan Archives to mark the bicentenary. The exhibition featured contemporary photographic portraits of people of African origin whose work has contributed to the continuing struggle for human rights in different fields. Colin Prescod, Shirley Thompson, Eric and Jessica Huntley and Rudolph Walker were amongst the individuals featured. Others like the young people from BEAT (Black Experience Archive Trust) were engaged in a project to find out about significant people in their local community. Each person was photographed with an image of an object or place which has a special significance to them. The other part of the exhibition focused on relevant archival materials held by London Metropolitan Archives, including the South African Bill of Rights and a copy of the Constitution signed by Nelson Mandela, Cyril Ramaphosa, F. W. De Klerk and Roelf Meyer. Other material relating to slavery and abolition included a letter from John Julius, a plantation owner on the island of St. Kitts.
The Greater London Authority produced an Events Guide for Londoners in 2007 detailing some of the initiatives taking place in the capital involving the Mayor. This included Africa Day on Trafalgar Square, celebrating the positive contributions of London's African communities, and 'Rise: London United', an anti-racist music festival. The conference 'Faith Symposium: In God's Name?' at City Hall examined the role of the Church in the transatlantic slave trade. There was also a seminar on the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade from a Caribbean perspective and a Caribbean Publishers Book Fair held at London Metropolitan University. The Dr Eric E. Williams Memorial Lecture Series at City Hall was made available as a webcast.
The Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society led a number of commemorative events to mark the bicentenary. In March 2007 an oak tree was planted in the churchyard of St John’s Church Leytonstone. At the ceremony there were a number of speeches, after which community nurse and local campaigner Mrs Zena Edmund-Charles was invited to plant the commemorative tree. There was also an art exhibition at St John's featuring artefacts and mementos of the period. A commemorative ‘Freedom Walk’ was led by local historian Peter Ashan, following a route around Leyton, Leytonstone and Walthamstow. The exhibition was shown again during Black History Month, alongside a video story of Olaudah Equiano.
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.
Women and Abolition was a collaborative project exploring the role of women in the abolition movement, led by CETTIE (Cultural Exchange Through Theatre in Education) and Yaa Asantewaa Arts and Community Centre. The event in March 2007 included a panel debate, presentations by women activists, poetry and performances of the theatre productions 'Sugar n Spice' and 'Splendid Mummer'.
Southwark Pensioners Centre Black History Group led a project to explore the life of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther. Born in Yorubaland, Nigeria, kidnapped and sold into slavery, Crowther became the Anglican church's first African-born bishop and an influential missionary in West Africa. The Crowther's Journey project involved weekly research and discussion sessions and visits to places of significance, such as the church of St Mary in Islington, where Crowther was ordained. This booklet focuses on the responses and reflections of members of the group on Crowther, his life and his legacy.
The Southwark 2007 & Beyond Steering Group was established to correct perceived misinformation about Britain's role in perpetuating slavery, and to promote education and dialogue on anti-slavery resistance and human rights. The Steering Committee was composed of representatives from Southwark's Afrikan, Afrikan Caribbean and Afro-descendant communities, and the year-long programme of events was funded by Southwark Council. August 2007 was a key month of the commemorative programme, focused on 23 August, the United Nations International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, and the anniversary of the beginning of the Haitian Revolution. A 'Vigil of Remembrance, Resistance and Repairs' included speakers, performances and a libation ceremony. Other events included 'A Bicentennial Dialogue' featuring a keynote address by Dr Joy DeGruy-Leary. The publication 'Abeng Soundings: Abolitionist Landmarks of our Freedom March', co-authored by Esther Stanford of Rendezvous of Victory, provided an overview of the resistance efforts of African freedom fighters against slavery.
The Lambeth and the Abolition programme included debates, historic trails, a video conferencing discussion between people in Brixton, Ghana and Jamaica, Caribbean family history classes, creative writing workshops, and a dedicated series of events within Black History Month. ‘The Runaways’, an original drama about a runaway slave boy and a kitchen maid in London in 1700, was performed in Lambeth primary schools, accompanied by a workshop. The project researched the local historical links to abolition, and famously the activities of the Clapham Sect (William Wilberforce and his associates) who attended Holy Trinity Church in Clapham. A booklet by historian S. I. Martin sets the history of abolition in the larger context, through his study of the African Academy at Clapham, and his mapping of some of the links between Lambeth, Jamaica and West Africa at the beginning of the 19th century.
TimeLine magazine is a lifelong learning project centred on exploring the history and heritage of Hackney through stories, games, interviews and memories. The magazine is distributed free to schools, libraries and healthcare providers. In March 2007 a special issue of TimeLine examined the bicentenary of the Abolition Act 1807, and Hackney connections to abolition. The special issue included a picture story of the life of Olaudah Equiano.
The Croydon Supplementary Education Project (CSEP) offers community-based learning initiatives to Black and Ethnic Minority communities in Croydon. Newsflash: Heritage Chronicles was a range of free interactive intergenerational learning activities for understanding and remembering slavery. The programme included heritage days, heritage walks with historian S. I. Martin, and information and research to dispel myths about Africa before the arrival of the Europeans, such as the featured sheet about the Ghana, Mali and Songhai Empires.
Truth 2007 was an educational and information resource-based initiative that was instigated in Bristol by (Operation) Truth 2007 led by Jendayi Serwah. It became a national coalition of UK-based Pan-African organisations which aimed to raise the awareness of the African perspective on local and national government plans to mark the bicentenary. Truth 2007 featured a series of lectures, debates, interactive workshops and informal social-political gatherings organised by community groups. The Truth 2007 coalition expressed dissatisfaction with much of the terminology and focus of the 'official' commemorations.
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.
Ligali is a Pan-African human rights organisation that challenges the misrepresentation of African people, culture and history in the British media. It produced various responses to promote the African perspective of the 2007 bicentenary, including their 'Declaration of Protest to the 2007 Commemoration' expressing dissatisfaction with much of the terminology and focus of the 'official' commemorations. Their particular focus was on the ‘Maafa’, derived from the Kiswahili word meaning ‘great disaster’, and referring to the ongoing impact of enslavement and colonialism for African peoples. The publication ‘Addressing Maafa denial and slavery apologists’ was a guide to promoting the truth about the Maafa from an Africentric position.
‘Maafa: Truth 2007’ is a documentary film directed by the Ligali founder, Toyin Agbetu, and produced by Ligali’s then head of media affairs, emma pierre. The film confronts some of the myths about British slavery, featuring contributions from community activists, project workers, teachers and the African British business community. The film was screened at various events, including African Remembrance Day at Hackney Town Hall in 2006. Ligali’s ‘Freedom Fighter’ stamps were designed by Emma Pierre-Joseph as a response to the Royal Mail’s publication of six stamps to mark the bicentenary. ‘The Walk’ is a documentary record of Toyin Agbetu’s protests at the service at Westminster Abbey to mark the bicentenary on 27 March 2007.
Abolition Truths was a panel-led talk and Q&A session at Harrow Civic Centre in October 2007, led by a creative arts community group Beyond the Will Smith Challenge (BTWSC). The event had a particular emphasis on the role of African freedom fighters and abolitionists, the Haitian Revolution, and the revolts, campaigns and boycotts leading to the passing of the 1807 Act. The event was interspersed with music and poetry, including a musical piece 'Then to Now' performed by Africanus Britanicus, and featuring HKB Finn & Co, which told the story of slavery and its legacy across the African diaspora. Teenage poet Stefan Testsola performed a poem on the theme of abolition. There was also a presentation of the Professor Allotey Science Prize, awarded to Harrow students of African descent.
Other BTWSC events in November 2007 included a discussion session with Ms Serwah, 'Putting the Abolition & Slavery Into Perspective' at Willesden Green Library, presented in association with Brent Black History Brent Library. 'From The Talking Drums to Rap & Grime' at Tavistock Hall in Harlesden commemorated the Abolition Act through narration and a musical concert.
A programme of events and activities for Black History Month 2007 from Yaa Asantewaa Arts and Community Centre had a particular focus on the bicentenary. The programme included theatre, youth projects and family days. Calypso Fuh So performed special Calypsos to mark the bicentenary, and YAA/Carnival Village organised a commemorative walk to remember ancestors who died in slavery, and the Black presence in Britain. Ritual Theatre Arts created a film celebrating thirty years of African dance in Britain and International Word Power featured performances of poetry, storytelling and song.
In consultation with the Black community in Haringey, the programme for Black History Month 2007 included many events to commemorate the bicentenary of the Abolition Act. Several took place at the Marcus Garvey Library in Tottenham, including poetry writing workshops, African drumming and dance workshops, and an exhibition and presentations led by Anti-Slavery International. There were several events to mark the bicentenary, including by Bedale House Supported Housing Scheme (featuring tenants' video diaries, a short film, poetry and guest speakers) and by Efiba Arts, supported by The Bridge New Deal for Communities. Haringey Council ran a poetry competition on the theme of slavery for young people aged 13-15. The winning entries were published in a pamphlet distributed to schools and libraries in the borough. Historian S. I. Martin led a guided tour of Haringey's places relating to the abolition of the slave trade. There was also a series of seminars by Robin Walker addressing 'Transatlantic Enslavement: What really happened?'.
Breaking the Chains was a community youth-based project by DM Training and Education Services to explore the contributions made to British heritage by people of African and Caribbean descent. Themes covered in the workshops included: Windrush (1945-1950s), Back to my Roots (1960s), Social Uprising and Equality (1970s), the Thatcher Years (1980s), 'Bling' Culture and Raising Aspirations.
The year-long programme of commemorative events from Camden Council was put together in consultation with the 1807-2007 Taskforce of local African and Caribbean community leaders. The key to these events was remembering slavery through the resistance of Africans, their celebration in their liberation and their unity in tackling present-day inequalities. Camden’s 18th and 19th Century Slavery Trail was created around the area. In eight stops, it explored the lives of men and women connected to the slave trade who lived and worked in the London Borough of Camden. The Resistance Film Season, in partnership with the British Museum, explored the legacy of the slave trade through a mixture of contemporary and classic films. Other events also included local exhibitions, poetry readings, debates and talks.
Commissioned by The New Art Gallery Walsall, Unquenchable Spirit was an installation piece, informed by community engagement activities with local people, which included a month long artist residency by the artist Pauline Bailey. The community collaboration project included the local support group ACSERG (African Caribbean Social and Economic Regeneration Group). The piece consists of a circle of whipping posts with neck chains and the names of African tribes on piles of cotton sacks in the centre.
Well Dressing is an ancient custom unique to Derbyshire. Each year, between May and September, hundreds of well dressings are created by volunteers in Derbyshire villages. According to many sources, it developed from a pagan tradition of making sacrifice to the Gods of wells and springs to ensure a continued supply of fresh water. In the Derbyshire tradition, pictures are made for the most part of individual flower petals pressed onto clay covered boards. In 2007, many wells were dressed to mark the bicentenary. Pictured are wells in Ashford-in-the-Water, Belper, Tissington and Wirksworth, photographed by Glyn Williams.