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.
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).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by conflicts over control, extraction and distribution of natural resources such as coltan, diamonds and oil. In this exhibition, photographers Isabel Muñoz, National Photography Award 2016, and Concha Casajús present the struggle of Congolese women in the face of the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. The show is a series of portraits and testimonies of women from Bukavu, in the province of South Kivu, in the east of the country. The exhibition aims to make the situation of these women visible, as well as the violence they suffer. But at the same time, it invites us to reflect on the way in which these women face such suffering, rejecting in many cases the status of victims and trying to survive with dignity. Many have managed to get rid of this stigma and have struggled collectively to become activists and successful women. All a song to those women who have broken the silence and, from mutual support and sorority, have become true heroines of this twenty-first century.
The Wisbech and Fenland Museum is one of the oldest, purpose-built museums in Britain. With its origins dating back to 1835, visitors are welcomed into a real ‘treasure house,' with collections housed in original nineteenth century cases. The museum is free to enter and focusses on local history, housing the vast and varied collection of the town’s literary and museum societies. Using these, the museum presents displays on a range of themes relating to key local industries, wildlife, archaeological finds and important people from the area.
One of these important people is Wisbech-born Thomas Clarkson, and it is through him that the theme of antislavery fills several of the largest cases in the main gallery. Using a combination of personal collections, archive material and objects linked to the wider slave trade (notably whips and a manacle), the museum follows Thomas Clarkson’s contribution to the abolition campaign, both in Britain and abroad. The museum also exhibits the narrative of Thomas’ brother John Clarkson who was instrumental in facilitating the movement of freed-slaves from Nova Scotia, Canada, to Sierra Leone.
This display was developed as a larger, standalone exhibition for the 2007 bicentenary entitled ‘A Giant with One Idea,’ but this was reduced following the end of the commemorations as funding was withdrawn.
Alongside commemorating the passing of the 1807 Abolition Act, the ‘William Wilberforce, Slavery and the East Riding’ exhibition at the Treasure House in Beverley also highlighted Wilberforce’s connections with the East Riding of Yorkshire. The exhibition traced the roots of the Wilberforce family back to the early 13th century, and narrated the story of William Wilberforce’s early life in a family of merchants, and later, his significant contributions to the abolition campaign. It also looked at the other links between the East Riding and slavery, in the family fortunes of the Beverley family and Watt family, founded on ownership of slave plantations, but also the anti-slavery societies established in the region. The exhibition ended by highlighting the plight of the millions of people still enslaved across the world today, and discussed some of the contemporary antislavery efforts.
Wilberforce House Museum re-opened in 2007 after a significant redevelopment. In 1907 the 17th century building, and William Wilberforce’s birthplace and home in Hull’s Old Town, became Britain's first museum of the history of slavery. In 2007, the museum was fully refurbished with new displays. Some of these showcased existing collections, including those relating to the life of their famous patron, the slave trade and plantation life. Other displays engaged with themes considered absent from former interpretations, including the wider abolition movement. Another significant new feature was the inclusion of two galleries relating to modern slavery and human rights. These exhibits drew attention to local and global issues, with objects donated by members of the local community and contemporary antislavery campaign groups.
Wilberforce House Museum is one of the world's oldest slavery museums. It opened in 1906 after the building, the house where leading abolitionist William Wilberforce was born, was bought by the Hull Corporation to preserve it for reasons of learning and of civic pride. Initially a local history museum, at the centre of Hull's historic High Street, the collections soon expanded through public donations and, unsurprisingly, these donations focussed heavily on items relating to Wilberforce. Today the museum and its collections are owned by Hull City Council and managed by Hull Culture and Leisure Limited. It forms part of Hull's 'Museums Quarter' alongside museums on transport, local social history and archaeology. In addition to the Wilberforce displays, the museum also features period room settings, silver, furniture and clocks, as well as a gallery exploring the history of the East Yorkshire Regiment.
The galleries at Wilberforce House Museum tell many different stories. An exploration of the history of the house welcomes visitors into the museum, followed by displays about William Wilberforce from his childhood, to his work and his family life. These galleries have examples of costume, books, domestic items and even the 1933 Madame Tussauds wax model of Wilberforce himself. Up the grand cantilever staircase, installed by the Wilberforce family in the 1760s, the displays continue. Here they look at the history of slavery and the origins of the British transatlantic slave trade. One gallery contains items that illustrate the richness of African culture prior to European involvement, dispelling the traditional myth that Africa was empty and uncivilised before the intervention of the Western world. Following that, the exhibition narrative goes on to look at the process of enslavement, the logistics of the trading system, the Middle Passage and slave auctions. Again, a wide range of collections are used to illustrate the informative panels. This is repeated in the displays about plantation life and resistance.
Of course no museum about William Wilberforce would be complete without an exhibition on antislavery and the abolition movement. This is extended with two galleries which look at the legacies of such a campaign in terms of modern slavery and human rights today. There are opportunities in these galleries for visitors to provide their comments and opinions, through several interactives, as well as engage with ideas as to how they can actively participate in today's campaign to end modern slavery.
An exhibition by the City of Westminster Archives Centre focused on the impact of the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition in Westminster, which drew on the Centre's archives and local studies collections. Links explored included the parish of St Anne's Westminster with St John's Antigua, and the large circle of planters living in Marylebone in the 18th and 19th centuries. The exhibition also documented the lives of the African residents of Westminster during the age of the slave trade. Some of the individuals looked at in the exhibition included James Somerset, Granville Sharp, Ignatius Sancho, Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, and the African activists who styled themselves 'Sons of Africa'.
The Friends of Narberth Museum presented an exhibition which examined the people, places and events in West Wales with links to the transatlantic slave trade and the campaign for abolition. Children from local schools worked with copies of documents and diaries relevant to the Narberth area, and designed their own commemorative plates. Events included a talk on the Underground Railroad and quilting, a children’s writing workshop, and a Deep South supper with music.
The Wedgwood company's founder, Josiah Wedgwood I, had the initial idea for preserving and curating a historical collection in 1774. A public museum dedicated to this purpose first opened in 1906, and moved to its present site in 2008. In 2009 the museum won the Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries. It underwent further redevelopment in 2015/16. The museum's rich collection of ceramics and archive material tell the story of Josiah Wedgwood, his family, and the business he founded over two centuries ago.
The collections at the museum make up one of the most significant single factory accumulations in the world. They contain a range of things from ceramics, archive material and factory equipment, to social history items that help interpret life in Georgian Britain. Key themes explored throughout the galleries include Wedgwood's links to royalty, the influence of nature on his work and his position as a successful entrepreneur.
On display in the museum also are a small collection of objects which relate to Wedgwood's prominent role in the campaign to abolish the British Slave Trade. Here, the display focusses on the production of the well-known antislavery medallion, which bears the 'Am I Not a Man and a Brother?' image. It also highlights Wedgwood's connection to Olaudah Equiano and the influence of proslavery factions in British society during the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
An exhibition by Manchester City Council held at Manchester Town Hall commemorated the contributions of Black service people during World War II. The exhibition also included the Bicentenary Freedom Flag, to mark commemorations of the Abolition Act of 1807. Alongside exploring the efforts of women, West Indian men, and African men in wartime, the exhibition also told the story of the 761st Tank Battalion of the US Army, known as the Black Panthers Tanker Battalion. Primarily made up of African-American soldiers, the squadron was said to be deployed as a public relations effort to maintain support for the war effort from the Black community.
Vergelegen is a wine estate, founded in 1700 and presently owned by Anglo-American subsidy AmFarms. As with the majority of South African wine farms of such a vintage, its early labour force rested on enslavement. Historical interpretation on the estate can be traced to an archaeological dig conducted by a team of academics from the University of Cape Town between 1990 and 1992. At a time of burgeoning scholarly enquiry into Cape slavery, this work excavated the former slave lodge on Vergelgen with the explicit intention of unearthing items which might hint towards the existence of slave culture. A number of personal items including coins and buttons were discovered, whilst the most significant find was of the skeletal remains of an enslaved woman who was affectionately named ‘Flora’ by estate staff.
The results of the archaeological work were displayed in the estate’s foyer together with contextual information. This made Vergelegen probably the first location in South Africa to mount a detailed exhibition relating to Cape slavery. The existence of the archaeological objects can be considered particularly significant, given that few tangible links with Cape slavery exist in museum collections. A second exhibition focussing on Vergelegen’s historical owners was developed several years later in the former manor house, and both exhibitions were subsequently amalgamated prior to being refreshed in 2016.
Presently, the names of people known to have been enslaved on Vergelegen are listed on the wall/ceiling of the first gallery, whilst the origins of enslaved people and their role on the estate are made clear. The objects unearthed during the early 1990s are displayed as tangible links with a past described by text. Additional historical context focuses on wine farming and the early Cape economy, historical estate owners, and notable visitors to Vergelegen.
The museum is housed within Ussher Fort, one of three European forts built in the Accra region of Ghana during the mid-seventeenth century. Developed by Ghana's Ministry of Tourism, with support and funding from UNESCO, the museum opened in 2007.
The museum aims to highlight the history of the transatlantic slave trade in Ghana. Beginning with the development of the trade in human beings, the museum covers the history through to British abolition.
The collection is varied and includes items once used by both captors and victims. There are weapons, African household items and a model of a slave vessel. The museum also contains paintings of several key abolition figures, including William Wilberforce and Harriet Tubman.
This exhibition by photographer Sammy Baloji and anthropologist Filip De Boeck offers an exploration of different urban sites in Congo, through the media of photography and video. Focusing upon the “urban now”, a moment suspended between the broken dreams of a colonial past and the promises of neoliberal futures, the exhibition offers an artistic and ethnographic investigation of what living – and living together – might mean in Congo’s urban worlds.
As elsewhere on the African continent, Congo’s cities increasingly imagine new futures for themselves. Today, these new urban dreams often only manifest themselves in the form of billboards and advertisements for the city to come, inspired by Dubai and other recent hot spots from the Global South. Ironically, the city model they propose invariably gives rise to new geographies of exclusion that often take the form of gated communities and luxury satellite towns designed for a still somewhat hypothetical local upper middle class.
In sharp contrast with these neoliberal imaginings, the current infrastructure of Congo’s cities is of a rather different kind. The built colonial legacy has largely fallen into disrepair. Its functioning is punctuated by constant breakdown, and the city is replete with disconnected fragments, reminders and echoes of a former modernity that continues to exist in a shattered form. These failing material infrastructures greatly impact upon the quality of the city’s social life, and push it to the limit of what is livable. Yet Congo’s urban residents constantly engage in inventing new social spaces to bypass or overcome breakdown, exclusion, poverty and violence. Exploring these spaces, the exhibition captures a more inhabitable and inclusive urban world, where the possibilities of collective action and dreams of a shared future continue to be explored.
Curator: Devrim Bayar
The exhibition is organized in collaboration with and will travel to Galerias Municipais/EGEAC, Lisbon, and The Power Plant, Toronto.
With the support of the Research Fund of KU Leuven and Imane Farès Gallery, Paris.
In collaboration with Kunstenfestivaldesarts & Summer of Photography 2016.
York Castle Museum's Unfair Trade exhibition used the museum's collections to explore slavery from the viewpoint of ordinary people, and how consumption of slave-produced everyday commodities - sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa - contributed to the slave trade. It also looked at the part played by York in the abolition of the slave trade and slavery, with the many Quakers of the city supporting William Wilberforce and helping to finance his election campaign. The exhibition continued the focus on consumption into modern life by asking visitors to consider where the products they buy come from. York Castle Museum features a recreated Victorian street, Kirkgate, with its own newspaper, 'The Kirkgate Examiner'. A special edition was distributed to coincide with the exhibition.
A touring exhibition from Herefordshire Museums, which explored Herefordshire's hidden history of slavery. Local connections include Moccas Court near Hereford, the country house once home to the Cornewall family, owners of a sugar plantation on Grenada at the time of the Grenadian uprising of 1795. Another county connection to the history of slavery is Lady Hawkins' School in Kington, the construction of which was bequeathed in 1632 by the widow of Sir John Hawkins, England's first slave trader. The nineteenth-century poet and abolitionist Elizabeth Barrett Browning also had family connections in Herefordshire. The exhibition was taken on tour around Herefordshire and Warwickshire on a specially commissioned Abolition Bus.
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.
Built on the site of the Black settlement that Rev. Josiah Henson helped found in 1841, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site preserves the settlement where Henson and his wife Nancy lived. The site is situated within 200 acres and was named after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s popular 1852 antislavery novel which featured an enslaved African man named Tom (based on Josiah Henson) as its protagonist. The area of land was purchased in 1841 to establish the Dawn Settlement - a refuge for the many fugitives from slavery who escaped to Canada from the USA. Today thousands of visitors travel to the site every year to learn and understand more about this history. The site includes a number of buildings which originally composed the British-American Institute, an all-ages teacher training and general education manual school. Present day visitors will find examples of a sawmill, smokehouse, and pioneer church, as well as the Henson family cemetery. The house where Josiah Henson and his wife Nancy lived has also been restored to 1850s period fashion. Also located on the site is the Josiah Henson Interpretive Centre which houses a collection of 19th century artefacts relating to the abolitionist era and to Henson himself. Highlights include a rare early edition of Henson’s autobiography and a signed portrait of Queen Victoria presented to him in 1877. Upon arrival at the Interpretive Centre, visitors are guided into the North Star Theatre where they are shown a film titled Father Henson: His Spirit Lives On. A further gallery named Underground Railroad Freedom Gallery displays a narrative of the history of African freedom seekers from initial capture in Africa and enslavement in the United States to freedom in Canada. The site also runs a variety of educational programmes aimed at children and young adults, alongside a popular programme of guided tours.
The Tropenmuseum of World Cultures (direct translation; Museum of the Tropics) is an ethnographic museum, founded in 1864. Housed in one of the 'most impressive buildings in Amsterdam', the museum features eight permanent exhibitions and a series of temporary exhibitions. The key theme of the museum is people, with all of the exhibitions making use of the museum's vast collections of over 150,000 objects, paintings and photographs, to showcase universal human themes, including celebration, mourning and conflict.
In the 'Afterlives of Slavery' exhibition, visitors are confronted with the legacies of slavery and colonialism in contemporary Dutch society. Developed in collaboration with scientists, artists and activists, the exhibition tells the history of slavery with the experiences of the enslaved, and their descendants, at its heart. Video portraits provide the perspectives of four key figures in the contemporary debates about colonial legacies for Dutch black people.
The key link between past and present here is the continuation of inequality and prejudice. Collections, both historic and contemporary, highlight this, as well as illustrating how times have changed. These include testamonies of enslaved people, books, portraits, 'relics of slavery' and examples of African art.
This exhibition and education programme explored connections between transatlantic slavery and the London Borough of Richmond. This included a study of the West Indies connections in Richmond, local residents involved in abolition, and the historical presence of black people in the area. It also examined the slave forts on the coast of Ghana. 'Richmond Voices' introduced local residents who were of African or African-Caribbean descent. The accompanying booklet was written by Valerie Boyes, and produced in collaboration with the Richmond Local History Society.