By the mid-18th century, Glasgow dominated Britain's tobacco and sugar imports, and the city was also involved in the slave trade. In 2007 Glasgow Built Preservation Trust (GBPT), in partnership with Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance, developed an exhibition linking Glasgow’s built heritage with the slave trade. In September 2007, Glasgow’s Doors Open Day event marked the bicentenary with walks (both guided and by podcast), a pop-up exhibition, and an evening of drama, talks and music. The event was later transformed into a week long ‘built heritage festival’, from which a travelling exhibition and city trail were created by the historian Stephen Mullen.
Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS), which brings together nine Scottish denominations, marked the bicentenary with the Scottish Ecumenical Service to commemorate abolition held in the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre in June 2007. The group also published a leaflet, ‘Slavery and Scotland’. On 25 March 2007, a commemoration walk was organised in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland. The walk started in Musselburgh and ended at the Gardens of Inveresk Lodge, once owned by James Wedderburn, who made his fortune as a slave owner in Jamaica. His son, the Jamaican-born Unitarian radical and anti-slavery advocate Robert Wedderburn, came to Musselburgh in 1795 to visit his father, but did not receive a good welcome.
ACTS also set up Freedom for All, a website project to mark the bicentenary. The website was intended to be a hub of resources and information on the impact of slavery, slave trade and abolition on Scotland.
A’ Adam’s Bairns? is an educational resource pack produced in 2007 by a partnership of the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Development Education Centre (Scotdec). The project explored equality and diversity both past and present, and looked at the attitudes and behaviours which underpinned slavery then and now, such as racism, sectarianism, prejudice and ignorance. The resources and reference materials are aimed at school children and also community and adult learning groups. They made use of material held by the National Library of Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland, and also included contemporary and traditional music produced by Scottish music expert Dr Fred Freeman, including a rendition of 'The Slave's Lament' by Robert Burns. Modules on the programme included slavery, forced movement of people and taking action for change.
An exhibition developed by Cromarty Courthouse Museum in the Scottish Highlands recording the role of Highland Scots in the slave trade and slave plantations of the Caribbean and South America and, in particular, British Guiana. The striking illustrations were by John McNaught. The exhibition told individual stories of Scottish merchants, plantation owners and their slaves, such as a slave called Inverness, bought, sold, exploited and hunted as a runaway by Scots in Demerara. It also looked at the freed slaves who found a place in Scottish society. Connected to this project was the placing of a plaque in the former Royal Northern Infirmary (now the executive office of the University of the Highlands and Islands). It remains one of the few acknowledgements of the use of profits from the slave plantations to fund charitable public institutions, and the only known one in Gaelic.
To mark the bicentenary, the National Trust for Scotland put together a wide-ranging programme of events to engage their audiences with Scottish connections to slavery and abolition. Three National Trust for Scotland properties in the West of Scotland – Culzean Castle, Brodrick Castle and Greenbank House – illustrate the ways in which Scotland was involved in the transatlantic slave trade. A touring exhibition based on this new research was shown at these sites and others in the West of Scotland. The Beckford Collection of furniture, silver and China at Brodrick Castle, on the Isle of Arran, once belonged to William Beckford, owner of several sugar plantations in the West Indies. Scipio Kennedy from ‘Guinea’ lived at Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, from 1710, first as a slave and then as a paid servant. The Allason brothers of Greenbank House were traders in tobacco and slaves. David Livingstone spent much of his life campaigning against the slave trade based in East Africa. His work is remembered at the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre.
The 2007 Learning Programme involved workshops for local community groups and a resource pack for teachers and youth leaders. Events included a celebration of Scottish and African culture at the David Livingstone Centre; a survey and excavation in search of the ex-slave Scipio Kennedy’s home in the grounds of Culzean Castle; and a Commemoration Service arranged in partnership with Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS).
The Our Stories of Slavery events programme ran from May to October 2007, co-ordinated by the Arts Development team at Aberdeen City Council. The project examined all aspects of Aberdeen's links with slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, including the role of Aberdonian landowners as slave owners, as well as the impact of Aberdonians as abolitionists, such as the roles played by James Beattie and James Ramsay.
One focus of the project was on the role of Aberdonian magistrates in kidnapping children from the City and Shire and selling them into indentured service to plantation owners during the 18th century. Peter Williamson, known as 'Indian Peter', was one of up to 700 kidnapped in Aberdeen between 1735 and 1750. The project used his story, with archives at the University of Aberdeen, in a range of activities including storytelling, re-enactments, film making, workshops, creative writing and craft workshops. Kidnapped was a re-enactment set in and around The Tolbooth (Aberdeen's Museum of Civic History). In collaboration with artist Chris Biddlecombe, community knitting circles created 'Cast-offs', exhibited at Aberdeen's Kirk of St Nicholas, whereby an installation of 600 knitted jumpers represented the abducted children.
An exhibition exploring the connections between the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway and the transatlantic slave trade toured Dumfries Museum, the Stewartry Museum in Kirkcudbright and Stranraer Museum. At each venue, the exhibition was accompanied by displays of material and a lecture. The catalogue of new research to supplement the exhibition by Frances Wilkins set out to correct misunderstandings about the role of people from the region in the transatlantic slave trade, to prove a history of connections independent of Glasgow or anywhere else. Evidence suggests that men from smaller towns such as Dumfries and Kirkcudbright were involved in the transatlantic slave trade as merchants, slave traders or plantation owners. For example, in the late 18th century, plantation supplies were sent from Kirkcudbright to the island of Grenada; the vessels returned with rum, sugar, and cotton wool.
This online exhibition and learning resource linking the history of transatlantic slavery to North East Scotland was organised by an Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Bicentenary Committee, including representatives from Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council, the University of Aberdeen, the Robert Gordon University and the African and African-Caribbean communities. It followed on from a service of commemoration and a series of public lectures sponsored by the Committee in 2007. The exhibition logo is inspired by the mythical Sankofa bird, a cultural symbol of the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana in West Africa. Featured here are a number of resources available to download from the North East Story website.
The official publication to mark the bicentenary from One Scotland, the Scottish Executive.
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.
An evening of presentations and music organised by Fife Workers' Educational Association, examining Fife and Scotland's role in the slave trade and abolition, and efforts to end contemporary slavery.
A programme of events to mark the bicentenary was organised by Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association. This included a slavery walk in the footsteps of Robert Wedderburn, a commemoration and thanksgiving service at St John's Church in Edinburgh, and a debate and discussion on the theme 'Trading People - Then and Now'.
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.
Paxton House in Berwickshire was once owned by Ninian Home, the owner of two sugar plantations on the island of Grenada. The Wedderburn Papers, part of the house archives, contain some 2,000 documents relating to the Grenada properties between the 1760s and the 1840s. In 2007, the Paxton Trust began a project to digitise and increase access to all the documents relating to Grenada (including correspondence between Grenada and Paxton, plus documents relating to the plantations and their enslaved workers). A booklet and exhibition was also organised, and links were made with a youth group based in Acton, London, most members of which are of Grenadian descent. The Wedderburn Papers are held at the National Archives of Scotland.