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.
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.
Manor House Museum in Kettering, in collaboration with local community groups, produced a touring exhibition which explored Kettering's involvement with the anti-slave-trade movement and issues of modern day slavery. The museum focused in particular on the life of William Knibb (1803-1845), a missionary from Kettering who taught slaves in Jamaica in the 1820s against the will of local slave owners and toured Britain speaking out against slavery. The museum produced a loans box containing material relating to Knibb and continues to have a permanent display dedicated to the missionary.
The African American Museum of Iowa was founded by a small group of members of the Mt. Zion missionary Baptist church in Cedar Rapids in 1993. The museum was closed for a year during flooding, reopening in 2009. It attempts to preserve, exhibit, and teach the African American heritage of Iowa. The museum aims to examine Iowa’s African American history, from the transatlantic slave trade until Civil Rights. The museum also offers traveling exhibits available for to rent for two weeks at a small cost. It is heavily funded by donations.
The permanent exhibits at the museum are concerned with tracing Iowa’s African American history, from its origins in western Africa to the present, through slavery, the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. There is also a rolling programme of temporary exhibitions on a range of themes including, art and social history. Group tours are offered for adults. These last around 45 minutes and provide additional stories, contexts, and insight into the workings of the museum throughout the tour. For younger people the museum runs field trips and hands-on workshops offering age-appropriate lessons covering local African American history and culture. There is also an online collection which includes archives, photos, library items, and oral histories.
This sculpture of the abolitionist Olaudah Equiano was made by London-based sculptor Christy Symington in 2006 to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade, with the intent to further share Equiano's story. It was first exhibited by selection at the Society of Portrait Sculptors 'FACE 2007' annual exhibition. The sculpture portrays Olaudah Equiano’s social standing through his clothing and hairstyle which was unusual for a black man in that time. The continent of Africa is implied by the shape of the back of his shoulders arrived at by chance whilst modelling. Broken shackles and chains are sculpted down the side of the sculpture, prompting his opposition to slavery as an abolitionist and his path to freedom. The Brookes slave ship diagram and an enlarged detail of a single enslaved female figure from the diagram are found on the stem of the sculpture - a reminder that there were women and children on the ships as well as men.
Since 2007, the sculpture has featured in several other exhibitions including 'OLAUDAH EQUIANO MAN AND BROTHER' at the Stephen Lawrence Centre Gallery (2015); 'Black Georgians: The Shock of the Familiar' at the Black Cultural Archives (2016); 'Revelation of the Head' at Messums Wiltshire (2018); 'Untold Stories: A Celebration of Black People in Kent' (2018); and Royal Society of Sculptors Members' 'Summer Exhibition' (2018). There is a bronze edition and in 2017 a black and white duo edition (featured in exhibition 'OLAUDAH EQUIANO in BLACK and WHITE' at SPACE). The sculpture is now part of the permanent collection of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool and Royal Museums Greenwich.
Photos: Tontxi Vazquez / Sylvain Deleu © Christy Symington MRSS/DACS 2019
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre opened in August 2004 and has since strived to tell the stories of those who have fought for freedom from the Underground Railway to the present day in the hope of challenging people’s ideas about inclusivity and freedom. The museum also aims to encourage and inspire people to promote and work towards freedom. Its position next to the Ohio River is a poignant reminder of its purpose as this river separated the southern slave states from the free states of the North. The National Underground Freedom Centre examines America’s heritage alongside discussions of contemporary slavery and human trafficking. It also forms part of a group of 'Museums of Conscience' alongside three others across the United States, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre reveals stories about freedom’s heroes: the men, women and children who challenge inequities to pursue greater freedom for their brothers and sisters. Through a series of rolling ‘special exhibitions’ and its vast collections displayed in several permanent exhibition spaces, the museum highlights the long history of enslavement in America, and its continuing legacy in the modern world.
The centre's most significant artifact is an original slave pen (or prison) originally built in 1830, and thought to be the only surviving example in the world. Visitors can walk through the pen and see some of the names of the people who were once held there. Alongside the pen, which is housed in its own exhibition space on the museum's second floor, there is a permanent exhibition, 'From Slavery to Freedom.' This exhibition covers three hundred years of slavery from its introduction to the Americas to its abolition. 'From Slavery to Freedom' is funded by the Oprah Winfrey Foundation and features a range of collections, including artefacts, archaeological specimens and paintings.
The centre also houses the 'world's first museum-quality, permanent exhibition on the subjects of modern-day slavery and human trafficking'; 'Invisible: Slavery Today' uses the experiences of five individuals who have been caught up in different forms of contemporary slavery and exploitation to highlight the issue in the modern world, as well as including examples of modern antislavery work around the world.
The centre also contains examples of interactive exhibits, with films, hands-on activities and live gallery talks, aimed at providing their visitors with a multi-sensory experience.
The Barbados Museum and Historical Society was founded in 1933. It is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation which aims to collect, preserve and interpret Barbadian heritage for its communities. Housed in a former prison, the museum now holds a collection of around half a million objects, dating from prehistory to today, as well as a significant archive.
The museum's permanent galleries explore the history of Barbados and its people through a range of different themes, including social, natural and military history. Colonialism and slavery feature as key themes in several of these galleries. In the Jubilee Gallery, which contains items relating to social history, the exhibition narrative charts four thousand years of Barbadian history. This includes the development of Barbados into a plantation society, life for the enslaved on those plantations and their lives post-emancipation. The Charles A. Robertson African Gallery also reflects on the legacies of slavery with regards to the African diaspora and its heritage within the Caribbean. Here the focus is on the processes of the slave trade, particularly the forced movement of people to the island. Objects in this exhibition reflect different African kingdoms, traditional customs and the diversity of African people.
In addition to its permanent exhibitions the museum also offers a range of learning opportunities relating to the history of slavery in the area. From educational island tours, to school visits and a programme of public events, the museum caters for a wide range of audiences.
The Hanover Museum dates back to the eighteenth century, and is housed in a former slave prison. It was redeveloped in 2011 and now stands as an important symbol of resistance to the people of Jamaica. Situated in the small town of Lucea, between Montego Bay and Negril, the museum sits within a wider landscape of Georgian colonial architecture. Other buildings of historical significance include the nearby church and Fort Charlotte.
The museum houses a varied collection charting the development of the town from the period of plantation slavery to Jamaican independence from British rule. There are paintings, pottery and other artefacts that showcase what life was like for the enslaved. There are also instruments, including stocks, whips and shackles, that highlight the brutal nature of enslavement. In addition, the museum houses a significant collection of archival material, including plantation records and accounts, as well as an early, hand-drawn map of the harbour and surrounding area by Captain William Bligh.
The American Museum in Britain is housed in a manor house, built in 1820 by English architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville. It is the only museum of Americana outside the USA and was founded to 'bring American history and cultures to the people of Britain and Europe'. It uses a rich collection of folk and decorative arts to interpret these traditions from America's early settlers to the twentieth century. Living history events bring these stories to life, in addition to changing temporary exhibitions which keep the narrative up to date. The museum opened to the public in 1961 as the brainchild of two antiques dealers.
The museum's collections are a rich source of furniture, portraiture and textiles from America, displayed thematically within period rooms acting as gallery spaces. The 'American Heritage' exhibition, charting the history of America through the narration of key events and people dominates a large proportion of this space. Key collections highlights in this exhibition include Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech and a range of treasures from New Mexico.
Also contained within the 'American Heritage' exhibition is a small display about slavery and abolition in America. The main focal point of this display is a quilt made by enslaved people on a plantation in Texas. Other themes addressed here include the Underground Railroad, prominent abolitionists and the importance of the Civil War in the eventual abolition of slavery.
Durham Record Office held an exhibition of its original documents relating to slavery, the slave trade and abolition. These include reports, maps, and a number of letters, from, for example, Sir John Shaw Lefevre (Under Secretary for the Colonies in 1833), the abolitionist James Stephen and the prominent Quaker activist Josiah Forster. The exhibition was displayed in the Record Office and toured several venues in the region. It was also used for inspiration by members of Jackass Youth Theatre, who produced the play Sharp Practice after visiting the Record Office and consulting some of the original documents on display.
The Sticks and Stones Project was led by Northamptonshire Record Office and Northamptonshire Black History Association. A group of students from Kingsthorpe Community College investigated slavery past and present, through historical workshops and a trip to the Houses of Parliament. The focus was on the history of slavery but also learning about forms of modern slavery such as sweatshop labour and trafficking. The students produced a short film and an exhibition to highlight the issues important to young people.
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.
Easton Lodge is a historic estate in Essex, with gardens open to the public. The Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Trust led two projects to mark the bicentenary. Liberation Song involved three local schools working with Grand Union Orchestra to explore the roots of musical instruments and styles, culminating in a community concert. A visual arts project involving seven local schools examined the history of Easton Lodge and trading links during the 18th century. Children decorated and displayed cotton reusable carrier bags and displayed them on yew hedges in the gardens. Connections were made with the story of the 18th century Ghanaian anti-slavery campaigner Ottobah Cugoano and the modern day Fair trade movement.
Commissioned by 2007's City of London Festival, artist Satch Hoyt created several sculptures made only of sugar. In St Paul's Cathedral, life-sized portraits of influential black figures - including Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho and Mary Seacole - were made of painted sugar cubes. Hoyt also created two slave ships from sugar, displayed at Museum of London Docklands.
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.
The Cowper and Newton Museum is located in Olney, Buckinghamshire, in the building that was once the home of the 18th century poet William Cowper. The Reverend John Newton - formerly master of a slave ship - was Cowper's great friend, and wrote the abolitionist hymn 'Amazing Grace' in collaboration with Cowper whilst living in Olney. The museum's exhibition From Slave Trade to Fair Trade involved a reinterpretation of the museum's collections relating to slavery and abolition. The wider project also included a number of events and community engagement activities, in partnership with Milton Keynes Local Authority, Global Education Milton Keynes (GEMK), the charity World Vision and Culture Milton Keynes. Local black and minority ethnic groups worked with the museum on performances of poetry and readings associated with slavery. A touring display about John Newton and the transatlantic slave trade was shown in various schools, libraries and other locations in Milton Keynes throughout 2007. In April that year, the museum commemorated the bicentenary of the Abolition Act and the death of John Newton with a weekend of talks, tours, church services and a concert from the Todd Murray Group choir.
A day of activities to mark the bicentenary was held in November 2007 at Forest Gate Youth Zone, a young people's drop-in centre in the London Borough of Newham. The day included an exhibition, workshops and performances.
A Journey In History: Slavery And Its Abolition was an exhibition presented by Watford African Caribbean Society to mark the bicentenary of the Abolition Act. The exhibition was launched at Watford Museum's Space2 gallery in 2007. Photographs of the launch are available on Watford Museum's website.
In this website and Key Stage 3 Resource Pack, the City of London Festival examined the work of the Afro-European violinist George Bridgetower (1778-1860) and, in particular, his relationship with the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. The resource also explored the role of other artists, writers and musicians who were active at the same time as Bridgetower, with a special focus on their relationships to the anti-slavery movement. The website provided music, video clips and worksheets, alongside an interview with Julian Joseph, composer of the jazz opera Bridgetower - A Fable of 1807, toured by English Touring Opera. The resource was part of a broader education project developed by City of London Festival, which included the exhibition, 1807: The Life and Times of George Polgreen Bridgetower, held in the walkways of London's Tower Bridge. The education project also included storytelling, music and creative writing workshops in secondary schools.
2007 saw a number of different projects taking place at Harewood House in West Yorkshire, home of the Lascelles family. The bicentenary was used as an opportunity to explore the family connections with the transatlantic slave trade and the sugar plantations of the West Indies.
As part of a newly developed Learning Programme, leaflets were produced setting out the family connections to Barbados. 2007 also marked the bicentenary of the Yorkshire election in 1807 contested by William Wilberforce, Henry Lascelles (later 2nd Earl of Harewood) and Lord Milton. Competition between the candidates was fierce, based on issues such as Catholic Emancipation, poverty, workers' rights and abolition of the slave trade.