Remembering Slavery 2007 was a regional initiative involving 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, in both historical and modern contexts. The project sought to connect the North East with the slave trade, the plantation economies of the Americas, and the social and political movements for abolition.
Featured here are the 'What's On' guides detailing various initiatives across the region in 2007, plus a selection of postcards from the project.
The world's oldest human rights organisation, Anti-Slavery International, led several initiatives in response to the bicentenary. The Fight for Freedom 1807-2007 Campaign, launched in 2005, called for measures to address the continuing legacies of the slave trade. The publication '1807-2007: Over 200 years of campaigning against slavery' looked back at the work of Anti-Slavery International and its predecessor organisations. The Spotlight on Slavery series of exhibitions and events included debates, lectures, film screenings and photography exhibitions. Anti-Slavery International also collaborated with a number of other organisations and projects in 2007, including Rendezvous of Victory and Set All Free, and contributed exhibition material to various exhibitions around the UK, including the Remembering Slavery exhibition at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.
This collaborative community initiative celebrated African and Caribbean culture in Leeds, with a focus on commemorating the Abolition Act by 'highlighting African achievement, liberation and aspirations'. New exhibitions, publications and resources were produced and over 100 bicentenary events organised under different themes: Education and Museums; Arts and Carnival Culture; Churches and Abolition; Legacy; Black History and Community Development; Media and Communications. Highlights included the photographic exhibition and pamphlet 'From Abolition to Commonwealth', which remembered indentured labour in Africa and the Caribbean after 1807, and the 40th anniversary of Leeds West Indian Carnival, with themes that highlighted heritage, liberation, respect and freedom. Project outputs included an education pack, black history classes, concerts, church services, lectures and performances.
The Gas Hall at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery was host to a biographical exhibition of the life and adventures of Olaudah Equiano, a leading African figure in the British abolition movement in the 18th century. The project was led by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Equiano Society. The national exhibition was inspired by Equiano's autobiography 'The Interesting Narrative' (1789), by international and national artworks, and objects from Birmingham museums’ collections. It provided a narrative of Equiano’s life, and also explored wider local links between the West Midlands and the transatlantic slave trade. The Equiano Project also created a website, educational packages (available to buy via the project website), and a series of events and outreach activities. The exhibition publication 'Equiano - Enslavement, Resistance and Abolition' was edited by Arthur Torrington, Rita McLean, Victoria Osborne and Ian Grosvenor, and provided new insights into enslavement, resistance, abolition, and the African presence in Britain in the 18th century. Two touring exhibitions were loaned to community centres, libraries and other venues, including Walsall Museum, Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association and the Hudawi Cultural Centre in Huddersfield.
The Manchester Museum was one of eight heritage bodies in the ‘Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery’ partnership in Greater Manchester. The project set out to explore the history, impact and legacy of slavery on Britain through collections and community links in the North West.
The Manchester Museum examined the role of Victorian institutions in promoting the racist thinking that justified slavery; objects and images in the museum's collections were identified as having been used to support racist ideas. Events and workshops included a debate based on the question 'Are museums racist?', plus sessions on African dance traditions. 'This Accursed Thing' was a promenade performance around the museum, examining the transatlantic slave trade through the eyes of those involved - abolitionists and traders, slavers and slaves - and looking at ways in which individuals attempted to dispel racist myths. The 'Myths about Race' exhibition was the culmination of Manchester Museum's participation in the Revealing Histories project.
The Gloucestershire Set All Free initiative was organised by Churches Together in Gloucester and other organisations to mark the bicentenary. An Events Guide set out some of the events, lectures, film screenings, music festivals and exhibitions taking place in Gloucestershire to remember the horrors of transatlantic slavery, while also making clear the imperative to take action to end modern forms of slavery. There were bicentenary related activities at Gloucester City Museum and Art Gallery and Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum. There were also a number of events at Gloucester Cathedral and local churches, including St Mary's in Wotton-under-Edge. Two exhibitions focused on contemporary slavery were organised by the Anti-Slavery International League. The Guide also includes details of various festivals with a focus on the bicentenary, including the 1 World Festival Freedom 07, the Gloucester International Rhythm and Blues Festival and Cheltenham Music and Literature Festivals.
Wilberforce 2007 was a year-long programme of events from Hull City Council, commemorating the bicentenary and celebrating the city's diverse communities. The programme, named after 'son of Hull' William Wilberforce MP, was based around the themes of Pride, Freedom, Belief and Change. In partnership with Anti-Slavery International, Hull promoted the Fight for Freedom Petition against modern day slavery. The Wilberforce Lecture Trust held five specially commissioned lectures. The Wilberforce Weekender in July 2007 was a weekend of public events, including the Wilberforce Clipper Challenge Cup, Sankofa Sunsplash (celebrating African and Caribbean culture, food and music), Zapcat Racing, and the annual Jazz Festival. Throughout the year there were concerts and specially commissioned pieces from the Hull Choral Union, Hull Philharmonic, Hull Sinfonietta and the East Yorkshire Motor Services Brass Band. Other initiatives raised awareness of Fair Trade, and there was a variety of educational programmes and events. Funding was also made available for smaller community projects.
Liverpool hosted a city-wide programme of activities and projects to commemorate the bicentenary, as part of events to mark the city's 800th birthday. The events aimed to celebrate the African Diaspora and support works by artists of African descent. They included: LEAP, an annual contemporary dance festival featuring African dance companies; a performance of Mighty Diamonds - Reggae Legends at the Philharmonic Hall; the Roscoe Lectures; the Brouhaha International Carnival, celebrating resistance, rebellion and abolition; the Africa Oyé Music Festival at Sefton Park; the Bound exhibition at Open Eye Gallery, showing works representing personal perspectives on the physical and psychological impact of slavery on humanity; and many other lectures and debates. There was also a slavery trail around the city.
The Hidden Connections exhibition was a result of partnership between the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. The exhibition explored Ulster's links with slavery after 1807 via people, events and places, and looked at both the pro and anti-slavery debates in Northern Ireland. It drew on documents from PRONI’s archives, artefacts from the Ulster Museum and contemporary books and pamphlets from the Linen Hall Library and elsewhere. After its launch at Linen Hall Library, the exhibition toured Northern Ireland, travelling to Down Museum, the Harbour Museum in Derry, Lisburn City Library and the Ulster American Folk Park.
The wider Hidden Connections programme featured workshops exploring archival sources, performances and lectures by leading scholars. There was a panel discussion on ‘Slavery Now’, a walking tour of Belfast sites associated with the slavery issue, and a boat trip on the Lagan focusing on the port’s links with slave colonies. Gerry McLaughlin’s ‘Blood sugar’ is a drama documentary devoted to the literature of slavery, music and song. 'Freedom and Liberty' was the theme of the UK-wide Archives Awareness Event. PRONI organised special events and produced a catalogue, 'Ulster and Slavery', listing the references to slavery to be found in the archive.
Everywhere in Chains was an umbrella project created for the bicentenary commemorations in 2007, by a collaboration between Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, the National Library of Wales, University of Wales, Bangor and CyMAL: Museum Archives and Libraries Wales (part of the Welsh Assembly Government). An exhibition explored Welsh involvement in slavery, especially focusing on the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition, the Black presence in Wales, and legacies of slavery. This was shown at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea from May to November 2007 before touring to Wrexham County Borough Museum. The touring version of the exhibition was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government. The exhibition in Wrexham included discussion of the painting 'A Negro Coachboy', thought to commemorate a black servant of John Meller, owner of the Erddig estate in the 18th century.
Alongside the exhibition, the Everywhere in Chains programme also included lectures, formal learning activities and performances. An educational pack was produced by CyMAL and distributed to every school in Wales in 2009-2010. A community project created a forum in which participants from many cultural backgrounds could voice their ideas about enslavement. The Everywhere in Chains Community Heritage Toolkit captured the learning from this project. The toolkit, launched in 2009, was produced to help individuals, groups and organisations to work with culture and heritage providers to undertake projects focused on the role of Wales in the transatlantic slave trade and issues of modern slavery.
Squaring the Triangle was the theme of African History Month 2007 in Suffolk. The programme was co-ordinated by the Nia Project (a cultural, arts and heritage project) and explored the history and legacy of slavery through film, literature, exhibition, music and debate. The theme of Squaring the Triangle was underpinned by the African proverb, ‘Until the Lion tells his tale the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter’. Highlights included the Nia Memorial Lecture, given by the producer-director Pam Solomon-Fraser. Nubian Films short season looked at the current legacy of slavery and the Diaspora of African peoples. Talks, workshops and debates covered issues such as reparations, retribution, resistance, and educational guidelines for parents on how to discuss the African slave trade with children. Special recognition was given in the programme to Ghana’s 50th anniversary as an independent state. There were heritage walks around Ipswich to uncover some of the cultural connections with Africa, the Caribbean and Suffolk. A Youth Day Conference hosted by the Zimbabwe Youth brought together young people from the community to use music and poetry to explore their ideas on the legacy of the slave trade. Historian Maureen James and representatives from Suffolk County Council led pupils from local schools in researching the anti-slavery movements, with particular reference to the Clarkson family.
An exhibition at Walsall Museum looked at Walsall's links with the slave trade, the background to the Abolition Act of 1807, and the legacies of slavery. Walsall's metal industry included chain making by local women of Cradley Heath, and the manufacture of guns used to trade for captive Africans. The exhibition was accompanied by a programme of presentations, lectures and workshops, including art sessions with local residents and the artist Pauline Bailey. Part of the wider project featured an online resource 'Abolition WYA' by Walsall Youth Arts, which encouraged young people to explore the topic of slavery and contribute poems, visual arts and music to express their views. Some of the images featured on the site are pictured here.
Westminster Abbey organised a series of lectures and events to commemorate the bicentenary. These included the lectures 'Olaudah Equiano, Black Abolitionist' by Professor Vincent Carretta, and 'The Abbey and the Abolition of the Slave Trade' by The Reverend Nicholas Sagovsky, Canon of Westminster. There was also an opportunity for visitors to attend William Wilberforce's memorial. On 27 March 2007 a national service of commemoration was held at the Abbey, and broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Radio Four. The service was attended by HM The Queen, the Prime Minister Tony Blair, other dignitaries and members of community and human rights organisations. Proceedings were disrupted by Toyin Agbetu of the Pan African, human rights based organisation Ligali. He objected to the celebratory tone of the service and its primary focus on William Wilberforce, highlighting the role of African freedom fighters and the absence of an official apology by the monarchy, government and church for Britain's leading role in transatlantic slavery, or Maafa (the Kiswahili term meaning ‘Disaster’, which is used to refer to the exploitation of Africa and its people by Europeans).
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?'.
In 2007 Westminster City Council supported a programme of events in the libraries, galleries and archives of the area, including films, walks and exhibitions, designed to provide opportunities to learn about the culture of Westminster's communities. Highlights included guided heritage walks with historian S. I. Martin, exhibitions of images from the Royal Geographical Society in Paddington Library, Maida Vale Library and Westminster Reference Library, and film screenings (in partnership with 100 Black Men of London). A partnership between the City of Westminster Archives Centre, Tate Britain, Parliamentary Archives, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery produced a heritage trail 'On the Road to Abolition: Ending the British Slave Trade', which takes in key sites, events and individuals in Westminster relating to the slave trade, between Trafalgar Square and Pimlico. In celebration of Black History Month, Westminster City Council produced a booklet, 'Black History in Westminster', detailing some of the borough's influential Black residents.
The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons holds the human and comparative anatomy collections of the surgeon John Hunter (1728-1793). The Exhibiting Difference project was the Hunterian Museum’s contribution to the bicentenary, exploring the history of the transatlantic slave trade through the history of medicine and the experiences of those who lived on the margins of society. Exhibiting Difference focused on the hidden histories of Black Africans living with skin pigmentation conditions in the 18th and 19th centuries, and thus explored issues of identity, self-image and cultural distinctiveness. Curated by Temi Odumosu, the exhibition ‘A Visible Difference: skin, race and identity 1720-1820’ was opened at the Hunterian Museum, featuring portraits of Black African slave children, Mary Sabina and George Alexander Gratton, who both had the skin pigmentation condition piebaldism. The museum also worked with over 200 secondary school students and four professional artists to create a display of sculpture, painting, collage, photography, film and sound recording reflecting the themes of the project. Learning resources were produced to support citizenship education.
Scratch the Surface at the National Gallery brought together two portraits, Johann Zoffany's 'Mrs Oswald' (1763-4) and Sir Joshua Reynolds's 'Colonel Tarleton' (1782), to explore the complex relationship between these sitters and slavery. Colonel Tarleton, as MP for Liverpool in the 1790s, argued in Parliament against the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Mrs Oswald, along with her husband Richard Oswald, owed part of their wealth to a number of plantations in the Americas. The artist Yinka Shonibare was invited to create a new installation in response to these two portraits, which was also on display. A varied programme of events and activities accompanied the exhibition, including tours, talks, workshops and films.
The National Portrait Gallery created a new gallery trail to mark the bicentenary, written by Dr Caroline Bressey. The trail highlighted portraits of key individuals, ranging from Elizabeth I to William Wilberforce, linked to the slave trade and its abolition. Portraits included those who invested in the trade, or who owned slaves and supported slavery, as well as images of enslaved people themselves and of people who were prominent in the movement to abolish the trade. The trail ended with a series of contemporary portraits of individuals involved in preventing slavery today. A week of talks, music, film and family activities included a discussion of the painting 'The Anti-Slavery Convention, 1840' by Benjamin Robert Haydon.
An exhibition at the British Museum exploring how the transatlantic slave trade functioned. The display examined the commodities involved - tobacco, guns, textiles, sugar, rum - and the ways in which Africa, Europe and the Americas were linked in a global trade network. The exhibition also looked at resistance leaders including Toussaint L'Ouverture, Olaudah Equiano and Nanny of the Maroons, and their struggles to end enslavement. The exhibition was accompanied by a varied public programme at the museum exploring the legacy of the slave trade as part of the Atlantic Trade and Identity season, featuring film screenings, panel discussions, seminars and lectures.
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.