A special display at Tate Britain to mark the bicentenary focused on William Blake and the circle of radical writers and artists associated with the publisher Joseph Johnson in the 1790s and 1800s. Blake's poetry and art protested against mental, physical and economic enslavement and inspired generations of artists, writers and political dissenters. The display was accompanied by a variety of events, including talks, performances and music for adults, families and young people and schools.
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.
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?'.
Lest We Forget is a travelling exhibition commissioned by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and created by The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, and the UNESCO Slave Route Project. It toured several countries in Africa, Europe and North America before arriving in Camden. The exhibition was on display in Swiss Cottage Gallery, Swiss Cottage Central Library in May 2007. It focused less on enslaved Africans as victims and more on the ways in which they reshaped their place in history through the creation of distinct cultural contributions, including language, religion, music and institutions. Swiss Cottage Library also held poetry and discussion events to mark Black History Month in October 2007.
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.
London Shakespeare Workout presented a new 21-song musical, celebrating the life of the African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar's parents were freed slaves and he used some of their tales of plantation life in his work. Set backstage in a British theatre in 1897, the play explored themes such as love and loneliness, racial interactions, and the abolition of the slave trade. With an original score by Tim Williams, the play opened in Westcliffe, and toured 26 venues around the UK. Each performance was followed by a ‘talk-back’, allowing audience members to share their views on the issues raised by the production. Special interactive workshops were also created for schools and community groups to bring the concepts of slavery and abolition to life through history and literature.
A performance by the London Shakespeare Workout based on George MacDonald Fraser's novel 'Black Ajax'. The play, set in Regency England, tells the historical tale of two enslaved men through dialogue, song and verse. One slave is from America, another is from Africa. The former, Tom Molineaux, becomes the first Black Prize Fighter in Britain. Black Atlas featured an original score by Tim Williams. The play opened in Cambridge and toured to 40 different venues around the UK.
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.
The Bicentenary Freedom Flag was displayed alongside an exhibition about Wartime Black History at Manchester Town Hall. The project was a collaboration between staff from Manchester City Council Corporate Services Black Staff Group and pupils of Trinity Church of England School in Manchester. The flag recognised the work, struggles and sacrifices of those who brought the slave trade to an end, and featured images of prominent individuals on the background of the Sierra Leone flag. Those featured on the flag included Toussaint L'Ouverture (General of the Haitian Uprising), the abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, the anti-slavery orator Frederick Douglass, the statue in Barbados of 'Bussa', the unknown slave, guide of the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman, and Joseph Cinque, leader of the Amistad slave ship revolt. The accompanying exhibition included pupils' articles and creative writing. It also examined the history and role of the West India Regiments, British colonial infantry regiments largely recruited amongst freed slaves from North America and slaves purchased in the West Indies.
‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother?’, an online exhibition to mark the bicentenary, was launched by the Bodleian Library of African and Commonwealth Studies at Rhodes House. Some of the items were also on view in an exhibition at Rhodes House in April and May 2007. The exhibition included manuscripts and books from the Library, among them the manuscript journal of Rev. James Ramsay, who wrote and worked against slavery after seeing for himself the conditions on board a slave ship while a Royal Navy surgeon. Also exhibited were related artefacts from the collection of Franklin Smith, including a tobacco jar and a clay pipe bowl, both in the shape of the head of a slave (indicating that their owners may have been slave owners), and the late 18th-century engraving of a slave market in the West Indies, published by an anti-slave trade body.
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.
A bicentenary brochure detailing some of the arts and non-arts activities held in Derby throughout 2007 to mark the bicentenary involving schools, community groups and other organisations. These included performances from the University of Derby's Student's Union, a debate at Derby City Council House, and a presentation of archive material from BBC Radio Derby's African Caribbean Show. The Freedom Showcase featured nine performers and writers from Leicester, Nottingham and Derby sharing their personal visions of 'Freedom' through a variety of spoken styles, from poetry, to rap and monologues. The costumes on display at Derby's Caribbean Carnival in July 2007 depicted positive images of the enslaved surviving and resisting slavery. Derby West Indian Community Association led a performance of dance and drama to depict slavery and its impact on young people, and a school project around the theme of slavery. Creative Thought was part of a Renaissance East Midlands funded Community Learning initiative. Working with an artist, participants explored the concept of slavery and its links to Derby's industrial heritage using The Silk Mill as inspiration. Tactile objects were created to share understanding about links with slavery.
Leicester's Black History Season in October-November 2007 marked the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. Its aim was to redress the balance from a 'Eurocentric point of view' of abolition, and focus on the Afrikan perspective with the theme of 'Souls of Black Folk'. Musical performances included gospel, Motown, reggae and jazz. Other events in venues across Leicester and Loughborough included traditional South African dance, contemporary dance, performance poetry, comedy, multimedia performances, storytelling, theatre and an exhibition, 'Africa's Gift', focusing on the economic and cultural contributions of the slaves and their descendants.
Kenwood House in North London is closely connected to the history of the slave trade through the lives of two of its former inhabitants. Lord Chief Justice Lord Mansfield made a milestone ruling in 1772 towards abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Dido Elizabeth Belle - born to an enslaved mother - is believed to have been Lord Mansfield's illegitimate great-niece. This exhibition by English Heritage, and sponsored by the Friends of Kenwood, explored their relationship, and the social dimensions of the British slave trade intertwined with the history of Kenwood. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to leave a creative literary response. The Wall of Words, a literary mural in the form of a poem inspired by the recorded responses, was created by Beyonder, a multimedia artist and educator.
In 2007 Liverpool's annual Writing on the Wall arts festival explored the legacy of slavery through words, music, lyrics, song, dance and discussion. Authors, campaigners and social commentators explored the themes of the bicentenary and Liverpool's 800th birthday. The festival aimed to celebrate diversity and promote inter-cultural tolerance. Speakers included one of the nine Britons detained in Guantanamo, Cuba. Among the performers was dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah joined by Jean 'Binta' Breeze and Levi Tafari, and featuring the MDI African Dancers for an 'extravaganza of rhythm and rhyme' at the Royal Philharmonic Hall. Liverpool Young Writers was launched by Writing on the Wall in 2007. Members have recently performed at Slavery Remembrance Day and the International Slavery Museum.
Penrhyn Castle on the outskirts of Bangor in Wales is owned by the National Trust. In 2007, the bicentenary was marked with a special exhibition and accompanying events exploring the connections between the Castle and the fortune of its former owners, the Pennant family, built on Jamaican sugar from one of the largest estates on the island. The exhibition featured the story of Richard Pennant, 1st Lord Penrhyn, a wealthy merchant and MP for Liverpool who fought against abolition in Parliament. Some of the research was carried out by members of the local community, who were trained in archival research by exploring the Penrhyn Jamaica papers held at Bangor University, which included Richard Pennant's letters as absentee landowner.
The project created links between a local school near the Castle, Banks Road school in Liverpool and Mavisville school in Kingston, Jamaica. All three schools provided art, prose and poetry to the exhibition. Workshops were held for all visiting schools. Accompanying events included art days where a local artist worked with visitors to explore the meaning of landscape painting in the context of slavery; a Caribbean weekend; and a day of activities and workshops with a multi-faith groups of teenagers from Liverpool. A DVD of all the information gathered was given free to schools and libraries.
Re:interpretation was a participatory media project carried out by Firstborn Creatives in partnership with the National Trust. The project explored transatlantic slavery and its connection with three National Trust properties in South West England: Clevedon Court, Dyrham Park and Tyntesfield. It focused on the feelings and opinions of invited community groups towards those histories, who produced a range of creative responses and commentaries to their findings and also their own personal emotional responses. The project produced a multi-layered interactive exhibit, available on DVD.
As part of the Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery project, Manchester Art Gallery highlighted items in its collection of fine art and decorative objects which revealed the wealth generated by the region's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and the public's consumption of sugar, tea, coffee and tobacco. Additional special events included Tina Tamsho-Thomas performing poetry commissioned in response to the objects connected to sugar. In the exhibition 'Manchester Attitude', local community groups created a new display to express their thoughts about the legacy of Manchester's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. Examples of these community-led artworks include 'Injustice' (with artists Colette Gilmartin and Tony Curry) and 'Simply Read' (with artist Nathan Carter), available to view on Manchester Art Gallery's website.
Myrtilla’s Trail was developed at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum in partnership with poet Brenda Tai Layton, using objects, images and texts to explore local links with the slave trade. Myrtilla, 'Negro slave to Mr Tho. Beauchamp', is buried in the village of Oxhill in Warwickshire. Apart from her gravestone (dated 1705), she remains anonymous. Warwick District has connections with slave owners, such as the Greatheed family of Guy's Cliffe, sugar plantation owners in St Christopher (St Kitts). This trail around the galleries offered a starting point for exploring these complex and often hidden histories, including busts and documents of the Greatheed family, abolitionist coins, protest songs, and travel posters.
Hebden Bridge Arts Festival commemorated the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 2007 in performances and exhibitions, and extending out from that, to a celebration of the idea of freedom. Events linked to the consideration of freedom had a broken chain as an identifying symbol in the festival brochure. Highlights included the world premiere of 'Can't Chain Up Me Mind' by the Grand Union Orchestra, a celebration of jazz and emancipation.