The main aim of the 2007 Bicentenary Cross-Community Forum (2007BCCF) was to facilitate space for dialogue and alliance building in areas of work connected to the legacies of enslavement, related global injustices today and contemporary forms of slavery. The forum was jointly convened by Rendezvous of Victory, Anti-Slavery International and the World Development Movement. The education initiative aimed to assist in discussion and alliance-building on issues arising from the legacies of African Enslavement such as Maangamizi (Afrikan Holocaust) Awareness, Afriphobia, reparations, global injustices today and contemporary forms of enslavement. Open meetings were held in London between 2005 and 2007, and the group produced the 2007 Cross-community e-bulletin three times a year, including comment pieces about the significance of 2007. Task Action Groups were set up, such as the Cross-Community Dialogue Action Group on Education (CCODAGE), jointly hosted by the Council for Education in World Citizenship and the School of Education at Kingston University. A Global Justice Forum was developed out of the 2007BCCF in order to advance work beyond 2007.
Hackney Museum's Abolition 07 exhibition told the story of British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, the resistance to it, and its abolition, and in particular emphasised the involvement of Hackney's residents in the abolition movement. The display included new artwork by Godfried Donkor in collaboration with young Hackney artists. A film of interviews with Hackney residents, Hear My Voice, was produced. Over 1200 children from Hackney Primary Schools took part in poetry workshops at the museum with poets Adisa and Baden Prince. Their poems and responses were published in the booklet 'And Still I Rise'.
The research into Hackney's connections to the transatlantic slave trade continued in 2013-2015 with 'Local Roots / Global Routes', a collaborative project between Hackney Museum and Archives and the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project.
Bristol was major trading port for the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century. The city of Bristol marked the bicentenary of the Abolition Act with more than 100 events across the city - exhibitions, plays, debates, talks, concerts - under the umbrella organisation Abolition 200. In January 2007, city leaders signed a declaration of regret for the city's role in the trade. Over the weekend of 24-25 March, bells rang out across the city and a Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation was held at Bristol Cathedral, organised by a partnership of the Cathedral and the Council of Black Churches. 2007 was themed as the Year of Black Achievement, aiming to bring better provision of black heritage resources to schools in Bristol, with a particular focus on black attainment. Over 30 creative community projects were funded by Abolition 200 - including art installations, educational projects and community theatre - to reflect the themes of education, commemoration and legacy.
Featured here are some of the events from Abolition 200.
The Greater London Authority produced an Events Guide for Londoners in 2007 detailing some of the initiatives taking place in the capital involving the Mayor. This included Africa Day on Trafalgar Square, celebrating the positive contributions of London's African communities, and 'Rise: London United', an anti-racist music festival. The conference 'Faith Symposium: In God's Name?' at City Hall examined the role of the Church in the transatlantic slave trade. There was also a seminar on the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade from a Caribbean perspective and a Caribbean Publishers Book Fair held at London Metropolitan University. The Dr Eric E. Williams Memorial Lecture Series at City Hall was made available as a webcast.
Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service produced an exhibition about slavery and the trade in enslaved Africans and the life of Thomas Clarkson, the abolitionist campaigner who lived the latter part of his life at Playford Hall near Ipswich. The exhibition focused in particular on the African and local history collections in the museum service. A replica mahogany travelling chest was produced as a handling box for local schools - Thomas Clarkson famously displayed a chest filled with materials from Africa and the slave trade while travelling on anti-slavery campaigns.
The exhibition was produced in collaboration with the Nia Project, and was part of a wider programme of events and outreach activities with local schools and African and Afro-Caribbean community groups. The artist Anissa-Jane worked with members of the Ipswich community to create a new art installation to accompany the exhibition.
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.
The Badagry Heritage Museum is housed in the former district officer’s office that was constructed in 1863. The museum attempts to highlight the injustice and horror of the transatlantic slave trade, whilst also exhibiting the rich histories and cultures of Africa. There is a specific focus on the heritage of pre and post-transatlantic slave trade in Badagry. The museum consists of eight galleries each dealing with particular themes relating to local heritage and the transatlantic slave trade. Guided tours are available. The museum is managed by the Nigerian Cultural Commission.Each of eight galleries are named after a part of the transatlantic slave trade. The first, the 'Introductory Gallery', focuses on the founding and early history of Badagry. The next five galleries all deal specifically with distinct phases of the slave trade, from capture, transportation, material culture, resistance, and industry. In these galleries are objects that illustrate the brutal nature of enslavement, including shackles and manacles, as well as replicas of slave ships. The seventh gallery examines the forced integration of the enslaved into the countries they were transported to, featuring videos of reconstructed slave auctions. Finally, the last gallery explores abolition movements and the persistence of slavery even after its legal end. The museum has attempted to incoporate the voices of local people within the displays, as well as depicting the significance they place on certain cultural and historical items within the museum. In addition to the historical collections, there are also some examples of contemporary art throughout, showing modern reflections on the systems of enslavement.
The official publication from the British Government in response to the bicentenary included a message from Prime Minister Tony Blair. It set out the history of transatlantic slavery and resistance to it, and featured a calendar of upcoming events for 2007 relating to slavery and abolition. The publication also detailed contemporary efforts to end modern slavery. Later in 2007, 'The way forward: bicentenary of the abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807-2007' reflected on some of the commemorative activity that had taken place in Bristol, Hull, Liverpool, London and Greater Manchester. With a foreword by the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the theme of the publication was 'Reflecting on the past, looking to the future' and it linked efforts for the abolition of historical and contemporary slavery. The publication also looked to how to tackle inequality and poverty in the UK, Africa and the Caribbean.
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.
‘Bromley’s Hidden History’ was led by Bromley Museum, with assistance from Bromley Local Studies and Archives. A touring exhibition, education pack, programme of events and web resources were produced to highlight Bromley’s connections with slavery and abolition. Bromley slave owners and those with capital invested in the Caribbean were highlighted, alongside the influence of William Pitt (who lived at Holwood House) and his political circle in the abolitionist campaign. Consideration was also given to historical black figures living in the borough, such as the actor Ira Aldridge.
Cape Coast Castle is one of around forty ‘slave castles’ built by European traders on the coast of West Africa and used to hold enslaved Africans prior to their being transported to the Americas or the Caribbean. The first timber construction on the site was erected in 1653 for the Swedish Africa Company named Carolusborg. It was later rebuilt in stone. In April 1663 the ‘Swedish Gold Coast’ was seized by the Danes and integrated into the ‘Danish Gold Coast’. In 1664 it was conquered by the British. Originally used for trade in timber and gold, the castle was later used in the transatlantic slave trade. In the late 18th century it was rebuilt and used as the seat of the colonial Government of the British Gold Coast in 1844. In 1957, when Ghana became independent, the site came under the care of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, and was restored for public access in the 1990s. The museum offers guided tours, as well as permitting tours orchestrated by freelance tour guides. There is also a library and a gift shop, featuring traditional Ghanaian arts and crafts, on site.
The main aim of the museum is to act as a monument to those taken from Africa and enslaved into the system of Transatlantic Slavery. It features both archaeological and ethnographic collections on displays, within the rooms of the castle. Throughout, there are also a number of contemporary sculptures depicting the heads of victims of the slave trade. Visitors tour through the castle, encountering the rooms in which the enslaved were held, with guides providing further information about the conditions and experiences those thousands of Africans faced.
Changing Perspectives was a community-based initiative based around the experiences of twenty-five African and Caribbean families from the North-East, to explore how their life in the UK contrasts with the lives of their ancestors. The project created a multimedia archive of cultural responses to celebrate the heritage of these families. This included oral testimonies, creative writing, photography, digital storytelling and art, emerging from a variety of community-led workshops. A series of workshops were held at Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections (pictured), including a session aimed at children and young people, which focused on the experiences of children in the slave trade via extracts from the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. Project outputs included a book, an interactive website, an exhibition of words and pictures of the community, an oral testimony collection, and series of documentary films. A key aim of the project was to promote community cohesion and develop cross cultural awareness and understanding.
Bishop’s Stortford was the birthplace of the Victorian financier and imperialist Cecil Rhodes. To commemorate the bicentenary of the Abolition Act, Bishop's Stortford Museum and Rhodes Art Complex explored Britain’s imperial ambitions in the ‘Coveting Africa’ exhibition. The museum holds much material from Southern Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana: areas where British colonialism and imperialism in Africa was focused in the nineteenth century. Through a year-long programme of arts events, this project discussed the relationship between Britain and Africa, and explored British attitudes to African peoples. Events included workshops by the London School of Capoeira.
Dreams of an African Child is a one act play about the 21st century sale of children in the River Volta region of Ghana. It was written by Robin Graham, produced by The Ugly Tree and Greenhouse Northwest Theatre Company, and directed by Toria Banks. The drama centres on the reactions of a rural African family when their teenage son, missing presumed dead, returns home to his family after being sold eight years before. The play was first performed in Accra in 2004, and then in 2008 toured schools and community venues in the North of England and Wales. Workshops were held to discuss the issues of child trafficking raised by the play.
An exhibition to mark the bicentenary was developed by Enfield Museum Service in partnership with the British Museum and Enfield Racial Equality Council. The exhibition looked at West African culture, the development of the local African community, the links between the transatlantic slave trade and Enfield, wealthy landowners and Quaker abolitionists who lived in the area. Free family days held during school vacations offered traditional Ghanaian story-telling, dancing and drumming, crafts and object handling. Living History Days gave visitors the opportunity to meet actors portraying William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano. School workshops included a drama session and performance about a runaway slave developed from material from Lambeth Archive. The museum service also produced a book, edited by Valerie Munday, which explored further the links between Enfield and the slave trade. The book was sent to all schools in the borough, and formed the basis of a teaching resource aimed at Key Stages 2 and 3. Loan boxes and handling collections provided by the museum service include Ghanaian artefacts and items relating to the slave trade. In 2011, Enfield Racial Equality Council unveiled a plaque to commemorate abolition at the Enfield Civic Centre.
The Engage 2007 Festival of Culture celebrated cultural freedoms in South Gloucestershire. Led by South Gloucestershire Council, and in partnership with local volunteer groups, schools and community groups, the festival took place on 17 November 2007. It featured 40 live performances of drama, dance and music from India, China, Africa, South America and Europe, a world food zone, family workshops, youth and environmental activities and 60 interactive and information stalls. The Impact exhibition was produced as part of Engage 2007, exploring the part that people living in South Gloucestershire played slavery and abolition.
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.
'Freedom and Culture' was a year-long nationwide programme to mark the bicentenary, conceived by Baroness Lola Young of Cultural Brokers (London) and Dr Nima Poowaya-Smith of Alchemy (based in Leeds). In partnership with artists, activists and cultural commentators, the programme explored the dimensions of oppression and freedom around the bicentenary, culminating in a weekend 'celebrating creativity and the African Diaspora' at the Southbank Centre in November 2007. One of several exhibitions that took place as part of the initiative was ‘Crossing the Waters’ at Cartwright Hall in Bradford, which took its central metaphor from the transatlantic slave trade. Almost all the works shown – from Sonia Boyce, Yinka Shonibare and others – were drawn from the permanent collections of Bradford Museums, Galleries and Heritage. The exhibition later toured to the City Gallery, Leicester in 2008.
Freedom Think Tank was a time limited Black-led voluntary group established to influence the agendas of organisations in the North East commemorating the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. The group also organised commemorative events, focusing on themes of promoting social solidarity and raising awareness of the participation of Black people in abolition.
FWords was a creative response of eight Yorkshire writers and artists to the commemoration of the Abolition Act, in a project led by Peepal Tree Press in Leeds. Focusing on the many variations of the theme of 'Freedom', Fwords was created to raise the profile of Yorkshire's rich heritage of talented artists, descendants of those who migrated, forcefully and otherwise from Africa and beyond. The work of six writers was illustrated with work from two visual artists, and with a foreword from Caryl Phillips. The project was supported by printed materials, broadcasts, digital and dedicated web pages.