Remembering Slavery 2007 involved 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, and identify connections with the region.
The Remembering Slavery exhibition focused on objects, paintings, documents and other historical material relating to the transatlantic slave trade and its legacy. The exhibition and associated programme of activities opened at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle and then toured to South Shields Museum and Art Gallery; Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens; and the Laing Art Gallery. Whilst at the Discovery Museum, the historical exhibition was accompanied by a photographic exhibition, ‘Human Traffic’, produced by Anti-Slavery International, documenting the trafficking of children in Benin and Gabon in West Africa. Whilst at the Laing Art Gallery, the exhibition was shown alongside ‘La Bouche du Roi’ by Romauld Hazoumé, a contemporary installation based on the ‘Brookes’ slave ship.
The Society of Friends expressed its formal opposition to the slave trade in 1727, and from that date were vocal opponents of transatlantic slavery. A virtual exhibition of archived resources, ‘Quakers and the path to abolition in Britain and the colonies’, was launched online to commemorate the bicentenary. It traced the history of the anti-slavery movement from its Quaker beginnings and highlighted key events in the Quaker history of opposition to the slave trade, and was primarily based on material from the Library at Friends House. The exhibition also explained the important role played by Quaker women abolitionists through writing and poetry. The Quakers pioneered contemporary tactics such as boycotting, petitions, leafleting and poster campaigns.
Other resources to help people find out more about the bicentenary included ‘Abolition Journeys’, developed by Quaker Life Committee for Racial Equality with the Quaker Life Children and Young People’s Staff Team, designed to help people of all ages remember the slave trade and work to abolish its modern variations.
This exhibition and booklet were produced as part of South Gloucestershire's Engage 2007 project, in partnership with Yate and District Heritage Centre. Both the exhibition and booklet explored local connections with the history of slavery and anti-slavery in South Gloucestershire. Links identified included the career of Robert Jenkinson of Hawkesbury (later Prime Minister Lord Liverpool), the Caribbean plantations of the Codrington family, the campaign efforts of abolitionist Joseph Sturge and, looking further back in history, St Wulfstan's attempts to abolish the trade in slaves to Ireland in the 11th century. The booklet was written and edited by Lorna Brooks and David Hardill. The exhibition toured the local area, including Thornbury and District Museum, pictured here.
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.
Events at the People's History Museum in Manchester included a Revealing Histories trail, which highlighted museum objects with links to slavery, such as 'The Slave' print from the 1820s. A living history performance, 'How do you plead?', featured a representation of the Chartist leader William Cuffay, whose campaign for the right to vote saw him transported to Tasmania for treason.
Norfolk’s Hidden Heritage was a partnership project between the Norwich and Norfolk Racial Equality Council (NNREC), the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) and the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service (NMAS) which researched the links between Norfolk and transatlantic slavery. For example, many slaving voyages left England from King's Lynn, while the Dalling family of Norfolk owned the Donnington Castle plantation in Jamaica. The exhibition, curated by Norfolk Record Office, won an award for the Best Black History Project for the East of England from the Black History Society. The website provided an interactive timeline to trace Norfolk’s Hidden Heritage from 1670 to today. There was also a database to search for important people, places and dates. Workshops were run in a number of schools, and information packs distributed. More widely, the project worked with the University of East Anglia, Norwich City College, the Prison Service and the Youth Offending Team. As part of the project, Norwich Academy Drama Group put together the production 'Diary of a Son of Africa', about an enslaved African who eventually gained his freedom.
‘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.
The Museum of London Docklands opened the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery in 2007, and it remains a permanent exhibition. The museum, housed in an old sugar warehouse on London’s West India Dock, retold the narrative of the transatlantic slave trade from the perspective of London, once the fourth largest slaving port in the world. Through personal accounts, film, music, interactive exhibits and over 140 objects, the exhibition looks at the various stages of the transatlantic slave trade, including life and trade on the West India Dock, and conditions for the enslaved on the Middle Passage and the Caribbean plantations. The final section of the gallery focuses on the legacies of the slave trade for British society today. Community collaborations also helped shape the gallery.
The museum also created a walking trail for the local area, highlighting key architectural features and buildings that had a role in the transatlantic slave trade. The Slave Map of London was developed in collaboration with three London museums: the Cuming Museum in Southwark, Bruce Castle Museum in Haringey and Fulham Palace Museum. Users navigated an online map to discover over 100 different locations throughout London which played a part in the transatlantic slave trade and the fight to end it. A schools programme that accompanied the opening of the exhibition included drama performances and workshops. Courses that ran alongside the exhibition in 2007 included ‘Resistance and Achievement: the story of African and Caribbean people in Britain’, in partnership with Middlesex University.
In 2018, the museum reflected on the 10 year anniversary of London, Sugar and Slavery with a workshop to explore the significance of the gallery, with contributions from artists, museum practitioners and emerging artists.
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.
Uncomfortable Truths at the Victoria and Albert Museum sought to expose how embedded the transatlantic slave trade was within British culture during the 18th and 19th centuries through art and design. A series of five trails - 'Traces of the Trade' - explored the permanent collections on display through the following themes: Consuming the Black Atlantic, Black Servants in British Homes, Britain and the West Indies, Representing Slavery and Abolitionism, Gold and Slaves Transnational Trade Links. An exhibition of contemporary art examined the impact of the legacies of slavery on modern art and design. The Victoria and Albert Museum commissioned new works by Yinka Shonibare, Romauld Hazoume, Julien Sinzogan and Keith Piper. These and other contemporary interventions by a total of 11 artists were displayed throughout the museum. This exhibition later toured to Ferens Art Gallery in Hull.
The 'Truth and Rights' season of events highlighted often untold stories of Black British heroes, including focus on the actor Ira Aldridge. Visitors were also offered discussions, debates, displays and an eight week free art course. A two-day conference, 'From Cane Field to Tea Cup: The Impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on Art and Design' focused on V&A collections took place in February 2007.