Gilt of Cain was unveiled by the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in Fen Court, City of London, in September 2008. The artwork, a collaboration by sculptor Michael Visocchi and poet Lemn Sissay, commemorates the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The granite sculpture is composed of a group of columns surrounding a podium – suggesting an ecclesiastical pulpit or slave auctioneer’s block. Extracts from Lemn Sissay’s poem, ‘Gilt of Cain’, are engraved into the granite.
Fen Court is the site of a churchyard formerly of St Gabriel’s Fenchurch St and now in the Parish of St Edmund the King and St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard St. The latter has a strong historical connection with the British abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries: Reverend John Newton, a slave-trader turned preacher and abolitionist, was rector of St Mary Woolnoth between 1780 – 1807. This project was initiated by Black British Heritage and the Parish of St Mary Woolnoth and was commissioned by the City of London Corporation in partnership with the British Land Company.
A number of events to mark the bicentenary of the Abolition Act of 1807 took place as part of Ilkley Literature Festival in 2007. Authors Caryl Phillips and Ben Okri discussed their work, and writers from the Peepal Tree Press Freedom Project premiered their poetry. 2007 Poet in Residence Rommi Smith invited festival goers to help create a unique literary 'Freedom Quilt', and gave a multi-media performance drawing on her recent visit to the Gambia. Street theatre was provided by performances of Sugar Beat Skank by Regeyshun Dance and the Leeds Bi-centenary Transformation Project. Members of the Leeds Diasporian Stories Research Group shared new material uncovered in the course of their research into the links between Yorkshire and the Atlantic trading world, and actor Joe Williams performed and answered questions as the African abolitionist Olaudah Equiano.
As descendants of enslaved Africans, Jacqueline and Sonia Brooks expressed their own independent responses to the bicentenary. Jacqueline designed a limited edition postcard to display the horrors of a slave ship. Sonia wrote the poem Amazing Trade, which was performed during the National Maritime Museum's programme for Slavery Remembrance Day.
identity on tyne is a group for writers and artists of colour in North-East England. The Roots Initiative was their response to the bicentenary, in partnership with the Literary and Philosophical Society. The writer Sheree Mack examined the region's involvement in the slave trade and the abolition movement through historical documents, creative writing and poetry. A heritage walk around Newcastle highlighted the events, individuals and places involved in the slave trade, slavery and the abolition movement in the North-East.
Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance (GARA) organised a programme of events for Black History Month in October 2007 with a particular focus on the bicentenary and engaging people in the importance of Black history. GARA were supported by Glasgow City Council Education Services and Culture and Sport Glasgow. Events included talks at the Hunterian Museum, interactive exhibits at the Glasgow Science Centre and film showings, capoeira and African drumming workshops at the Glasgow Film Theatre. Sugar & Spice Sunday on 14 October marked the bicentenary with a festival of commemoration and celebration through films and events. GARA also hosted Black History Tours around Glasgow to explore the city's hidden slavery history.
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 Living Memory Lab was a two-year project in which people from local communities of Plymouth made three-minute films on the subjects of slavery and abolition and local connections to the slave trade. A series of short training courses in basic film-making were offered as part of the project. The project was a partnership between Plymouth and District Racial Equality Council, BBC South West, the community arts agency Creative Partnerships, in collaboration with Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery. The DVD was made freely available for use as a teaching aid and community resource.
Breaking Chains - Sheffield Civil Rights was a project by Sheffield Galleries and Museum Trust to look at the slave trade and to celebrate Sheffield’s heritage by exploring the role local campaigners played in securing workers' rights. The resources targeted Key Stage 2 pupils. There was a particular focus on the visit to Sheffield by the African abolitionist Olaudah Equiano in 1790. Actor Joe Williams played Equiano in a dramatisation still available to view on the teaching resource. Featured here are some of the downloads available.
On Sunday 25 March 2007, a ceremony was held on Cathedral Green in Exeter to mark the bicentenary. Organised by Exeter City Council, the ceremony was attended by members of the public and individuals representing local organisations. Historian Lucy MacKeith examined the links between Devon, the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition. Extracts were read from the Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, and names read aloud of some of the Africans who came to Devon because of the county's connection to the slave trade.
The play 'Albert and the Story of Equiano' was performed at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in October 2007. It told the story of Olaudah Equiano, a leading African figure in the British abolition movement in the 18th century.
The Freedom Roads exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery was one of several initiatives led by London Metropolitan Archives to mark the bicentenary. The exhibition featured contemporary photographic portraits of people of African origin whose work has contributed to the continuing struggle for human rights in different fields. Colin Prescod, Shirley Thompson, Eric and Jessica Huntley and Rudolph Walker were amongst the individuals featured. Others like the young people from BEAT (Black Experience Archive Trust) were engaged in a project to find out about significant people in their local community. Each person was photographed with an image of an object or place which has a special significance to them. The other part of the exhibition focused on relevant archival materials held by London Metropolitan Archives, including the South African Bill of Rights and a copy of the Constitution signed by Nelson Mandela, Cyril Ramaphosa, F. W. De Klerk and Roelf Meyer. Other material relating to slavery and abolition included a letter from John Julius, a plantation owner on the island of St. Kitts.
Women and Abolition was a collaborative project exploring the role of women in the abolition movement, led by CETTIE (Cultural Exchange Through Theatre in Education) and Yaa Asantewaa Arts and Community Centre. The event in March 2007 included a panel debate, presentations by women activists, poetry and performances of the theatre productions 'Sugar n Spice' and 'Splendid Mummer'.
Southwark Pensioners Centre Black History Group led a project to explore the life of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther. Born in Yorubaland, Nigeria, kidnapped and sold into slavery, Crowther became the Anglican church's first African-born bishop and an influential missionary in West Africa. The Crowther's Journey project involved weekly research and discussion sessions and visits to places of significance, such as the church of St Mary in Islington, where Crowther was ordained. This booklet focuses on the responses and reflections of members of the group on Crowther, his life and his legacy.
TimeLine magazine is a lifelong learning project centred on exploring the history and heritage of Hackney through stories, games, interviews and memories. The magazine is distributed free to schools, libraries and healthcare providers. In March 2007 a special issue of TimeLine examined the bicentenary of the Abolition Act 1807, and Hackney connections to abolition. The special issue included a picture story of the life of Olaudah Equiano.
Abolition Truths was a panel-led talk and Q&A session at Harrow Civic Centre in October 2007, led by a creative arts community group Beyond the Will Smith Challenge (BTWSC). The event had a particular emphasis on the role of African freedom fighters and abolitionists, the Haitian Revolution, and the revolts, campaigns and boycotts leading to the passing of the 1807 Act. The event was interspersed with music and poetry, including a musical piece 'Then to Now' performed by Africanus Britanicus, and featuring HKB Finn & Co, which told the story of slavery and its legacy across the African diaspora. Teenage poet Stefan Testsola performed a poem on the theme of abolition. There was also a presentation of the Professor Allotey Science Prize, awarded to Harrow students of African descent.
Other BTWSC events in November 2007 included a discussion session with Ms Serwah, 'Putting the Abolition & Slavery Into Perspective' at Willesden Green Library, presented in association with Brent Black History Brent Library. 'From The Talking Drums to Rap & Grime' at Tavistock Hall in Harlesden commemorated the Abolition Act through narration and a musical concert.
Part of the British Museum's Atlantic Trade and Identity season, Resistance and Remembrance was a commemorative public day held at the British Museum on 25 March 2007, in association with the Royal African Society and Rendezvous of Victory. Placing a strong emphasis on resistance to the slave trade, the day included poetry readings, storytelling with Beyonder and H Patten, Bonnie Greer and Tony Sewell in discussion, and dramatised contemporary accounts of life as a slave. The day culminated in a Ceremony of Remembrance in the Museum's Great Court, featuring the telecast of a special message from Nelson Mandela.
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.
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.
This exhibition in Westminster Hall told the story of the pressures and events, at home and abroad, which influenced Parliament's abolition of the British slave trade in 1807. The Act itself was displayed alongside petitions sent to Parliament by the public. Also on display was Thomas Clarkson's African Box, used on his abolition tours.
As part of the wider project, the Parliamentary Education Service appointed poet and writer Rommi Smith as Parliamentary Writer in Residence to the exhibition. In a series of workshops, Rommi worked with secondary school pupils to explore the historical, social and emotional issues around the transatlantic slave trade in poetry and prose. This included letters and statements that they would have sent to the prime minister of the time, to Olaudah Equiano and other key figures. To mark the UNESCO International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on 23 August 2007, the Parliamentary Education Unit asked people to submit squares for a commemorative quilt. Some of these designs are available to view on the Parliamentary Archives website, which also uses original source material to tell the story of Parliament's complex relationship with the British slave trade.
A programme of events and activities for Black History Month 2007 from Yaa Asantewaa Arts and Community Centre had a particular focus on the bicentenary. The programme included theatre, youth projects and family days. Calypso Fuh So performed special Calypsos to mark the bicentenary, and YAA/Carnival Village organised a commemorative walk to remember ancestors who died in slavery, and the Black presence in Britain. Ritual Theatre Arts created a film celebrating thirty years of African dance in Britain and International Word Power featured performances of poetry, storytelling and song.
The industrialist Sir Henry Tate was the early benefactor of the Tate Collection, rooted in the art of the 18th and 19th centuries. Tate's fortune - much of which was spent on philanthropic initiatives in Britain - was founded on the importation and refining of sugar, a commodity inextricably linked to slave labour in the Caribbean. There were a number of initiatives across the Tate galleries to explore these connections. 'Tracks of Slavery' at Tate Britain displayed a selection of images from the Tate's collections which provided a commentary on the relationship of British society with slavery. Displays at Tate Modern included a selection of new acquisitions linked by their treatment of issues arising from slavery and oppression. Tate Liverpool exhibited paintings by Ellen Gallagher. Special events included Freedom Songs at Tate Britain (workshops to create poetry and music by exploring themes of slavery and freedom) and a discussion at Tate St Ives looking at the links between Cornish maritime traditions, the slave trade and the Caribbean.