The exhibition will occupy an entire floor of the city’s British Empire & Commonwealth Museum and has been developed in partnership with Bristol City Council’s Museums, Galleries and Archives’ service. It is supported by a grant of £770,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
‘Breaking the Chains’ will examine the historical context of slavery, its destructive effect on relations between Europe and Africa, the nature of survival and resistance amongst African and Caribbean communities, the role of abolitionists and the legacy of the slave trade today. A key gallery within the exhibition will explore diverse contemporary responses to both the slave trade and local, national and international attempts to acknowledge this year’s bicentenary.
As part of its exhibition development, the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum staged a public debate in May 2006 asking a whether Bristol should formally apologise for its role in the slave trade, the first time such an
event had ever been held in the city. Bristol was Britain’s most important slave trading port in early 1700s and its ships responsible for transporting approximately 500,000 Africans into a life of enslavement in the Americas,
between 1698 and 1807.
The Museum’s Head of Public Affairs, Feisal Khalif, says the exhibition “aims to provide the necessary knowledge and understanding to enable everyone, whatever their background, to come to terms with a traumatic shared history; to deal with the consequences of that history and to inspire people to confront the horrors of contemporary global slavery.”
The exhibition will run for two years.