A countdown to the key date of 27 March 2007 begins today as 6 September marks 200 days before the bicentenary of British Parliament passing the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, outlawing any trade in slaves within the British Empire.
To commemorate this important year National Museums Liverpool is creating a new International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, which will build on the groundbreaking Transatlantic Slavery Gallery in the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool, opened by Dr Maya Angelou in 1994.
The galleries of the museum will open on Slavery Remembrance Day 2007 (23 August) a day that commemorates an uprising of the enslaved Africans on the island of St Domingo (modern Haiti and the Dominican Republic) in 1791. Designated by UNESCO, the date was chosen as a reminder that enslaved Africans were the main agents of their own liberation.
Liverpool was once Europe’s capital of the slave trade in the late 18th Century and grew rich on the profits of trading in enslaved people. It is therefore fitting that this subject should be marked and explored in the city.
The museum galleries will feature new dynamic and thought-provoking displays about the story of the transatlantic slave trade. Crucially, it will include new displays about the legacy of transatlantic slavery and will address issues such as freedom, identity, human rights, reparations, racial discrimination and cultural change.
The project will include the development of a new visitor-focused resource centre with an events programme of performance, public lectures and debate using the newly-acquired Dock Traffic Office. A research institute based in the museum is being developed in partnership with the University of Liverpool.
To commemorate 2007 there will be a full programme of events and activities ranging from a series of debates to a schools twinning programme.
The project has received support at the highest level from both the UK and US Government. On a recent trip to the Merseyside Maritime Museum US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, described it as an ‘extraordinary museum’, adding ‘your efforts help us both to remember and to overcome our past’. The UK’s Culture Minister David Lammy spoke earlier this year at an event aimed at raising the profile of the museum hosted at the British Consul-General’s residence in New York.
Liverpool Culture Company, the organisation charged with delivering the city’s Capital of Culture celebrations in 2008, has confirmed that the bicentenary will be one of the themes shaping its artistic programme for 2007. The Culture Company is set to reveal further details of the full programme in mid-October.