LIVERPOOL REMEMBERS SLAVERY
With a programme of commemorative events and the opening of the new International Slavery Museum in August
They will remember that we were sold but they won’t remember that we were strong.
They will remember that we were bought, but not that we were brave.
William Prescott, former slave 1937
Liverpool will mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade with a series of events, and the opening of the International Slavery Museum in August. Liverpool, central to the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century, is a fitting location in which to commemorate the anniversary of this important landmark.
The galleries of the museum will open in Liverpool on 23 August, Slavery Remembrance Day 2007, a day that commemorates an uprising of 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.
To accompany the opening of the International Slavery Museum, there is a programme of events and activities planned in Liverpool in 2007. These range from a series of debates to a schools twinning programme.
The year-long programme of events for 2007 has been generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with a grant of £50,000 and includes a series of lectures and debates, two multi-faith cathedral services and a family history event. The first debate on 14 March from 5pm, chaired by Stephen Small, associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, will explore the abolition of the British Slave Trade and the different abolitionists active at the time.
25 March will mark 200 years – to the day – that the Parliamentary Bill was passed to abolish the slave trade in the former British Empire. To commemorate the date a multi-faith Service of Penitence will take place at Liverpool Cathedral in partnership with Churches Together on 24 March 2007.
The lecture programme will explore a range of topics from the economic impact of the abolition to contemporary slavery and will feature speakers such as Professor Joseph Inikori of the University of Rochester, USA and Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah-Geechee Nation.
This year’s Slavery Remembrance Day commemorations promise to be better than ever and will feature a memorial lecture by Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, a distinguished author – most recently of The History of Africa – and Professor in the Department of African-American Studies at Temple University, USA. There will also be a day-long programme of performances, children’s activities and a libation to commemorate this important day.
As part of a range of contemporary art In August the Merseyside Maritime Museum is host to La Bouche du Roi, an artwork by Romauld Hazoumé. The structure of La Bouche du Roi is based on a famous late-18th century print of the Liverpool slave ship the Brookes, and is a powerful memorial to the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. A multi-media artwork, it has been created using over three hundred ‘masks’ made from plastic petrol cans used by motorcyclists who run black market fuel between Benin and Nigeria. The artwork was recently acquired by the British Museum with the help of the Art Fund and the British Museum Friends.
An International Schools Twinning Programme will take place in June. This collaborative project with Plan International will see five schools in Liverpool work with schools from Senegal, Brazil, Haiti and Sierra Leone to focus on issues affecting young people. They will examine what it means to be free, how to safeguard liberty and tackle what slavery really means.
Background – International Slavery Museum
The galleries at the International Slavery Museum 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 museum will also seek to address ignorance and misunderstanding by looking at the deep and permanent impact of slavery and the slave trade on Africa, South America, the USA, the Caribbean and Western Europe.
A second phase of the project, due to open in 2010, will include the development of a new visitor-focused education 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.
The opening of the International Slavery Museum in August 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 project has received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund with a grant of £1.65m and the DCMS, and the UK’s Culture Minister David Lammy is also an advocate of the new museum.