Now that we are entering the final 18 months of the Antislavery Usable Past project, we thought it an opportune moment to start summing up some overall lessons from the project, while re-affirming others. What follows is an interim report setting out our first set of thoughts: ‘Lessons from the Usable Past: Part I’. (Please have a look at About the project for further details about the project and the work strands.)
The Antislavery Usable Past project is a critical reflection on how past antislavery activism might inform the present. Not ignoring the fact that slave rebellions and riots were also forms of antislavery activism, the project acknowledges that the enslaved were agents in the process of Emancipation. The project raises some difficult and sensitive issues which need to be addressed.
Using street art to help fight modern slavery
Aniekan Udofia Bread for the City 1640 Good Hope Road SE Washington D.C. 2011
Dan Devenny Labor History Mural New Bedford Sixth and Spring Streets 2001
Lunar New Year (LNY Newark) I am Yo Soy Joseph Avenue Rochester New York
Wings of Faith 97th St at Avalon Blvd Los Angeles (Black Neighbourhood) 2005
The University of Nottingham is launching the first ever major collection of murals focussing on slavery and the anti-slavery movement on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December).
Murals are a common tool in the fight against slavery, but their ephemeral nature means that that have a limited lifespan. The Antislavery Usable Past project has created the first large-scale collection of antislavery murals. It brings together both interior and exterior murals from the 1920s through to present day.
By evaluating how different groups have used murals about the antislavery past for protest and community activism, the archive aims to encourage contemporary antislavery activists to use this form of community artwork to raise awareness and build city-wide “slavery-free community” campaigns.
Created by researcher Hannah Jeffery, the archive currently features murals of historical American abolitionist leaders such as Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Denmark Vesey and Nathaniel Turner. It also includes murals that use the visual iconography of slavery and antislavery. Going forward it will expand to include murals about historical antislavery from the UK and around the world, and also begin to feature new murals that focus on the contemporary movement against slavery and human trafficking.
“In creating this archive, I wanted to establish a sense of permanence for these murals to ensure they remain visible in the historical protest narrative, even if erased from their physical location. Two of the main purposes of the archive are to show how these artworks have long been protest tools to tell forgotten antislavery stories for the purpose of galvanizing community activism, and also to highlight lessons we can learn and apply to murals today that raise awareness of contemporary slavery and human trafficking.” Hannah Jeffery, PhD student, Antislavery Usable Past
To find out more about the archive visit antislavery.ac.uk/murals