Mural collection launched on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December)

Using street art to help fight modern slavery

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

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