Commentaries

Historians Against Slavery Conference 2017

“Outstanding scholarship linked directly to contemporary issues of injustice and oppression” (HAS delegate)

Overview: This year Historians Against Slavery (HAS) held its biennial conference outside of the United States for the first time at the International Slavery Museum (ISM) in Liverpool, UK. The two-day conference was part of a series of events during the 10th Anniversary of the ISM and also marked UK Black History Month 2017. It was co-hosted by HAS, the ISM, the Centre for the Study of International Slavery (University of Liverpool) and the Antislavery Usable Past project (ASUP, Universities of Nottingham and Hull).

Continue reading

Human Trafficking’s Usable Past

By by Jean Allain. International Co-Investigator.  Professor, Faculty of Law, Monash University, Australia; Professor of International law, Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull, UK.

I’ve always said that grants do two things: they are a catalyst, moving one’s research forward; and second they allow the researcher to do things they might not otherwise be able to do.

A component of our Arts & Humanities Research Council Large Grant on Antislavery Usable Past allows me the opportunity to write a monograph about the legal regimes surrounding antislavery.  That book will capture various areas of the law under the umbrella of human trafficking.

As part of that research I had an opportunity in 2015 to travel to the League of Nations Archives in Geneva, Switzerland, to go gather material around the League’s activities related to trafficking, including the negotiations of the 1921 and 1933 Traffic in Women conventions.  I also visited the United Nations Library in Geneva where I collected the relevant United Nations material including that of 1949 trafficking in Persons instrument.  That material, which I photographed, will keep me busy over the next year or so, as I sift through it to drawn out its relevance.

Continue reading

‘A Museum for all Americans’

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or… some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

These are powerful words, spoken by Barak Obama in his final speech as US President in January 2017. They echoed loudly when delivered in that speech, which marked one of the most significant regime changes in the political history of America, but they echo louder still etched into the wall of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington DC. This is where I saw them, in the final display of the museum’s history galleries, opposite a case filled with objects celebrating the achievements of America’s first president of African descent. In a museum that has been in the making for over one hundred years, these words are an affirmation of the achievement that the NMAAHC is.

DSC_1464

One of the quieter displays in the museum explores the making of the NMAAHC. It was here where I really realised what a huge achievement the very existence of the museum is to African American communities across America.

Continue reading

Nottingham Stands Against Slavery: Help make Nottingham a slavery free city

This event took place on 20th June 2017 at the University of Nottingham and was well attended with around 40 people including local activists, frontline social workers and faith leaders at the event to hear from the expert panel and discuss three of Unchosen’s short films. The level and quality of debate was very high, with detailed questions and analysis from both the audience and panel members. Continue reading

Red rubber in sepia: Slavery, memory and representation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

By Katie Donington

As part of the Antislavery Usable Past project I am digitising a collection of 509 photographs produced by a British missionary Alice Seeley Harris. The images have achieved an iconic status in the representation of the human suffering that occurred in the Congo Free State when it was under the control of King Leopold II at the turn of the nineteenth century. Continue reading

Remembering 1807, Archiving 2007

By Dr Mary Wills

At the Wilberforce Institute we are in the final stages of collecting materials for ‘Remembering 1807’, a digital archive of materials from UK projects which in 2007 commemorated the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade. The archive will go live this September, and will be one of the major resources in the Antislavery Usable Past’s online portal, providing primary source materials to be used in future antislavery scholarship, teaching and learning.

Continue reading

The Iron in the Ivory Towers: Dealing with Georgetown’s legacies of enslavement

This post by Katarina Schwarz also features on the blog of the Re-presenting slavery: making a public usable past project.

Many universities and colleges benefitted from human enslavement and exploitation, and Georgetown University, Washington was no exception. What is exceptional about Georgetown’s case is how well documented those connections are, and now the nature of the attempt to reckon with them.

Continue reading

A New Curriculum for Hull – Usable Past in Action

By Rebecca Nelson, Wilberforce Institute

Since September I’ve been working as an intern with Hull’s Heritage Learning team. They are responsible for the educational offers across the museum sites in Hull, working with schools from the local area and beyond. For 2017, coinciding with the City of Culture programme, Heritage Learning are launching a new history curriculum for schools in the Hull area. This explores the history of Hull from its origins in the medieval period, to the modern day, through key events and characters. Teachers were consulted about the topics they wanted to see on the curriculum, with an original list of over 150 being whittled down to just 20.

Continue reading

A valuable experience at the International Slavery Museum

By Rebecca Nelson, Wilberforce Institute

Alongside being part of the Antislavery Usable Past project, my PhD experience also includes academic training with the Heritage Consortium. This comprises a group of Northern universities, committed to enhancing applicable heritage skills among students with related research interests. This has worked very well with my interest in museums and their engagement with and interpretation of antislavery across Britain. Part of the assessment for this training was a placement, which I wanted to do somewhere that had real relevance for my research – what better place than Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum (ISM)?

Continue reading