News and Events

African American Activist Walking Tour – December 6th 2018 – 6.00pm – London

Frederick Douglass

African American Activist Walking Tour by Dr. Hannah-Rose Murray, University of Nottingham

Thu 6 December 2018 – 18:00 – 19:30 GMT

Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street. London, WC2B 5AZ



“It is my mission to give to the world the black people’s side of the story.”

So Ida B. Wells said to a Leeds audience in 1893. In this incredible and iconic statement, Wells represented the sentiment of hundreds of African Americans who travelled to Britain to campaign against slavery, racism and lynching from the 1830s to the late 1890s. Many individuals sought temporary reprieve from American soil, others permanent; some raised money to free themselves or enslaved family members, and others sought work with varying degrees of success. Black men and women lectured in large cities and tiny fishing villages, wrote and published narratives, stayed with influential reformers and ensured millions of words were written about them in the newspapers.

Whatever their reasons for visiting, black activists exhibited whips and chains (and sometimes even their scars); read runaway slave advertisements from southern newspapers; created visual Panoramas, and used fiery rhetoric to tell their stories. It is therefore unsurprising that British newspaper editors littered their reports with accounts of formerly enslaved individuals as well as their speeches, adverts for their narratives, and their letters to editors. From the John O’Groat Journal to the Royal Cornwall Gazette, Victorian Britons followed the movements of black Americans from the 1830s until decades after American slavery had ended, often cramming into tiny churches or town halls to curb an insatiable appetite for details about life in slavery.

Join me on a walking tour that will take you to six sites where black activists made an important impact on the central London landscape, including:

– Freemason’s Hall, where numerous activists such as Frederick Douglass and Josiah Henson lectured about slavery

– Somerset House, where Martin Delany made his famous declaration in front of royalty, “I am a MAN!”

– Holborn Town Hall, where Ida B. Wells lectured on lynching and female suffrage.

Meet on the steps at Freemason’s Hall for a 6pm start. The walk is free, and will last roughly an hour and a half. We won’t be walking more than 1.5 miles max but please wear comfortable shoes!

Any questions, please don’t hesitate to email the leader of the tour, Dr. Hannah-Rose Murray, at

Digital Project Launch: Legacies on Display

Today (3rd December 2018) marks the launch of our newest digital project. ‘Legacies on Display: Slavery in Museums’ is a showcase of museums around the world that engage with and interpret slavery in their permanent displays. The first of its kind, the collection brings these institutions together using an interactive map.

Museums are exciting places to see the ‘usable past’ in action. They bring together objects, people and places, and prompt discussions unable to be had elsewhere in our communities. The aims of the ‘Legacies on Display’ collection were to create a resource for researchers, and the general public, that physically locates museums that permanently interpret slavery in their displays and exhibitions, as well as to raise the profile of the museums themselves. It also provides a wider insight into how museums in different places engage with the subject of slavery- what objects do they have? What are the key themes that they identify? Who’s voices feature in the display? The collection also provides an opportunity to reflect on the role of the twenty-first-century museum; specifically in how museums address challenging histories and their legacies in the contemporary world.

Each museum is listed with a description about the organisation and its displays, including its collections and narratives. These were researched using a combination of site visits and desk-based analysis. Key findings from the collection show a geographic spread of ‘slavery museums’ across six continents, and include a range of institutions; from renovated slave forts in West Africa, former plantations in America and purpose-built national institutions in the Caribbean, to port city museums in the UK. There are different forms of slavery covered, across five hundred years of history to the present day. There is a significant number of museums around the Atlantic world (Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas) that focus on transatlantic slavery and its legacies. Another notable finding is the disparity of resources amongst museums, particularly between those in lesser economically developed countries and those not, specifically in terms of their online presence.

Highlights from the collection include:

  • Wilberforce House Museum, Hull, UK– The world’s oldest slavery museum and home of Britain’s most famous abolitionist, William Wilberforce.
  • The National Museum of African American History, Washington D.C, USA- Described by its director Dr Lonnie Bunch as ‘a museum for all Americans,’ the museum firmly embeds the history of slavery with the development of the USA as a nation.
  • Bin Jelmood House, Doha, Qatar- The only museum in the Arab world that addresses slavery, with a particular focus on the enslavement of people across the Middle East.
  • House of Slaves, Gorée Island, Senegal- A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the renovated former slave fort features the poignant ‘door of no return’ through which enslaved Africans were forced onto ships bound for the Americas or the Caribbean.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site, Ontario, Canada- The museum is located on the site where the Rev. Josiah Henson set up a settlement for the many fugitives from slavery in the USA who fled to Canada. Harriet Beecher Stowe based her protagonist, Uncle Tom, on Henson.

The collection is fully searchable via the interactive map, or key words such as the name of the museum or the country in which it is located. Each museum is also tagged with key themes that can be searched, in addition to any organisations it may be involved in, such as the Federation of International Human Rights Museums, or the International Coalition for Sites of Conscience.

To browse the collection in full visit:

If you have any queries, comments or suggestions for additional museums contact


Digital Collections at The Wilberforce Institute – Monday 3 December

Monday, 3 December 2018 from 16:30-18:00

Wilberforce Institute, 27 High Street, HU1 1NE Kingston upon Hull



An event is being held at the Wiberforce Institute in Hull to launch two of our digital projects.

‘Remembering 1807’, put together by Dr Mary Wills, is an online archive that brings together materials from commemoration events that took place during 2007, the year of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade.

‘Legacies on Display: Slavery in Museums’ has been built by one of our PhD students, Rebecca Nelson. This collection showcases museums around the world that engage with and interpret the subject of slavery.

For further information please contact Rebecca Nelson

Exhibition: ‘Slavery, culture & collecting’ – Museum of London Docklands – Sept 18 – Sept 19

Antislavery Usable Past has collaborated with Museum of London Docklands to curate the latest display in the London, Sugar & Slavery gallery that highlights the connection to slavery of some of Britain’s oldest cultural organisations.  Slavery, culture & collecting follows slave owner and art collector George Hibbert, a prominent member of a large subsection of British society which derived its wealth directly from the slave economy. These figures were often active philanthropists, and are commemorated in memorials for their associations with charitable causes, while their connections to slavery are invisible even today.

Slavery Culture and Collecting


Hibbert was instrumental in building the West India Docks which now house the Museum of London Docklands. This connection positions the museum as an important place to think about the relationship between slavery and cultural heritage.

The wealth generated by slavery was used to create cultural institutions such as museums, universities, art galleries and charities. Advocates of slavery would then use culture in their arguments for the continuing use of enslaved labour, on the grounds that Africans needed the “civilising influence” of Europe.

The display contains a short film featuring Dr Katie Donington. Further information can be found on the museum website Slavery, culture and collecting, Museum of London

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Early Career Research event – Scholarship with Survivors Workshop – Call for participants – Deadline 17 September 2018

Antislavery Early Research Association


The Antislavery Early Research Association is running the following event:

Scholarship with Survivors Workshop – A Day of Conversation between Early Career Researchers and Survivors

University of Nottingham, UK

Saturday 20 October 2018

The Scholarship with Survivors Workshop aims to provide a platform for open dialogue between early career researchers and survivors of contemporary forms of slavery. Throughout the day, we will consider what diverse areas of research have to offer to survivors, how survivors’ perspectives can (and should) influence research, and the ways in which scholars and survivors can work together to produce and develop knowledge. By creating an informal environment in which knowledge is exchanged freely and equally, we seek to create an approach that abolishes the barrier between institution academia and survivor communities. The workshop will feature a presentation, panel session and Q&A with survivors, as well as thematic, round table discussions of selected focus areas, providing an opportunity for researchers to engage with survivors and one another.

A call for participants in any field or discipline researching issues relating to slavery, antislavery, and human trafficking – both modern and historic has been issued. For further information please see the full call document – Scholarship with Survivors Workshop Call for Participants

The organisers are also reaching out to survivors of slavery and human trafficking to join us in Nottingham, to participate in the workshop and become part of a growing network of early career researchers working in the area. You are welcome to attend as a general participant or as a presenter on the survivor panel. As a participant, you will not be required to tell everyone that you are a survivor of slavery. If you are interested please see here for further information – Call for Survivor Participants – 2018


Welcome to Shamere McKenzie, CEO Sun Gate Foundation

The Antislavery Usable Past is delighted to welcome Shamere McKenzie, CEO Sun Gate Foundation, as an Advisory Board Member to the project.



Shamere is herself a survivor of modern slavery and now uses her past adversity to raise awareness of human trafficking by speaking at various universities, conferences, community events and with government officials around the world. She partners with organisations by empowering survivors and youth within their programs, trains various professionals on how to identify and respond to human trafficking and have written and emergency shelter program for adult survivors of human trafficking. Her story has been featured in several books including a college text book focused on social justice. In addition, her story has been featured on various television and radio programs, in magazines and newspapers, on several blogs and she has received numerous awards for her work.

The Sun Gate Foundation is an anti-trafficking organisation that provides educational opportunities for survivors of human trafficking. It is Shamere’s desire that the Sun Gate Foundation will empower survivors to pick up their broken pieces and go confidently after their dreams.

Review of Historians Against Slavery Conference

‘U.S. Studies Online’ have published a positive review of the Historians Against Slavery Conference that was organised by Antislavery Usable Past in October 2017. The post by delegate Charlotte James, a postgraduate student, was published on 22 December 2017. U.S. Studies Online is the Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher webspace of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS).

For the full article go to


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

Launch event for Remembering 1807 digital archive

pjimage (9)Please join us to launch Remembering 1807, a new digital archive of commemorative activity relating to the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition. This free event will take place at the Museum of London Docklands on 20 September, 6.30 – 8 pm.

Please register for the launch to hear more about this new resource, a collection of the Antislavery Usable Past Archive.

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