Project Strands

The Antislavery Usable Past project has a series of interrelated parts:


  • Jean Allain, Human Trafficking in International Law (2018).
  • Kevin Bales (ed.), Using History (2018).
  • Kevin Bales, Slavery and Conflict (2019).
  • Katie Donington (with co-editors), Britain’s Memory of Slavery: The Local Nuances of a National Sin (2016).
  • John Oldfield, Antislavery and Opinion Building in Britain and the United States, 1750-1865 (2019).
  • Zoe Trodd, The Antislavery Usable Past: Protest Memory in the Antilynching Movement (2018).
  • Several co-edited book volumes and special journal issues, and numerous book chapters and journal articles.


  • Remembering 1807: this extensive new archive, collects all UK projects that commemorated the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade in 2007. The collection will launch in September 2017 with a series of events around the UK.
  • Congo Antislavery: we are digitizing the full collection of hundreds of early 20th-century photographs taken as part of the antislavery campaign in the Belgian Congo, and working with Congolese partners Yole Africa to reinterpret them for new contemporary antislavery visual culture, film, performance and community-based activism. The collection of both original photographs and new material will launch in 2018.
  • Antislavery Visual Culture: we have mapped and collected all murals that features slavery and antislavery around the world, now numbering several hundred. Expanding on a previous AHRC-funded exhibition, this collection will launch in late 2017.
  • Contemporary Slave Narratives: we are gathering a major collection of testimonies by formerly enslaved people, in the tradition of powerful 19th-century slave narratives. The collection launched in 2016 with 50 narratives and will eventually number more than 500.
  • Slavery Walking Trails: we are mapping all the public history walking tours and trails about slavery, archiving each one, developing those that only exist in oral form into digital maps, and featuring them at a new digital collection to launch in early 2018.


  • Historians Against Slavery (HAS): we have launched a UK branch of this US-based organisation, mapped slavery expertise in the UK, co-edit the HAS book series with Cambridge University Press, and are co-hosting the biennial HAS conference in 2017 at the International Slavery Museum.
  • Lawyers Against Slavery: as part of our leadership of this new network, we are disseminating the Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines in multiple languages, providing briefings to governments on slavery legislation, collating the domestic legislation dealing with slavery from all 193 UN Member States in order to provide a framework for assessing the implementation of international obligations, and developing model antislavery legislation in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International.
  • Postgraduate Researcher Network: we hold an annual symposium for slavery/antislavery PGRs that met in 2015 at Hull’s Wilberforce Institute, in 2016 at Brno’s Masaryk University with the Utrecht Network, and will meet in 2017 at the Centre for the Study of International Slavery in Liverpool.

Knowledge Exchange:

  • Open Educational Resources: we offer the world’s first massive open online course (MOOC) on contemporary slavery, titled Ending Slavery. This free four-week course ran for the first time in October 2016 and again in May 2017, for 8000 learners.
  • Archives into the Future: our annual symposium at the British Library focuses on the role of archives in caring not just for the past, but for the future. For example, in 2016, we focused on third sector archives and how to utilise heritage resources in contemporary campaigning.
  • Reparations: as part of our research into historical injustice, we held a two-day forum titled “From the Transatlantic Slave Trade to Engaging the Maangamizi,” that included an Intercultural Dialogue on Human Rights and Justice and a workshop on Historical Injustice and Reparations.
  • Antislavery Film: we work with our partners at Unchosen to develop learning resources and an annual film-making competition, also co-hosting the Unchosen annual conference in 2017.
  • Partner Seminars: we visit our heritage sector and NGO partners to share knowledge about antislavery then and now, in order to help inform contemporary antislavery strategies with historical knowledge (for our NGO partners) and help expand historical programming with contemporary antislavery representation (for our heritage partners).

PhD Projects:

  • Hannah Jeffery: “Walls of Respect: Antislavery Memory and Black Power Murals” (University of Nottingham)
  • Katarina Schwartz: “Reparatory Justice and the Maangamizi: Redressing Historical Enslavement” (University of Nottingham)
  • Rebecca Nelson: “Legacies on Display: Antislavery in Museums” (University of Hull)