Slavery: Portrayal, Research & Legacy

Quentin Tarantino’s much vaunted and equally as criticised film Django Unchained! has reignited the debate about the portrayal, understanding and legacy of enslavement and the enslaved. Beyond Hollywood UK museums and universities have been engaged with the history of the transatlantic slave trade since the 2007 bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, and some well before. The project Revealing Histories was one such engagement and Manchester Museum was a key contributor,  http://www.revealinghistories.org.uk/home.html. Most recently several contemporary projects, some of which are discussed below, have emerged to further our comprehension of the impact and affect of slavery.

The 1806 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act prohibited further enslavement but those already enslaved were not  freed. In 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act conferred a quasi-state of freedom on the enslaved throughout the British Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape. This so-called emancipation resulted in handsome compensation for slave-owners, £20 million in total, who claimed they had been ‘economically disadvantaged’ as a consequence. The University College London project Legacies of British Slave-ownership has finally completed the full digitisation of compensation claims all of which of now available to search on-line at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/

This label was used on the ship Kelvin, which was loaded with cotton picked by enslaved African-Americans in 1865. The ship left Galveston, Texas, USA, and arrived in Liverpool, UK. The cotton was bought by a Bolton merchant. Brass. USA. Mr. J. Wilkinson. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection. 2013.

This label was used on the ship Kelvin, which was loaded with cotton picked by enslaved African-Americans in 1865. The ship left Galveston, Texas, USA, and arrived in Liverpool, UK. The cotton was bought by a Bolton merchant. Brass, USA, Mr. J. Wilkinson. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection. 2013.

Complimentary to this the Centre for the Study of International Slavery (CSIS) has recently launched a master’s degree course in International Slavery Studies. CSIS is a partnership between the University of Liverpool and National Museums Liverpool and promotes research into both historic and contemporary enslavement. You can find out more about the course at http://www.liv.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/taught/faculty-of-humanities-and-social-sciences/school-of-histories-languages-and-cultures/history/taught/international-slavery-studies-ma/overview/

Here at the University of Manchester Professor Simon Gikandi of Princeton University, a widely published expert on slavery, race, post-colonialism and African and Caribbean literature, will deliver a public seminar tomorrow entitled Race and the Problem of Modern Time. The event has been organised by English and American Studies and will no doubt prove insightful.

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