Introduction

Until just 200 years ago Britain was still profiting from the sale of human beings.

Britain sent ships filled with guns and goods to trade for men, women and children snatched from their homes in West Africa. These Africans were forced onto the ships and transported in appalling conditions across the Atlantic to the Americas, where they were sold as slaves to work on plantations run by European colonists. The same ships would then be filled with products of the plantations: sugar, cocoa, coffee, tobacco, cotton and rum, to bring back and sell in Britain and Europe. This triangular trade had been happening over and over for more than 200 years.

The British slave trade started in the mid 1500s and slavery itself was not abolished in the British colonies until 1834. In those times Britain had been a brutal place - the poor in Britain were referred to as “work slaves” because many worked long hours in hard labour for little pay. Slavery existed in different forms all over the world, including in Africa, and Britain was not the only country involved in the transatlantic trade. This exhibition, however, focuses on Britain’s involvement in the slave trade and The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act that began the ending of this shameful period of history.

This exhibition commemorates the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 by spotlighting hidden stories and, in particular, the local stories that link the trade and the abolition to Walsall. We also show how the legacy of slavery still affects us all today.

 

We should learn what happened, acknowledge how it still affects us today, and endeavour to establish equality and human rights for all people for the future.

This exhibition has been developed by local groups and local people on behalf of The African and Caribbean Arts, Culture and Heritage Group. We thank local volunteer researchers: Huldah Henry, Dean Campbell, those who attended the research group and staff at the Local History Centre and Museum. We also thank Black Sisters Collective, Cultural Sisters and Walsall Youth Arts for their project work. The exhibition was written and designed by Aishling Fox and Deb Slade from The Council’s Creative Development Team and by Claudette Chambers and Kate Green from Walsall Youth Arts. Website by Drew Reece 2007.