diamond geezer

 Sunday, March 25, 2007

It's a weekend of anniversaries. Let's reflect.

An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade
"Be it therefore enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That from and after the First Day of May One thousand eight hundred and seven, the African Slave Trade, and all and all manner of dealing and trading in the Purchase, Sale, Barter, or Transfer of Slaves, or of Persons intended to be sold, transferred, used, or dealt with as Slaves, practiced or carried on, in, at, to or from any Part of the Coast or Countries of Africa, shall be, and the same is hereby utterly abolished, prohibited, and declared to be unlawful;" 47° Georgii III, Session 1, cap. XXXVI [25th March 1807]
Today is not the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. Today is just 200 years since British MPs eventually got round to attempting to outlaw the transatlantic slave trade on ships belonging to the British Empire. They were a bit late. We'd already sent 3 million Africans to the Caribbean by then, and slavery continued in our colonies there until 1834. Even after that date human traffic continued between other countries, and still continues in far too many places around the world to this day. But the 1807 Act was a step in the right direction, and today's anniversary is as good a time as any to pause, and to reflect, and to look to a better future.

Here are nine London institutions commemorating 1807 in 2007:
Uncomfortable Truths - an exhibition of specially commissioned artwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum [20 February - 17 June]
Portraits, People and Abolition - a series of events and online galleries at the National Portrait Gallery [19 March - 23 May]
Resistance and Remembrance - a varied afternoon of culture at the British Museum, featuring the Brodsky Quartet, Simon Schama and Romuald Hazoumé [this afternoon, 2pm - 6:30]
Bicentenary weekend - a programme of film, poetry, music and discussion at the National Maritime Museum [24 - 25 March]
1807 and Tate - The Tate Gallery faces up to the fact that its founder's fortune was based on the wealth of the Caribbean sugar industry [various]
Bicentenary events - music and art at the Horniman Museum [April-May]
The British Slave Trade: Abolition, Parliament and People - a free exhibition in Westminster Hall (which is well worth a visit in itself) [23 May - 23 September]
London, Sugar and Slavery - a new half million pound gallery opening later in the year at the Museum in Docklands, showing how slavery shaped the capital [27 October onwards]
Greenwich Slavery Trail - a printable walk exploring the darker history of the capital's trading links [pdf]

International Slavery Museum - opens later this year in Liverpool's Albert Dock [23 August onwards]


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