The riches derived from the transatlantic slave trade are evident to this day in many of the UK’s leading visitor attractions. This project explored how these sites and their former owners profited from the toil and suffering of enslaved Africans.
Volunteers developed transferrable skills as they carried out research, working closely with the University of Nottingham and the Workers’ Educational Association. They were able to speak as one in sharing their reflections with local, regional and national institutions including National Trust and English Heritage. They created project legacies such as a website and films which continue to be used through academic and community forums such as at international conferences and university workshops. Volunteers also took part in a radio broadcast, created poetry and songs and fed into digital outputs such as a blog, social media and podcast.
The volunteers travelled to Bristol and Liverpool and to places linked to the slave trade such as Newstead Abbey, an historic house in Nottinghamshire. At Derwent Valley Mills, a new World Heritage Site in Derbyshire, they ensured that the new £multi-million exhibition included the fact that cotton picked by enslaved labour was used at the mill.
The discoveries of how their ancestors were treated meant it was at times a painful journey for the volunteers. But it was also painful when some of the sites refused to engage in meaningful dialogue. In response they formed strong bonds, calling themselves the ‘slave trade legacies family’, and began a history society that has been invited to contribute a chapter to a new academic publication on community heritage funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Sites that did engage benefitted from feedback from a section of the community that they often find hard to attract and engage.