Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Liverpool Museum Honors Black Victorians

Via The Independent, 17 August 2007:

The International Slavery Museum opens in Liverpool later this week with an exhibition naming history's greatest black achievers. Some are household names, others are barely known. All are extraordinary.

"The transatlantic slave trade was the greatest forced migration in history," says David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool. "And yet the story of the mass enslavement of Africans by Europeans is one of resilience and survival against all odds and a testament to the unquenchable nature of the human spirit."

The museum aims to address ignorance and misunderstanding by looking at the deep and permanent impact of slavery and the slave trade on Africa, South America, the United States, the Caribbean, and Western Europe.

One way the museum will do that is through its "Black Achievers Wall," which will demonstrate how people of African descent have contributed to cultural transformation in the Americas and Europe. Nearly 80 individuals representing a diverse mix of backgrounds, eras, and disciplines will be included initially, with more to come.

Among the black Victorians who will be honored are:

John Archer - Campaigner, 1863-1932
In 1913, John Archer was elected Mayor of Battersea, the first person of African descent to reach such a position in the UK. An equality campaigner, he chaired the Pan-African Congress in London in 1921 and was president of the African Progress Union. [Related links: Untold London--England's First Black Mayor Speaks; British Library--Black Europeans: John Archer]

Paul Bogle - Cleric, 1822-1865
A hero in Jamaica, Bogle (shown here) was a Baptist deacon who used his education and wealth to help the black community. He led the Morant Bay Rebellion, in which many impoverished former slaves were killed by British troops sent to quell the uprising. He was hung by the British.

William Cuffay - Activist, 1788-1870
Cuffay (shown at the top of this post) was the son of a former slave and a leading figure in the Chartist movement, which opposed imbalances in the distribution of wealth in Britain. He was transported to Tasmania in 1848 for his role in organizing a popular protest. The significance of his contribution is evident from a report in The Times which referred to the London Chartist movement as "the black man and his party." The Chartist movement is considered the first major working-class movement in the world. [Related links: 100 Great Black Britons: William Cuffay; BBC Historic Figures: William Cuffay]

Mary Seacole - Nurse, 1805-1881 (read my previous post on Seacole and her memorial)
Seacole rose to prominence during the Crimean War when she funded her own journey to Turkey after British authorities refused her offers of help. There she opened a hospital and became a popular figure in Britain, receiving various awards for bravery. Her autobiography (shown here) was published in 1857.

Related link: Celebrating the Black Presence in Westminster, 1500-2000

Shown here: William Cuffay in Reynolds’s Political Instructor, 13 April 1850 (top); Paul Bogle (middle), cover of Mary Seacole's autobiography (bottom).


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