New online collection reveals North East’s anti-slavery history
(13 March 2007)
Historic records detailing the region’s anti-slavery movement will go online for the first time to mark the 200th anniversary of the 1807 ‘Abolition of the Slave Trade Act’.
Durham University library’s fascinating collection of anti-slavery posters, letters, documents and reports will be accessible from what is the first University library website to provide online resources for schools. The project is just one of many the University is developing this year to help school pupils in the North East learn about slavery and the part their region played in its abolition. The library’s collection includes the works of Durham ‘born and bred’ abolitionist Granville Sharp, who became renowned for his campaigns against slavery, as well as the works of the 2nd Earl Grey, the descendent of a long established Northumbrian family. During his time as Prime Minister, Grey, who gave his name to one of the University’s colleges, passed the Reform Act of 1832. This led to the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833, finishing the work initiated and intended by the 1807 ‘Abolition of the Slave Trade Act’. Dr Sarah Price, Access and Learning Officer at the Library, is involved in a number of projects endeavouring to help pupils in the North East learn about slavery. She said: “In the 19th Century, the North East had a high proportion of anti-slavery support and that’s why the University Library has such a large collection of work on slavery.” “I hope that we can raise the profile of Granville Sharp and show that history is still relevant today,” says Sarah. “By using history we can illuminate the present and show that issues such as slavery are not dead and buried.” Teachers from the region will be invited to use this extensive collection of books and documents on slavery in the University Library and at the Northumberland Records at Woodhorn in Northumberland. Having secured £10,000 funding from Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) North East, two teachers will be working at Woodhorn and two others at the University Library, for eight days in order to write this resource for Key Stage 3 and 4 Citizenship classes. Dr Sheila Hingley, Head of Heritage Collections at Durham University Library said: “By creating this new resource during the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade we can show students that slavery is still an issue today.” Though contemporary slavery may take on different forms from that of the past, slavery continues to affect people of all ages, sex and race. Across the world, millions of men, women and children are forced to lead lives as slaves, without freedom and without choice. “There are still 20 million people in some form of servitude,” says Dr Hingley. “By learning about the past, children will be able to put it into context. For example, when they buy designer trainers they are in effect supporting sweat shops or indeed slavery.” Any teachers interested in working on the project should call Sarah Price on 0191 334 1213.