The WISE Institute at the University of Hull offers a one-day study programme on slavery - past and present - designed and delivered by academic research staff at the Institute for school students and teachers. The education day described below is designed for school students aged 12 to 13, typically studying in 'Year 8' in the UK education system. These students are studying slavery as a newly integrated part of the national history curriculum in England and Wales.
The education day is delivered at the WISE Institute. A morning session on historic slavery is led by the Institute's academic research staff specialising in the transatlantic slave trade. This session is followed by a visit to the local slavery museum located next door to the WISE Institute in the historic museums' quarter of Hull. A nearby restaurant also situated on historic High Street in Hull serves a specially prepared lunch including African and Caribbean dishes after which the day students return to the WISE Institute where research staff lead an afternoon session on contemporary forms of slavery.
Announcement of a reward for a runaway slave.
Source : Jamaïca Mercury 20 July 1779
The treatment meted out to enslaved people during and after their transportation to the Caribbean colonies provoked some outrage in Britain at the time. The final section of the morning's lecture explores the abolition campaigns that resulted in the British parliament voting in 1807 to outlaw the trade which led eventually to the final emancipation of slaves in the British colonies in 1838. The conclusion to the morning session tries to explain why an apparently lucrative system was abolished.
The morning talks are followed by a hands-on workshop where students are given access to a range of replica artefacts and other physical materials for the study of slavery and abolition (equivalent to a museum's handling collection). The participants organise into small groups and examine the materials which include reproductions of contemporary images and also replicas such as the restraints captives were forced wear illustrated in the image below.
A replica of restraints used on captives in the British colonies
Source :The Wilberforce House Museum, Kingston-upon-Hull
Drawing on these materials, students prepare a short group presentation exploring one of the key themes and issues introduced in the morning talks. Depending on the individual talents and interests of the members of the group, students interpret the theme in a manner of their choice, which could include scripting and staging a short play, composing a song, presenting a poem or re-enacting an abolitionist debate.
After the morning session, participants are taken on a guided visit of the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull located adjacent to the WISE Institute. The visit is led by curatorial staff of the Museum. Wilberforce House is the birthplace of the British slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce (the statue in the front garden of Wilberforce House in the photograph below depicts the famous anti-slavery campaigner). The Wilberforce House Museum re-opened in 2007 as part of Kingston-upon-Hull's bicentenary commemorations of the famous vote in the Houses of Parliament that led to the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. Now visitors are able to consider the history of the transatlantic slave trade through African narratives, exploring the lives of enslaved people through human voices and stories. The histories of people like Equiano, Toussaint Louverture, Nanny of the Maroons and Mary Prince are revealed in the new displays. These new galleries also include areas devoted to West African cultures before and during the era of the transatlantic slave trade.
After visiting the West African cultures gallery, students proceed to the plantation life gallery which endeavours to communicate a sense of what life might have been like for enslaved Africans sold into the slave trade and transported to the Americas. The gallery includes displays on working conditions, punishments, the high death rates and focuses on the multiple ways in which plantation workers rebelled and resisted slavery. It also examines how new cultural traditions grew out of the conditions of enslavement on plantations, including new forms of music and language.
The contemporary slavery gallery was designed by the Wilberforce House Museum working in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International, the direct descendant of the British Anti-Slavery Society that led the way to abolition in Britain in the late 18th century (for more details on the founding of the Anti-Slavery Society see John Oldfield's article). The Museum's contemporary gallery explores some of the many forms slavery takes today and asks what efforts are being made to stop slavery and unfree labour around the world. New audio-visual interactive technology enables young people to take part in a vote on a range of human rights issues related to forced and unfree labour, the results of this voting is on display in the gallery.
Participants in the front garden of Wilberforce House Museum (The Wise Institute can be seen in the background)
The contemporary gallery also focuses on life in West Africa today. Kingston-upon-Hull is twinned with the city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The town was established in the late 1780s from land bought the previous decade from the King of the Temne. British anti-slavery activists (among whom the famous abolitionist Thomas Clarkson) identified it as a refuge for hundreds of former slaves returning from the Americas. The Sierra Leone display offers the visiting school students the opportunity to compare aspects of life in Hull, and in Britain generally, with life in Freetown.
Following the tour of the Wilberforce House Museum, lunch is provided for the WISE education day students at a local restaurant also located in the historic Museums' quarter along the cobblestoned High Street of Hull. The WISE lunch is sourced entirely from Fairtrade produce. Using information distributed at the lunch tables our participants are invited to consider whether it is important to know how the food we eat is produced and to think about any connections there might be between the production of sugar, chocolate and other favourite foods, and the need to protect the human rights of agricultural workers of all ages around the world.
After lunch the students return to the WISE Institute where specialist research staff lead a study programme focusing on contemporary forms of slavery and particularly those forms affecting the age group of the participants attending the event. The session starts with a short film highlighting issues of contemporary slavery in South Asia and the activities local people are engaged in to combat bonded child labour in their country. The film presentation goes on to point out forms of slavery existing in other parts of world and explores why such forms of labour persist in the world. Issues of poverty and the persistent inequalities that divide rich and poor nations in the 21st century provide an introduction to a discussion that starts addressing the multiple related factors that are preventing the eradication of slavery in modern era.
Following the film clips, the introductory talk and the preliminary plenary discussion, the rest of the afternoon is reserved for a campaign workshop. Students organise into teams and adopt the name of a famous abolitionist (Equiano, Harriet Tubman, for example) or human rights activist (Mandela, Biko, Wollstonecraft, O. de Gouges, inter alia). Their task is to design a contemporary abolition campaign. Each group is equipped with a box of resources including a large map of the world showing the incidence of child labour globally (for maps of forced labour and child labour globally see the ICTUR learning and teaching resources), a collection of statistics, a list of websites, a series of images from campaigns around the world, and a networked computer and printer. Each group is given the challenge of sensitising the British public to an issue raised by the afternoon's presentation and discussion. Using the material in the box, including large photographic images illustrating the theme of child slavery, the students decide on:
- the theme of their campaign
- what the campaign must achieve
- who the publicity campaign is targeted at, and
- how they are going to launch the campaign.
- the theme of their campaign
In a future follow-up activity, issues of agency and representation in campaigning situations can be explored, at this stage the campaign is a conceptual exercise in identifying whom to target in the campaign particularly in relation to the power and influence they might be able and inclined to wield in efforts to eradicate slavery.
A Student group presents its campaign proposal to combat present-day slavery
In the final learning activity of the day, students present their campaign ideas to a panel (academic staff from the WISE Institute). The panel members ask the team what they have learned about the issues and what they think about the incidence of child slavery in the world today. The day's events end with congratulations to the teams for their campaign designs and, finally, tea, biscuits and the student feedback questionnaire.