Slavery: Could a new museum stop racism in London?


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“Slavery. It’s not your fault so you don’t have to feel guilty. But it is a topic we need to address.”

Sixteen-year-old Kush says some of his friends feel “like their ancestors were responsible” for the slave trade.

Speaking to Radio 1 Newsbeat at a remembrance event in London, he explains he feels there’s no need for guilt – but it’s crucial the history is still taught.

A new museum about the slave trade is being proposed for the capital, by a group that says the idea could help reduce racism.

Millions of people were taken from Africa and sold as slaves between the 16th and 19th centuries.

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Kush spoke to us on Sankofa Day, an international day for the remembrance of slavery

Kush agrees that talking about what happened in the past can help with current issues.

“Racism stems from slavery and it’s a real problem now – but accepting that it’s a thing and accepting that we do have the power to change it, that would change a lot of things in our society.”

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Kush, 16, says everyone needs to be talking about slavery

‘We all know the horrors, but it’s also about survival’

“When we talk about slavery, we talk about it from a victim point,” says Toyin Agbetu from British-based African rights organisation The Ligali.

Toyin was also at Sankofa Day in Trafalgar Square and spoke to the crowd.

He says people shouldn’t just talk about the “horrific” side of slavery but also focus on the stories of “survival” and “innovation”.

He says: “People were oppressed, kidnapped and murdered for centuries but they resisted and are still surviving to this very day.

“We don’t just want stories that turn off children and they think: ‘Why do I want to learn about enslavement when all I think is my ancestors were slaves?’

“But actually I’m learning because my ancestors rose from enslavement and they became these amazing people doing these amazing things.”

What’s the idea for a slavery museum in London?

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A petition for Abolishing Slavery in 1826

The proposal for a slavery museum in London comes from the socialist group the Fabian Society.

It says Londoners continue to face racism because of “centuries-old tropes about racial inferiority” – and a museum would help improve the situation through education.

The Fabian Society also says the UK government and London’s financial sector “have a moral obligation to assist with funding the museum”.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan backs the idea, saying: “Understanding Britain’s role in the slave trade would strengthen our commitment to fight racism and hatred in all its forms.”

The Museum of London Docklands has a permanent exhibition called London, Sugar and Slavery, and Liverpool is home to the International Slavery Museum.

A spokesman for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the government gives “more than £19 million a year” to National Museums Liverpool where the International Slavery Museum is.

It also says it funds other museums that “tell the stories of Britain’s role in slave trading” such as the Royal Museum of Greenwhich, the Museum of London and Bristol’s M Shed.

‘That story has to go’

Toyin Agbetu says he’s in favour of the museum but says he’s “opposed to the idea of reducing the entirety of African history to a story of victimhood”.

He also says how it’s taught in schools needs to change.

“The simple story of one day Africans were sitting by the beach and the naughty Europeans came and captured them. Then the Europeans changed their mind and the African people were freed and built Britain. That story has got to go.”

The national curriculum says pupils in England are supposed to learn about the British empire in Key Stage 3, with an optional example given on the government website being to learn about the “effects” of Britain’s transatlantic slave trade and its “eventual abolition”.

Toyin says there were a number of things that happened to end slavery – including a sugar boycott.

Thousands of pamphlets were printed which encouraged people to boycott sugar produced by slaves – and sales dropped significantly.

“If you look at the history of enslavement you see young people in the UK saying ‘I don’t agree with that’ – that’s really powerful.”

There was also a long history of slave rebellions in Caribbean colonies owned by the British, Spanish, French and Dutch.

The most successful took place in the French colony of St Domingue – where a revolution led to the founding of Haiti in 1804.

What was the slave trade?

For 400 hundred years millions of people were taken from their homes in Africa and traded.

People were transported in crowded cargo holds with little access to fresh air, clean water or proper food. Many died on the way.

Slaves worked on sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations – those in British colonies in the Caribbean worked on the sugar plantations which helped make the empire rich.

The British transatlantic slave trade ended in 1807, but it didn’t end in all countries under British rule until 1834.

British politician William Wilberforce was a key figure in the slow process of getting slavery abolished.

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Source link : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-49330140

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Publish date : 2019-08-27 23:56:50

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