Scotland, Slavery and Abolitionism: A Timeline of Public Engagement

This is a partial list of significant initiatives which have sought to bring the history of Scotland’s relationship to Atlantic slavery and abolitionism to wider public attention. It includes exhibitions, educational resources, art works, walks, films, radio and TV programmes, performances, books, newspaper and magazine articles, blogposts and conferences, and starts, arbitrarily in 2000. (I have excluded more specialised academic essays, which deserve a list of their own).

Photomontage from cover of CRER’s Black History Month programme 2017, satirising the civic slogan prominently displayed on a building overlooking Glasgow’s George Square. (With kind permission of CRER).

Black History Month, co-ordinated by CRER, has provided a forum for much of this work. Notice the relatively large number of events in 2007, inspired by the two hundredth anniversary of the British abolition of the slave trade. In 2014 the hosting of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow prompted a further burst of activity in that city, notably focused on the Empire Cafe which ran during the games. The worldwide Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 prompted further activity and comment.

Four identical posters affixed to a wall, depicting George Floyd, and the message, 'Black Lives Matter to Glasgow', white lettering on a pink background, mimicking the style of the city's promotional 'People Make Glasgow' slogan.
Poster, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, June 2020

Nevertheless many of these projects are ephemeral. Web pages go out of date or disappear, unarchived. Radio and television programmes are usually taken offline after a short interval. Exhibitions and performances are often poorly documented and remembered only by the small numbers of people who attend them.

This is perhaps one of the reasons why, despite all this activity, there are growing calls for a permanent memorial or dedicated museum in Scotland that would recognise the country’s debt to slavery, both directly through the ownership of enslaved persons; and indirectly through the importation and consumption of the products of their labour, generating fortunes which were invested in Scotland’s industrial and commercial infrastructure.

2001-present: Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance (founded 1999, renamed Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights in 2010) begins co-ordinating an annual programme of events for Black History Month. This has included walking tours of Glasgow’s Merchant City led, at various times, by Frank Boyd, David Govier, Stephen Mullen, Adebusola Deborah Ramsey and Marenka Thompson-Odlum, and numerous exhibitions, performances, talks and other events.

2002Graham Fagen‘s live web broadcast Radio Roselle, the first of his works to explore connections between Jamaica and Scotland via Burns. exhibited as an installation in the exhibition Love is Lovely, (Fruitmarket, Edinburgh, 2002). Followed by Blood Shed (V&A, London 2004), Clean Hands Pure Heart (Tramway, Glasgow, 2005), Downpresserer(Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, 2007), I Murder Hate(somebodyelse, The Changing Room, Stirling, 2009) and The Slave’s Lament (Scotland+Venice, Venice Biennale, 2015; Hospitalfield, Arbroath, 2016; Matt’s Gallery & CGP Dilston Grove, Southwark Park Galleries, London, 2016; Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, 2016; Galerie del’UQAM, Montreal, 2017; Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 2017; National Gallery of Jamaica, 2017; Doris McCarthy Gallery, Toronto, 2018; National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, 2018; Holburne Museum, Bath, 2019; Mississippi Museum of Art, 2019-2020) (acquired by The Tate, 2016).

2002: Jim Muotune performs a speech delivered by Frederick Douglass at Glasgow’s City Hall in 1860. Glasgow Herald, 9 October.

2002Slavery and Glasgow, an exhibition showcasing collections held by Glasgow City Archives and Special Collections, Mitchell Library.

2003: publication of Joseph Knight by James Robertson, a fictionalisation of the life of the Black slave who won his freedom in Scotland in a landmark court case in 1777.

2003: first broadcast of Scotland’s Black History (Billy Kay, Odyssey Productions) BBC Radio Scotland. Six programmes. (Repeated, with new material in 2016).

2004: online exhibition curated by Ayrshire Archives for Black History Month. Archived here.

2005: publication of Scotland, the Caribbean and the Atlantic World, 1750-1820 by Douglas Hamilton.

2006: publication of Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery by Iain Whyte.

2007: Scottish executive publishes Scotland and the Slave Trade, drawing on research by Iain Whyte and Eric Graham, but significantly revised.

2007: Annie Brown, Scotland and Slavery (Daily Record, 24 March).

2007: Jackie Kay, Missing Faces: ‘As the United Kingdom marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade tomorrow, Jackie Kay challenges fellow Scots to acknowledge their forebears’ part in this shameful history and reflects on the ordeal suffered by her ancestors’ (Guardian, 24 March).

2007Scotland, Slavery and Abolition conference at Edinburgh University (10 November) with contributions from Paul Nugent, Paul Lovejoy, Tom Devine, John Cairns, Eric Graham, Geoff Palmer, Stewart J Brown, James Walvin, Douglas Hamilton, Clare Midgley, Suzanne Schwarz, and Iain Whyte.

2007: Dumfries and Galloway and the Transatlantic Slave Trade: exhibitions at the Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright (July-August), Dumfries museum (September-October) and Stranraer Museum (October-December) curated by Frances Wilkins including a talk by Wilkins on ‘Dumfries and the Transatlantic Slave Trade’ (1 September), coinciding with the publication of her book on the subject.

2007Scotland and the Transatlantic Slave Trade conference (Perth, 29 Sept) organised by the Scottish Local History Forum, with contributions from Eric Graham, Iain Whyte, Lesley Richmond, Lizanne Henderson, Sheila Millar, Sonia Baker).

2007: Learning and Teaching Scotland publish learning resource (for Scottish primary schools and early secondary schools to mark the bicentenary of abolition) on Scotland and the Abolition of the Slave Trade. LTS later became part of Scottish Education Quality and Improvement Agency (later renamed Education Scotland) and as far as I can tell the resource is no longer online, but it is archived here.

2007: National Archives of Scotland publish a guide to records relating to Slavery and the Slave Trade in the NAS and other Scottish archives. The original version is archived here

2007: National Trust for Scotland create a travelling display, Hidden Histories (pdf) that explores links between the slave trade and NTS to mark the bicentenary of abolition (also includes information about Scipio Kennedy).

2007: Gerard Carruthers, ‘Robert Burns and Slavery’The Drouth 26.

2007‘It Wisnae Us! Glasgow’s built heritage, tobacco, the slave trade and abolition’ – exhibition, guided tour and other related events, devised by Stephen Mullen.

2007This Horrible Traffik (Netherbow Theatre, Edinburgh, 21 May). Poems – Petitions – Popular Ballads. ‘Hear the voices of Scottish slaves and Scottish abolitionists from David Spens in 1769 to Eliza Wigham in 1850. Courtroom drama in 1778, Andrew Thomson’s 1830 call for ‘immediate’ rather than ‘gradual’ abolition, The ‘Send Back the Money’ song of 1845, Harriet Tubman and the ‘Underground Railroad’ and many more.’ Read by: Jim Aird, Bette Boyd, Richard Ellis, Jim Muotune, Kokumo Rocks and Iain Whyte. Producer: Padi Mathieson. (Also Hutcheson’s Hall, Glasgow, 23 October).

2007It Didn’t Happen here: Edinburgh’s Links with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: exhibition (Museum of Edinburgh) with talks by Eric Graham, Iain Whyte and James Robertson (September-November).

2007A Triangular Traffic (Dundee University, 2-3 November): symposium on literature, slavery and the archive, with contributions from Brycchan Carey, David Dabydeen, Eric Graham, Peter Kitson, Nigel Leask, Caryl Phillips, James Procter, James Robertson, Gemma Robinson, Abigail Ward and Marcus Wood.

2007ACTS Commemoration Walk (pdf) to mark exactly 200 years from the day the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act was passed in 1807 (Musselburgh to Inveresk Lodge, 25 March 2007), reported here. (See also Traces of Robert Wedderburn (2015).

2007: Clark McGinn, ‘Burns and Slavery’, Scotland Now (Issue 6, December 2007), archived here and updated here.

2007: A North East Story – Scotland, Africa and Slavery in the Caribbean: exhibition (Aberdeenshire). ‘Many of the commemorative events in the UK in 2007 explored the big history of transatlantic slavery and the fight of British and African activists to end it. This exhibition seeks to show how that big history links to the history of North East Scotland.’

2008: Geoff Palmer, Slavery, the Scottish Caribbean Connection. On how Scots joined the ‘slave business’ and left their mark in the Caribbean today (surnames, place names) and on how Caribbean slavery transformed the Scottish economy. (February)

2009: publication of Burns and the Sugar Plantocracy of Ayrshire  by Eric J Graham.

2009: publication of It Wisnae Us:The Truth about Glasgow and Slavery by Stephen Mullen. Available from CRER.

2010: publication of Scotland and Glasgow in the records of slave compensation: reports for the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership workshop held in Glasgow, 4 September, as part of the the ESRC-funded Legacies of British Slave-ownership project (2009-2012), documented by the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership based at University College London.

2011: publication of Great Scottish Speeches, edited by David Torrance – includes speech delivered by Frederick Douglass in Dundee in January 1846.

2011: National Trust of Scotland publish resource pack for teachers and youth leaders, Scotland and the Slave Trade (pdf).

2011-12Looking Back to Move Forward: Slavery and the Highlands (Highland Archive Centre, Inverness, December to February) – exhibition showcasing research by local school pupils and the University of the Highlands and Islands, reported here.

2012Absent Voices, filmpoems directed by Alastair Cook, exploring the legacy of the Greenock Sugar Sheds. A screening at the Scottish Poetry Library reviewed here.

2012 (relaunched 2013): Merchant City Voices, ‘a series of soundscapes exploring Glasgow’s involvement in the tobacco and sugar industries, and contemporary responses to the system of forced labour that it depended on – the transatlantic slave trade. The sound installations draw on writings by Frederick Douglas[s] – a freed slave, and also imagine the viewpoints of the city merchants, slaves and abolitionists. Each of the buildings and sites where the soundscapes are located were built with wealth generated by forced labour or associated with abolitionism.’ Devised by Louise Welsh and Jude Barber. The project is preserved in the form of videos: 1. Royal Exchange Square2. Tobacco Merchant’s House3. Virginia Court4. City Halls5. Britannia Panopticon6. Tron Steeple. Performers include Tawona Sithole, Daniel Cameron, Cristian Ortega, Jessica Hardwick, Paksie Vernon,Grace Smith, Anna Chambers, Erick Valentine Mauricia.

2012: publication of Send Back the Money! The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery by Iain Whyte.

2013: Russell Leadbetter, ‘Secret Shame: The Scots Who Made a Fortune from Abolition of Slavery’Herald, 28 February.

2013: Ben Riley-Smith, ‘The Paintings Sullied by Slavery’Sunday Herald, 10 March.

2013: the DRB Scottish Women’s History Group began a campaign to raise the profile of Scottish women abolitionist campaigners, Elizabeth Pease Nichol, Priscilla Bright McLaren, Eliza Wigham and Jane Smeal launched in June: see, for example, Who Was Eliza Wigham? and the Women on the Platform booklet (pdf), produced the following year.

2014The Empire Cafe: ‘an exploration of Scotland’s relationship with the North Atlantic slave trade through coffee, sugar, tea, cotton, music, visual art, academic lectures, poetry, debate, workshops, historical walks, film and literature’ which ran during the Commonwealth Games, held in Glasgow that year. Contributors included Jackie Kay, Millience Graham, Alan Riach, Fred D’Aguiar, Andrea Stuart, James Robertson, Chris Dolan, Graham Fagan, Stanley Odd, and The Big Sing Sing. The Empire Cafe also commissioned poems which were published in a collection Yonder Awa, discussed by Stephanie Green here.

2014Emancipation Acts – ‘Make your way around locations in Glasgow’s Merchant City as we bring to life the story of the city’s role in Caribbean slavery using drama, dance and music … directed by Alan McKendrick, inspired by an original idea from African Caribbean Cultures Glasgow and historian Stephen Mullen’s book It Wisnae Us (Glasgow Life in association with African Caribbean Cultures Glasgow).

2014: production of Lou Prendergast, Blood Lines (Arches, Glasgow) reviewed here and here.

2014How Glasgow Flourished, exhibition Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow (April-August).

2015: publication of Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past edited by T.M. Devine.

2015: Scotland and Slavery: video of lecture by T. M. Devine delivered at the Scottish Parliament.

2015: publication of Scotland and the Caribbean, c. 1740-1833by Michael Morris. Paperback due June 2018.

2015: Stanley Odd release ‘Princes on the Pavement’, a song about the Tobacco Lords and the origins of Glasgow’s wealth in Atlantic slavery.

2015: broadcast of A Man’s a Man for a’ That, BBC Radio 4, on Frederick Douglass’ visit to Scotland. An earlier radio programme, Send Back the Money (BBC Radio Scotland, 11 December 1996) on the same subject is archived here.

2015Slavery,Slave-ownership and Scotland (pdf): one-day workshop presenting material from researchers on Scottish slave-owners, runaway slaves, and the teaching of slavery in schools.

2015-2018Runaway Slaves in Britain research project (University of Glasgow) – database online end May 2018.  Winner of a Herald Higher Education Award in June 2019.

2016-2019: Michael Morris leads tour of George Square telling the stories behind the statues, ‘each one revealing a hidden history of Scotland’s complicated involvement in slavery’ (October). Some background here.

2016: Abolition, Memory and Time: seminar led by Michael Morris and Karen Salt (Hospitalfield, Arbroath, 16 April).

2016‘Fresh Call for Memorial and Museum Recognising Scotland’s Slave-trade Links’The National, 4 October.

2016: Scottish Slavery Map – an app developed by Nathan Ozga and Vsevolod Kondratiev-Popov, no longer available but discussed here.

2016: BBC Radio Scotland broadcast a revised repeat of Billy Kay’s Scotland’s Black History. Seven programmes, archived on YouTube.

2016: broadcast of Black and British: A Forgotten History: series of four TV programmes presented by David Olusoga (BBC 2), with Tawona Sithole as Frederick Douglass in Dundee in Episode 3.

2017The ‘Black Minstrelsy’ in Scotland: exhibition at the Museum of Edinburgh, based on research (pdf) by Eric J. Graham.

2017: Colin MacDonald, ‘Frederick Douglass in Greenock’.

2017: episode of The People’s History Show (STV) on Scotland and slavery: ‘Dr Geoffrey Palmer takes a look at Scotland’s links to the slave trade and examines the often untold story of Scotland’s role in the abolition movement of the 1800s.’ Broadcast 26 June 2017. With contributions from Greta Blua, Antoinette Martignoni, Stephen Mullen, Simon Newman, Dan Taylor, Marenka Thompson-Odlum.

2017: release of short film 1745, directed by Gordon Napier, written by Morayo Akande.

2017Slavery and the Scottish Country House – workshop, University of Edinburgh, 14 July. Participants included Jim Walvin, Nick Draper, Stephen Mullen, Marenka Thompson-Odlum, Stana Nenadic, Alastair Learmont, Fiona Salvesen Murrell, Hermione Hoffman, Nuala Zahedieh, Tony Lewis, James Caudle, Hannah Lawrence, Chris Jeppesen, Finola O’Kane.

2017Black Burns, installation by Douglas Gordon, Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Jul to October) (alongside Fagen’s ‘Slave’s Lament’), previewed here. See also related book about both (which also includes specially-commissioned poems by Jackie Kay; and essays by Michael Morris and Julie Lawson).

2017: Hamish MacPherson, ‘Scotland Back in the Day: No Sugaring the Pill of our country’s Slave Trade Role’The National, 7 March.

2017: Kate Tough, ‘People Made Glasgow’ poem chosen to appear as part of the Scottish Poetry Library’s online anthology Best Scottish Poems 2016 by editor Catherine Lockerbie. ‘Brutalized Africans made Glasgow / amazing disgrace / how sweet the civic amnesia / mansions without plaques / unrevised street-names / no memorial so sign up for the new city tour / the Merchant City experience ….’

2017Glasgow Slavery Remembrance (Glasgow 4 August, Kinning Park Complex):

2017: Dani Garavelli, ‘Facing up to slavery in second city of empire’Sunday Herald, 24 September.

2017: Murray Scougall, ‘Scotland’s Dirty Money’Sunday Post, 1 October.

2017: ‘Glasgow and Slavery’: Civic reception, City Chambers, Glasgow, including screening of 1745 and contributions from Stephen Mullen, Simon Newman, Tawona Sithole, Kate Tough.

2017: Stephen Mullen, ‘The Politics of Glasgow and Slavery’The Cable, 5 November.

2017-presentScotland and the Slave Trade: YouTube channel featuring videos and podcasts explaining historical and contemporary issues relating to this history, produced, directed and edited by Parisa Urquhart of Urquhart Media Ltd. Film about Edinburgh’s Henry Dundas statue featured on Channel 4 news.

2018-2019Our Bondage and Our Freedom: an international project celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass.

2018-2019: UncoverEd: a collaborative and decolonising research project, funded by Edinburgh Global, which aims to situate the ‘global’ status of the University of Edinburgh in its rightful imperial and colonial context. Led by PhD candidates Henry Dee and Tom Cunningham, the team of eight student researchers are creating a database of students from Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and the Americas from as early as 1700, and writing social histories of the marginalised student experience. The aim was to produce at least one biography each of a ‘notable’ alumnus, leading up to a website and exhibition in January 2019.

2018-2019: The Matter of Slavery in Scotland: a collaborative research project between the National Museums of Scotland and the University of Edinburgh which explored the history and legacy of Scotland’s connections with the transatlantic slave system through objects in public collections. It considered historic and contemporary objects, together with buildings, monuments and paintings to identify and explore layered and often conflicting stories of Scotland’s slavery past. Leaping across time periods, the role of that past in shaping the country today was an important focus.

2018: Elizabeth Ritchie, ‘Slavery in Scotland: Then and Now’, 11 January.

2018: Laurence Fenton, Frederick Douglass and Robert Burns: The American Abolitionist and Scotland’s national poetHistory Scotland, January.

2018: Russell Jackson, The Story of Freed Slave Frederick Douglass’ Time in ‘Beautiful’ ScotlandScotsman, 11 April.

2018: Simon Newman,’Scot Free: Dr James McCune Smith and the Long Arm of Racism’: part onepart two, and part three.

2018Centenary banner honouring Scottish women abolitionists at Processions 2018 to celebrate 100 years of female suffrage, Edinburgh (June).

2018The Trial of Joseph Knight: radio play on the life of the African slave brought back to Scotland by planter John Wedderburn from Jamaica, written by May Sumbwanyambe, produced and directed by Bruce Young, with Nana Amoo-Gottfried as Joseph Knight (BBC Radio 4, 12 July)

2018UNESCO Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition (Scottish Poetry Library). Contributions from Kate Tough, Zandra Yeaman, Marenka Thompson-Odlum, Nicholas Hotham, Hannah Lavery, Tawona Sithole (23 August).

2018Freedom Bound. ‘Warren Pleece’s graphic novel follows the interconnected stories of three enslaved people living in Scotland before Scots Law proved slavery illegal.’ Created in conjunction with Glasgow University’s Runaway Slaves in Britain research project.  See also  ‘Scotland’s role in slave trade told in graphic novel’ (Scotsman, 22 August 2018).

2018: Legacies of Slavery in Glasgow Museums and Collections. New website (launched August) managed by curatorial staff at Glasgow Museums that aims to draw attention to objects and documents in the city’s museums and archives and explore the ways in which they can shine a light on Glasgow’s relationship with transatlantic slavery during the 17th to 19th centuries.

2018Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow (September). Report (with recommendations) based on a year’s research by Stephen Mullen and Simon Newman concerning ‘the University’s connections with those persons who may have benefitted from the proceeds of slavery.’ Press coverage by BBCScotsmanHerald and The National.

2018: Edinburgh and the Slave Trade (Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh, 25 October). Lecture by Sir Geoff Palmer OBE.

2018: It Wisnae Me (Oran Mor, Glasgow, 1-6 October; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 9-13 October). Play written by Alan Bissett, directed by Cheryl Martin; with Andrew John Tait, Danielle Jam and Ali Watt. ‘A police interview room.  A table.   Jock has been huckled for a crime he says he didn’t commit: imperialism.  He has been spotted at the scene, but is it what it looks like?  Or is Jock, despite what he claims, a racist himself?  It Wisnae Me is a political satire posing the question: of Scotland’s complicity in colonisation.’ Alan Bissett interviewed by Nadine McBay in The National (29 September)

2018: James McCune Smith Learning Hub: Glasgow University announces that a new building (to open in 2019-20) will be named after James McCune Smith, author and civil rights campaigner and the first African American to receive a medical degree, graduating from the university with an MD in 1837.

2018: Historic Environment Scotland announce plans for a Frederick Douglass Commemorative Plaque at 33 Gilmore Place, Edinburgh, to be unveiled in November.

2018: How Slavery Made the Modern Scotland (Herald, 4 November).

2018: Slavery: Scotland’s Hidden Shame (BBC 2 Scotland, 6 and 13 November): Two-part documentary (2 hours in total) presented by David Hayman. ‘Filmed across three continents, it demonstrates the many and intricate ways in which Scotland and the Scots were embroiled in the slave trade. Scots were plantation and slave owners, merchants, ship owners and crew, surgeons, investors and bookkeepers. The programmes also shows the legacies of Scotland’s role – how money made funded agricultural and industrial progress, shaped a huge proportion of the nation’s built environment, and the influence of the slave trade on the lives of people of colour in Scotland today. Within the programmes, the reasons behind the hiding of this shameful period in Scottish history are contemplated, not least the threat these truths pose to our nation’s self-identity as egalitarian, and the ethos of “we’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns.”‘ Written and researched by Daniel Gray, produced by Ann Morrison, directed by Don Coutts.

2018: Edinburgh’s part in the slave trade. Lisa Williams of the Edinburgh Caribbean Association takes us on a tour of Edinburgh with a difference… (15 November). Lisa Williams runs regular Black History Walking Tours of Edinburgh and educational workshops in Scottish schools.

2018: Alasdair Soussi, ‘When Scotland Hosted an Abolitionist after Profiting from Slavery’ (Al Jazeera, 25 November).’Little known stories behind Frederick Douglass’ speaking tour in Scotland, a country is now dealing with its dark past.’

2018: publication of Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846 by Alasdair Pettinger.

2018-19Strike for Freedom: Slavery, Civil War and Emancipation (pdf). (National Library of Scotland, October to February). Exhibition situating Frederick Douglass and his family in relation to transatlantic abolitionism and Black radical reform movements will be the first to show their manuscripts, letters and photographs held in the Walter O. Evans Collection. Previewed in the National (3 October).  See also the interactive maps produced by the National Library of Scotland showing the locations where Douglass and other Black abolitionists spoke in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland.

2019: Tracing Transatlantic Movements: Atlantic Journeys and Scottish-Caribbean Connections in Conversation (Dundee University, 15 January). Panel discussion in association with Moving Jamaica exhibition, with contributions from Graham Fagen, Peggy Brunache, Carolyn Scott and Michael Morris.

2019: Dark History Linking Slavery to Nation’s Historic Buildings under the Spotlight (Herald, 26 January). Historic Environment Scotland to ‘carry out extensive research to determine how the country’s links to slavery helped finance some of our most treasured historic buildings.’

2019: Alison Campsie, ‘The Highland Slave Owners in 17th Century South America’ (Scotsman, 20 February). On new research by David Worthington.

2019: Eunice Olumide, ‘Scots Should Vote to Rename “Slaver” Streets’ (Sunday Times Scotland, 24 February).

2019: Rosemary Goring, ‘Our Street Names Must Tell a Truth, Even if it is Hideous’ (Herald, 27 February).

2019: John W Cairns, ‘Enslaved and Enslavers in Scotland’. Lecture delivered as part of the series of Alan Watson Memorial Lectures on Slavery and the Law in Eighteenth Century Scotland at Edinburgh Law School.

2019: Hawick and Slavery – a series of three articles by Alastair M. Redpath (Hawick Paper, 1, 8 and 15 March) (subscription required).

2019: Yvonne Singh, ‘The Forgotten World: How Scotland Erased Guyana from Its Past’. Drawing on the research of historian David Alston.

2019: Lord Seaforth (1754-1815): Highland Landowner, Caribbean Governor and Slave Owner. Lecture by Finlay McKichan (Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, 18 April) based on his 2018 biography published by Edinburgh University Press.

2019: Scotland in the Caribbean.  Talk by Minna Liinpää (Timespan, Helmsdale, Sutherland, 19 April) ‘on the relevance and importance of Scotland’s colonial legacy and role in the slave trade to contemporary ideas around the “Scotland” and “Scottishness”.’

2019: Danielle Lapping, ‘Bold Bid to Name Inverclyde Street after Barack Obama’ (Greenock Telegraph, 6 May): Inverclyde councillors debated proposals to name a Greenock street after Frederick Douglass or Barack Obama, before voting for ‘Virginia Street’.  Christopher Curley, favouring Douglass, was reported as saying:  ‘Given his links to Greenock it might be worthwhile naming this, or another street in Greenock, after him. It acknowledges slavery links but also the abolition.’

2019: Decolonizing Glasgow and the History of Slavery. Four speakers will discuss the Glasgow slavery report and its implications for Glasgow city and Glasgow University: Dr Stephen Mullen, Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, Zandra Yeaman, and Councillor Graham Campbell. (Glasgow University, 9 May).

2019: Crossways: The Irish Scottish Literary and Cultural Festival (Glasgow, 7-11 May). Includes panel discussion on human trafficking and modern slavery, and keynote by Louise Welsh, ‘It Wis Us, Artists, Activists, Independent Historians, & the Exposure of Scotland’s Slavery Past’ (9 May).

2019: The Cambria. One-night performance of play on the life of Frederick Douglass, acted by the playwright Donal O’Kelly, with Sorcha Fox, as part of Crossways 2019 (Glasgow, 9 May).

2019: Images of Frederick Douglass. Celeste-Marie Bernier discusses the many photographs of Frederick Douglass and sheds light on Douglass’s belief in photography as a way to not only remember the men, women and children who had lived and died in slavery, but also as a way to resist white racist strategies of misrepresentation of African American lives (Glasgow, 9 May; postponed).

2019: Glasgow’s Atlantic World: Tobacco, Sugar and Slavery.  ‘Glasgow’s transatlantic links are clear from the famous city centre street names such as Jamaica and Virginia Street. Whilst Glasgow often prides itself on its early abolitionary stance on slavery, this overlooks the fact that the eighteenth century sugar and tobacco merchants earned their wealth through a system which depended upon slavery overseas. For instance in Jamaica, 30 per cent of plantations were Scots owned, and life expectancy on them was a mere four years! Glasgow’s historic transatlantic trade routes and history are present not only in the streets of Glasgow but also in the people, places and heritage of the Caribbean islands and the Americas up to today. Dr Stephen Mullen will explore the history of Glasgow’s links to the Americas and the Caribbean, before Councillor Graham Campbell tells us more in detail about Glasgow’s links to Jamaica, and why Jamaica is the Caribbean’s most Scottish island.’ (Glasgow, 22 May).

2019: Andrew Learmonth, ‘Devine: “Scotland Apologising for Slavery Could Cause Problems’ (Sunday National. 21 July). In the wake of a motion proposed for debate at the forthcoming Scottish National Party annual conference, the article quotes comments from Tom Devine, Graham Campbell and Stephen Mullen on the call for the Scottish Government to ‘examine the possibility of making a formal national apology for Scotland’s role in the perpetuation of slavery and colonialism.’

2019: ‘UWI and University of Glasgow to sign MoU on slavery research’ (Jamaica Observer, 26 July): The University of the West Indies (UWI) has announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Glasgow on Wednesday, July 31 to study the effects of slavery and possible reparations.

2019: David Worthington, ‘Scottish History Is Not So Sweet When It Comes to Slavery’ (Press and Journal, 15 Aug).

2019: Hannah Capella, ‘Glasgow University’s “Bold” Move to Pay Back Slave Trade Profits’ (BBC News, 23 August): ‘Glasgow University has agreed to raise and spend £20m in reparations after discovering it benefited by millions of pounds from the slave trade. It is believed to be the first institution in the UK to implement such a “programme of restorative justice”. The money will be raised and spent over the next 20 years on setting up and running the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research. It will be managed in partnership with the University of the West Indies.’

2019-2020: Call and Response: The University of Glasgow and Slavery (University Memorial Chapel, 26 Aug 2019 to 31 Jan 2020): ‘In 2016, the University of Glasgow acknowledged that despite the strong abolitionist stance in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it continued to accept gifts and bequests from people who profited from slavery to further institutional goals.  In September 2018, Professor Simon Newman and Dr Stephen Mullen published Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow, a report which quantified those financial gains and recommended a programme of reparations. This exhibition continues the conversation by widening the range of responses to the archives, books and objects held in the University Library and The Hunterian. What lessons can we learn from studying the cultural legacy of previous generations of University of Glasgow staff and students.’

2019: Neil Drysdale, ‘New graphic novel explores north-east Scotland’s links to the slave trade in Jamaica’ (Press and Journal, 28 September): It began as a community venture, designed to shed light on the links between north-east Scotland and slavery. And now, after months of research, members of Birse Community Trust and pupils at Finzean Primary School will convene next week for the launch of Aye, it was aabody, a new graphic novel that tells the story of Scotland’s role in the notorious trade, thousands of miles away in the Caribbean.’  See also Alison Campsie, ‘The tiny village bringing home Scotland’s links to slavery’ (Scotsman, 20 September).

2019: Strike for Freedom: Frederick Douglass in Scotland (City Chambers, Glasgow, 4 October): Screening of new short documentary directed by Parisa Urquhart, with Celeste-Marie Bernier talking about the history of the African American ‘struggle for liberty’ in Scotland by tracing the transatlantic tours of Ida B.Wells-Barnett, Josiah Henson, Sarah Parker Remond and Frederick Douglass.  Other screenings in Edinburgh (2 October), Aberdeen (21 October) and at Inverness Film Festival (9 November).

2019: Hannah Rose Murray ‘The Digital Humanities and African American Activism in Glasgow’ (talk, University of Glasgow, 8 October).

2019: Ghosts. Created by Adura Onashile for National Theatre Scotland ‘is a new, immersive digital experience through the Merchant City where audiences will meet the ghosts of Glasgow’s painful past. Follow a young boy on the run in the 18th Century with his freedom and perhaps even his life at stake’ (announced November 2019; app available for download from November 2020).

2019: Russell Leadbetter, ‘Glasgow Launches Detailed Study of its Historical Links with Transatlantic Slavery’:  ‘This week the council became the first in the UK to launch a major academic study into historic bequests linked to transatlantic slavery. To be carried out by Dr Stephen Mullen, a noted academic historian who has studied the city’s links with the trade, it will leave no stone unturned.’ (Sunday Herald, 10 November).

2019-2020: Transparency (Edinburgh Printmakers, 18 October to 5 January): two-person exhibition from Glasgow-based artists Alberta Whittle and Hardeep Pandhal, responding to the architectural heritage of the building (formerly a silk factory, brewery and premises of the North British Rubber Company). The exhibition ‘reflects upon on our current political environment, language, trade, travel, contact zones, and calls into question Scotland’s amnesia towards its colonial past.’  See also David MacNicol, ‘Artist Explores the “Dirty Secrets” of Scotland’s Colonial Past’ (BBC News, 30 October).

2020: Sugar for Your Tea (City Chambers, Edinburgh, 1 to 25 January): installation by Kayus Bankole and Rianne White projecting images on the building’s facade, a work that aims to ‘explore how traders and merchants who used slaves to help build their wealth are still honoured in Scotland, in memorials, landmarks and street names.’  See also Alastair Stewart, ‘We Need to See Our History As It Is, Not How We Want It To Be’ (CommonSpace, 6 January).

2020: The Writers Breathing Life into Black British History. Four new plays exploring Black British history including May Sumbwanyambe’s Enough Of Him about Joseph Knight (scheduled to open in Pitlochry in October) (BBC News, 22 January).

2020: Making Alternative Freedoms: Slavery, Freedom and the Making of the Modern World: lecture by Anthony Bogues (Glasgow University, 23 January).

2020: Fiona Robertson, ‘Robert Burns and Frederick Douglass – The Bard’s Legacy’ (25 January).

2020: Anthony Lewis, ‘The Black House’ – on the buildings of Glasgow’s New Town, built with the proceeds of slavery (4 February).

2020: Frankie Boyle’s Tour of Scotland – four-part series (BBC Two: February-March). Programme 4 (‘Oban to Glasgow’) includes segment on slavery. ‘Much of Glasgow’s grand architecture and wealth was created off the back of slavery in the British colonies, and some streets still commemorate the merchants who profited the most from trade in humans. Frankie meets local councillor Graham Campbell to find out how Glasgow should do more to confront its shameful past’ (1 March).

2020: Strike for Freedom: Frederick Douglass in Scotland. 15-minute film featuring discussion, with Bill Lawson, George Lipsitz, Celeste-Marie Bernier. (29 April).

2020: Tartan Torture of Slaves as Scots Fabric Shameful History Revealed: reporting recent research by Professor David Loranger (Sacred Heart University, Connecticut) on the practice of clothing enslaved people in South Carolina in Highland dress (Daily Record, 3 May).

2020: Empire Museum: Scottish museum of empire, slavery, colonialism and migration. New ‘digital space’ to promote a ‘better understanding of the history of empire, colonialism, slavery and migration so we learn can learn from the past to understand the present and agitate for change in the world we want to live in in the future.’ (from June).

2020: ‘”George Floyd Street is a Good Way to Start”: Government Minister Backs Campaign to Change Glasgow’s Street Names’: ‘Ivan McKee, Glasgow Provan MSP and Scottish Government minister for Trade says Glasgow can and should make a statement.‘  (Glasgow Evening Times, 5 June).

2020: ‘Edinburgh Professor Renews Call to Reword History on a Statue Memorialising Man who Prolonged the Slave Trade’: on Sir Geoff Palmer’s campaign for a new plaque beneath the Melville Monument drawing attention to the way Henry Dundas ‘played a pivotal role in delaying the abolition of slavery’ (Edinburgh Evening News, 6 June).

2020: Glasgow says Black Lives Matter. Short film by the Green Brigade documenting the unofficial addition of new streetsigns ‘to mark the legacy of slavery – celebrating those who rebelled against it and who fought for its abolition, and for civil rights and liberation. We also remember those who continue to bear the brunt of bias and police brutality, three centuries on.’ Those honoured are: Fred Hampton, Harriet Tubman, Sheku Bayoh, George Floyd, Joseph Knight and Rosa Parks. (6 June).

2020: Call for Plaques on Scotland’s Statues with Links to Slavery: ‘Sir Geoff Palmer ‘has again called for plaques on Scotland’s statues to give a truthful account of their links to the slave trade’ (BBC News, 8 June).

2020: ‘The Scottish Streets and Monuments Built on the Slave Trade: On the Melville Monument, Dundas House, Bute House (Edinburgh), Buchanan Street, Gallery of Modern Art (Glasgow) (BBC News, 9 June).

2020: ‘Sir Tom Devine: “Removing slavery street names is censorship”‘: Devine is quoted as saying: ‘These signs grew out of the fabric of our past and they need to be retained as a reminder of that past warts and all. To do otherwise is to commit the nefarious intellectual sin of censorship.’ (Scotsman, 9 June).

2020: ‘Without Slavery Glasgow Wouldn’t Exist: The Brutal Truth about Scotland’s Slaving Past’. With city tour guides Anabelle Njenga and Yvonne Blake. (Written October 2019). (Herald, 9 June).

2020: Christine Whyte, ‘Boot the Wellington: The Growing Resistance to Glasgow’s Colonial Monuments’ (Counterfire, 9 June).

2020: ‘Every Street Name in Scotland Linked to the Slave Trade’: on Buchanan Street, Melville Monument, Dundas House, Bute House, GOMA, Glassford Street, and others (Daily Record, 10 June).

2020: ‘Edinburgh’s Dundas Statue to be Dedicated to Slavery Victims’ : details of the proposed wording of the new plaque to be added to the Melville Monument (BBC News, 10 June).

2020: ‘Edinburgh Statue of Robert Dundas Latest to be Targeted with Anti-slavery Graffiti’: on statue of Henry Dundas’ son (Daily Record, 10 June).

2020: ‘Neil Oliver Claims Removing Racist Statues is “Road to the Guillotine”‘ (National, 10 June).  With a response from Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (National, 11 June).

2020: Report of the debate in Scottish Parliament (10 June) on Showing Solidarity with Anti-Racism, including discussion of the proposal to establish a museum of slavery.

2020: Hamish MacPherson, Henry Dundas: The Scotsman Who Kept Slavery Going (National, 10 June)

2020: ‘Glasgow’s iconic Duke of Wellington Memorial Could be Sent to “Statue Graveyard”’ (Daily Record, 11 June).

2020: ‘Black Lives Matter: William of Orange Statue Faces Attack Over Slave Links’: ‘King William of Orange has long loomed over the city’s cathedral precinct but now, local officials fear, he threatens to cast a shadow over any attempt to come to terms with Scotland’s legacy of slaving. Twice over recent days his statue, forged from lead in 1735, has been vandalised in the aftermath of Black Lives Matter protests. The attacks came as William was increasingly linked to the mass enforced trafficking of Africans to the Americas’ (The Times, 11 June; paywall).

2020: ‘Topple the Racists Campaign Seeks Removal of 12 Scottish Statues’: which draws on this crowd-sourced map (National, 11 June).

2020: Confronting the Legacy of Slavery in Scotland.  ‘Dr Michael Morris explores recent efforts to confront the legacy of Scotland’s involvement in Atlantic slavery, and suggests a possible road-map for public commemoration.’ (Centre for Scottish Culture blog, 11 June).

2020: Public Backs Egyptian Halls for Scottish Museum of Slavery. The five-storey building on Glasgow’s Union Street, which dates from the 1870s, is one of the last remaining structures by celebrated architect Alexander “Greek” Thomson. Now it has been earmarked as a site for a possible museum of slavery following an architecture competition and public vote. (National, 12 June).

2020: ‘Dundee’s shame: Historian reveals city linen was used to clothe American and Caribbean slaves’. On recent research by Norman Watson (Dundee Courier, 12 June).

2020: Is It Time for Scotland’s ‘Racist’ Statues to be Torn Down or Has ‘Political Correctness’ Gone Too Far? Sampling the views of several Dundee-based historians including Peggy Brunache, Maggie Craig, Susan Mains, Michael Morris, Lenny Low, Norman Watson. (Dundee Courier, 13 June).

2020: Amnesia, Denial, and Awakening – Black Lives Matter Stirs Scotland into Confronting Its Ties to Slavery. Citing Graham Campbell, Tom Devine, Eric Miller, Cleo Lake and David Pott (Scotsman, 13 June).

2020: Build human rights museum in Greenock to explain Scotland’s slavery links, says SNP MSP. ‘Stuart McMillan … suggested the Sugar Sheds at James Watt Dock as a potential location for a new museum.’ (Daily Record, 15 June)

2020: Enough of Him. Patrick Martins & Emma King perform an extract from the new play by May Sumbwanyambe, directed by Justin Audibert. Based on a remarkable true story, Enough of Him explores the life of Joseph Knight, an African man brought to Scotland as a slave by plantation owner John Wedderburn to serve in his Perthshire mansion. (Live online screening, 15 June, archived YouTube).

2020: Michael Fry, Here’s the Real Truth on Henry Dundas and Whether He “Prolonged” Slavery’ (National, 16 June).

2020: Highland Clearances and the Scottish Slave Trade (video by Scottish History Tours, presented by Bruce Fummey) (uploaded 16 June).

2020: Scotland and Slavery. Online event at the Digital Museum. Guest speakers will be Dr Peggy Brunache (University of Glasgow), Dr Christine Whyte (University of Glasgow), Professor Douglas Hamilton (Sheffield Hallam University), Professor Sir Tom Devine and Councillor Graham Campbell. Host and moderator will be Jibunnessa Abdullah. (18 June).

2020: Lessons of the Hour: Isaac Julien’s poetic meditation on the life and times of Frederick Douglass, originally an installation, now a 25-minute film (screening 19-21 June only)

2020: Conor Marlborough, ‘Watch as Irvine Welsh addresses Black Lives Matter protest in St Andrew Square’. Irvine Welsh has addressed hundreds of protesters at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square this afternoon. The video of his speech contains strong language.
The acclaimed author heavily criticised the statue of Henry Dundas, which stands at the top of the Melville Monument in the square, likening the 19th Century politician to Jimmy Savile. (Scotsman, 20 June)

2020: Diana Paton: ‘Making Redress for Slavery Goes Far Further than Statues of Individuals.’ ‘To be truly effective, this should address not just how Scotland’s past is represented in our streetscapes and museums, but also the long-term implications of that past, for the Caribbean and for racial inequality in Scotland. This is not a history that ended in 1807 or 1838, but one that has direct consequences in the present, economic as well as symbolic.’ (Scotsman, 21 June)

2020: ‘Glasgow University must reconsider tribute to slavery-linked James Watt, says former rector Aamer Anwar’ (Sunday Post, 21 June)

2020: Alasdair Pettinger, ‘The “Other” Empire Exhibition’. On the counter-exhibition mounted by the Independent Labour Party during the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow 1938 (23 June).

2020: Graeme Strachan, Scott Begbie and Gayle Ritchie, Shackled Legacy: The North-East Black Abolitionists Who Played a Critical Part in Dismantling the Cruel Slave Trade (Dundee Courier, 2 July).

2020: Melanie Newton, ‘Henry Dundas, Empire and Genocide’ (openDemocracy, 30 July).

2020: Nicky Reeves,  ‘James Watt, Slavery and Statues’ (Hunterian Museum Blog) (11 Aug)

2020: Katinka Stentoft Dalglish, ‘Robert Nutter Campbell, Country Gent and Slave Owner’ (Legacies of Slavery in Glasgow Museums and Collections, 12 Aug)

2020: Stephen Mullen, ‘James Watt and Slavery in Scotland’, (History Workshop, 17 Aug).

2020: ‘Sugar, Slave-owning and the Scottish Highlands before 1707’: online talk by David Worthington (27 Aug), archived on YouTube.

2020: Meredith More, Decolonising our Galleries: An Introduction. ‘Crucial aspects of Scotland’s history are underpinned by the exploitation of enslaved and colonised people around the world. As we invite you to join us on the journey of decolonising our museum, we want to explain how we’re doing it and why it’s vital. ‘ (Aug 2020). See also  ‘V&A Dundee exposes Scottish design icons’ slavery links’ (Guardian, 27 Aug).

2020: Calum Watson, ‘Should Greenock’s “Sugar Shed” Become Scotland’s Museum of Slavery?’ (BBC News, 30 Aug).

2020: Jennifer Melville, ‘Throwing New Light On Difficult Histories’. Project Leader for Facing Our Past, discusses the legacy of slavery and empire at our properties. Watch as she explores the more difficult and deeper aspects of our stories, and sheds new light on them through the delivery of textured, varied and truthful stories.(National Trust for Scotland, 1 Sep)

2020: Hunterian Appoints New Curator of Discomfort: ‘Zandra Yeaman will lead the Museums Galleries Scotland funded Curating Discomfort project, challenging The Hunterian to find new, inclusive ways of interpreting collections that may be contested and are sensitive to diverse viewpoints’ (Glasgow University, 11 Sep).

2020: Museum for Human Rights: debate in Scottish Parliament (16 Sep) of motion proposed by Stuart McMillan making the case for such a museum to be located in Inverclyde.

2020: Carol Young, ‘Museums Debate Risks Sugar-coating Scotland’s Black History’ (CRER blog post, 18 Sep)

2020: Northern Scotland: Black Lives Matter Virtual Collection. Special issue of this academic journal with essays by James Hunter, David Alson, Karen Salt and Susan P. Mains, Iain Mackinnon, S. Karly Kehoe and Chris Dalgish, and Stephen Mullen (free to access until the end of 2020)  (Edinburgh University Press, 21 Sep).

2020: Martyn McLaughlin, ‘Slavery museum risks conflating chapters of Scotland’s chequered past’ (Scotsman, 22 Sep).

2020: Katharine Hay, ‘Edinburgh Mural Appears on Street Corner Showing Slavery Abolitionist Leader Frederick Douglass’ (Scotsman, 1 Oct).

2020: Hannah-Rose Murray, ‘The Black Abolitioinists Who Shocked Victorian Britain’ (HistoryExtra, 2 Oct).

2020: Lisa Williams, ‘Remaking our Histories: Scotland, Slavery and Empire’: on the stories of slavery and emancipation that lie behind the images in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (9 Oct).

2020: History of Slavery in the British Caribbean: free four-week online course developed by Glasgow University and the University of the West Indies, with Peggy Brunache and Christine Whyte (starts 12 Oct).

2020: ‘The Temperature of Dundee: Frederick Douglass at School Wynd Chapel, 1846’. Online talk by Alasdair Pettinger for Abertay Historical Society (14 Oct).

2020: Samuel Wilson, ‘Frederick Douglass: Scotland’s Anti-slavery Agent’ (Historic Environment Scotland blog, 16 Oct).

2020: Slavery and the Church: In Scottish Black History. Scottish history Tour guide Bruce Fummey takes you to Auchterarder old Parish Church to explain the birth of the Free Church of Scotland and one of the tales from Scotland’s history that is often forgotten (17 Oct).

2020: Geoff Palmer, ‘Scotland’s Links with Caribbean Slavery’.  Scotland’s first black professor, leading human rights and Open University honorary graduate, Prof Sir Geoff Palmer CD, shares his history and Scotland’s slavery history.  (Open University, Oct).

2020: Emily Breedon, ‘Legacies of Empire in GoMA’s Handling Kit’. ‘To mark Black History Month, we’re offering a glimpse into our object handling kit, where you can learn about objects in our collection that have connections to the trade in enslaved African people.’ (GoMA blog, 18 Oct).

2020: Scotland, Slavery and Statues (Urquhart Productions for BBC Scotland): ‘Documentary following the four-year debate over how Henry Dundas should be remembered on the inscription of the Melville Monument in Edinburgh. Sir Geoff Palmer and his supporters have argued for years that Henry Dundas deliberately delayed the abolition of the slave trade when he won support for abolition to be ‘gradual’, whereas Henry Dundas’s ancestor Bobby Melville and others argue that Dundas was an abolitionist who was being pragmatic.’ (20 Oct). See also the response of Tom Devine (Herald, 25 Oct) and responses to Devine by Diana Paton (Twitter, 26 Oct) and Parisa Urquhart (Herald, 9 Nov).

2020: Robbie Chalmers, ‘Freedom Fighter Frederick Douglass Came to Speak in Perth’ (Daily Record, 23 Oct).

2020: Alastair Redpath, ‘Thunberg of his Day: Douglass’s Historic Visit to Hawick’ (£1 sub required) (Hawick Paper, 23 Oct)

2020: Frederick Douglass in Scotland. Online screening of Strike for Freedom followed by live Q & A with Alasdair Pettinger and Paris Urquhart (27 Oct)

2020: Lauren Brown, ‘Our Legal Heritage: Black History Month – Frederick Douglass and his triumphant tour of Scotland’ (Scottish Legal News, 30 Oct).

2020: David Alston, online presentation on the Scottish Highlands and Slavery – Black History Comversations hosted by Learning Links International and Belong Nottingham (30 Oct).

2020: Eminent Professor and Human Rights Activist to chair new Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group. ‘The Council has appointed an independent chair to lead the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group. The Group will review features such as statues and street names in Edinburgh which commemorate those with close links to slavery. Sir Geoff Palmer OBE, a Professor Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University, will chair the group as they investigate links with slavery and colonialism legacy in Edinburgh’s civic realm.’ (Edinburgh City Council 11 Nov).

2020: Scottish Poetry and Slavery: Lisa Williams and Hannah Lavery: a virtual walking tour, exploring Scottish poetry’s links to slavery via Edinburgh landmarks (12 Nov).

2020: Discussion of how the history and legacy of slavery should be marked in the Highlands. First episode of a new series of Eòrpa, BBC Alba. With David Alston, Graham Campbell, Kate Forbes, Karly Kehoe, Donald Cameron, and Iain MacKinnon (12 Nov). Previewed in The Herald (11 Nov).

2020: Andrew Mackillop and Calum MacLeod, Plantation Slavery and Landownership in the West Highlands and Islands. New research reveals extent of historical links between plantation slavery and landownership in the west Highlands and Islands (Community Land Scotland, Nov).

2020: Empire, Slavery & Scotland’s Museums. ‘Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) welcomes Sheila Asante as Project Manager for Empire, Slavery & Scotland’s Museums: Addressing Our Colonial Legacy, a project to explore how the history of Scotland’s involvement in the British Empire, colonialism, and transatlantic slavery, can be told by Scotland’s museums.’ (8 Dec).

2021: David Leask, ‘It’s time for our children to learn the truth about Scotland’s role in slave trade’ (Herald, 17 Jan).

2021: Stephen Mullen, ‘Robert Burns, Slavery and Abolition: Contextualising the Abandoned Jamaica Sojourn in 1786’: blog post for The Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow- part 1 and part 2. (18 and 20 Jan).

2021: Alasdair Pettinger, ‘It Was in Sweet Senegal – or Was it?’ Some notes on ‘The Slave’s Lament’ (25 Jan).

2021: Richard Anderson, ‘Nathaniel King: African Graduates and Medicine in British West Africa’. Nathaniel King (MB 1876) was the first African-born graduate of the University of Aberdeen, almost four centuries after the institution’s founding. The son of a liberated slave pastor in Sierra Leone, Nathaniel drew upon family connections and colonial patronage to study medicine in Britain. After Aberdeen, Nathaniel established an influential medical practice in Lagos, becoming one of the first Western-educated medical practitioners in what would later become Nigeria. (27 Jan).

2021: Jim Murty, ‘How anti-slavery titan Frederick Douglass fell in love with Scotland’ (National, 31 Jan).

2021: Neil Mackay, ‘Scottish Academics Go Head-to-Head Over the Nation’s Ugly Legacy of Slavery’: The Herald on Sunday invited the nation’s leading historian Sir Tom Devine and the nation’s first black professor Sir Geoff Palmer to debate Scotland’s legacy of slavery. Their explosive exchange shows just how far we have to go as a country before we truly come to terms with our past.’ (Herald, 31 Jan, subcribers only).

2021: Conversations about Race. Opening event at Douglass Week. Panel hosted by Dr. Amanullah De Sondy with Timi Ogunyemi, Dr. Anthea Butler and Sir Geoff Palmer will discuss the legacy of Douglass and racism in the USA, Ireland and Scotland. (8 Feb).

2021: Laura Webster, ‘Sack the racists’ campaigners call for removal of Glasgow statues’ (National, 18 Feb).

2021: Brian Ferguson, ‘New stage musical to honour anti-slavery activist who came to Scotland as a fugitive’. ‘Neo Vilakazi, the Edinburgh-based writer, composer and producer behind the project, said it would tell how Scotland played a prominent part in the life of the “anti-slavery hero.”[Frederick Douglass]’ (Scotsman, 26 Feb).

2021: Lisa Wiliams, ‘Travelling Rhythms’. Online walk through the history of Malvina Wells, a formerly enslaved woman from the Caribbean whose grave can be found in Central Edinburgh. (Walking Festival of Sound, 14 April).

2021: Alice Sage, The Material Legacies of Slavery … in One Part of the Scottish Borders. A Scottish history zine, fold-out map with information about eleven houses in the district with connections to historic slave ownership.  (April).

2021: Online Mini conference on Scotland’s Involvement in Slavery – The Local View. Organised by Scottish Local History Forum (28-29 April).

2021: Ghosts. A young man in 18th Century Glasgow, leads us on atmospheric journey of 500+ years of resistance through the streets of the Merchant City down to the River Clyde. Download the app, plug in your headphones, and lose yourself in this poetic storytelling experience, exploring the myth of Scotland’s collective amnesia of slavery and racialised wealth, of empire and identity. Surrounded by AR visuals, haunting voices and music, Ghosts will take you on a physical and emotional journey. A lament to lives lost and an impassioned call to action in the present day. Take a socially distanced walk through the heart of modern Glasgow and see an essential vision of the city.  Written and Directed by Adura Onashile.  (National Theatre of Scotland, 26 Apr to 9 May).  (Read more about it in these articles by Raman Mundair, 28 April and Peggy Brunache, 1 May).

2021: Ian Houston, ‘Frederick Douglass: The Slave Who Became a Scot’ (Herald, 6 May).

2021: Memorial bid for Frederick Douglass’ Hawick speech. A bid is being made to mark the 175th anniversary of an anti-slavery campaigner’s visit to the Borders. A plaque and mural could be put up in Hawick in honour of a speech Frederick Douglass made there in November 1846. BBC News. 24 May 2021.

4 comments on “Scotland, Slavery and Abolitionism: A Timeline of Public Engagement

  • Paul Sutton says:

    Thanks for this very informative timeline. It has saved me a lot of effort in my current research on Scotland and the Caribbean. I hope you remember me from my Haiti connections way back and we should meet after lockdown finishes to discuss it and your work on Frederick Douglass. I am living in Glasgow.

  • Russ Walker says:

    Your timeline includes a Scotland Now feature:
    2007: Clark McGinn, ‘Burns and Slavery’, Scotland Now (Issue 6, December 2007).
    Around the same period there was also a feature by Professor Geoffrey Palmer about Scotland’s links to slavery.
    I wondered if there was any way to find it and include it?

    • Alasdair Pettinger says:

      Thanks for pointing this out. Sir Geoff was involved in the walk to Inveresk Lodge listed immediately above Clark McGinn. The nearest article I can find that matches your description is a piece from Feb 2008 called ‘Slavery, the Scottish Caribbean Connection’ published on the Douglas Archives website. I have added this to the list now.


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