Sunday, 25 January 2015
Become A Modern Day Abolitionist
In the time of Wilberforce, much of the evidence used in pro-slavery propaganda was of dubious origin and in some instances it was fabricated to salve the conscience of the masses. As American novelist Toni Morrison has commented, “Slavery broke the world in half, it broke it in every way. You can’t do that for hundreds of years and it not take a toll. They had to dehumanise, not just the slaves but themselves. They had to reconstruct everything in order to make the system appear true”*.
Each age of abolitionists used the tools they had at the time. In Wilberforce’s and Clarkson’s time they used firsthand accounts, signed petitions, artefacts and the visual representation of slave experiences in their anti-slavery material. Whilst the true horror of the experiences of the enslaved is so enormous and appalling that it is often beyond visual depiction or expression of language, it has to be represented in some ways.
Some of the constructs and values held by the anti-slavery camp were not without reproach. Sometimes they reinforced racial stereotypes and perpetuated the notion of white benevolence that was so prevalent in subsequent commemorative memorabilia. In common with the past however, it is necessary to stir people’s consciousness with the truth of the violence and injustice suffered by many.
Enslaved people cannot be seen as a collective as each person’s suffering is individual. Indeed, the multiracial aspect of modern slavery makes it less prone to the sort of religious or racist belief systems that helped keep it in place for centuries. We are slowly waking up to the fact that as consumers, slavery touches all of us in some form. The world is a smaller place.
Now slavery is not socially acceptable but rather a practice in all its forms. Many people find these forms abhorrent and therefore slavery hides in the shadows, only flourishing through deception, concealment and cunning. It can only be addressed by talking about it, recognising it, legislating against it and having strong anti-slavery campaigns wrought by individuals and governments.
The campaign to light the monument serves not only as a memorial to the voices of past abolitionists but also as a declaration of the new voices recognising the injustice of oppressive behaviour still present today by those who want to benefit through other people’s suffering.
Be a modern abolitionist by literally shining a light on the subject of slavery and educating yourself into awareness so slavery finds less dark corners in which to flourish.
Run the Hull Marathon for Wilberforce! The Hull Marathon this year will start and finish at the Wilberforce monument. We are appealing for runners to run to raise money for our charity. The event can be run on an individual basis or as a member of a 4 person relay. Get in touch with us via email, then get sponsored and help us light the monument in recognition of Hull’s connection with William Wilberforce. We have 10 runners to date! Donations and sponsorships can be made through Virgin Money Giving or by emailing us.
Our thanks this month go to the artist Quentin Budworth and Clare Huby from Roots and Wings for some excellent advice on funding. Thank you to Glynis Neslen for putting our name forward to receive Liz Dees’ model of the monument made for the parade at Freedom Festival – this has now become an excellent resource.
The image is taken from the World Trade Women and Finance blog.
*This was quoted in the essay ‘Small Acts’ by Paul Gilroy which can be found in Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America by Marcus Wood).