Fieldwork: a time to learn from the ‘lived experiences of children and families’ in tea and tobacco communities

Mavuto K. Banda

PhD student, Living with the Consequences of Slavery Cluster

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

M.K.Banda-2020@hull.ac.uk

Malawi is an agriculture-based economy where tea and tobacco contribute about 70% of total annual export earnings, 60% of which comes from tobacco alone. As one of the countries that ratified the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 138 on Minimum Age of Employment, and Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour, the Malawi Government has put in place policies and legal instruments to operationalise its international obligations and committed itself to combat child labour. According to the Employment Act (2000), the minimum age for entry into employment in Malawi is 14; however, work in tea and tobacco production is considered hazardous to children, and so the minimum age of employment is pegged at 18.

Agriculture is the single largest employer, sustaining livelihoods mainly through subsistence farming and part-time work locally known as ganyu in addition to jobs provided by commercial estates such as tea and tobacco. Over 84% of Malawians live in rural areas and agriculture employs 85% of working males and 94% of females.

Led by multinationals and supported by the government and its local and international stakeholders (NGOs and UN agencies), Malawi has implemented interventions to keep children from tea and tobacco work since the early 2000s. Children are banned from working in commercial tea and tobacco estates, as work in these sectors is considered hazardous and detrimental to children’s growth and development by ILO standards. These bans were and are still predominantly upheld by players in tea and tobacco as a direct response to accountability pressures from consumers in Europe and North America, where most of the tea and tobacco exports from Malawi are destined. Further pressure comes from international organisations and UN agencies such as the ILO and UNICEF.

However, in recent years, reports of children’s continued participation, especially in tobacco production, shocked the international community and threatened the country’s export earnings and by extension, its economy. In 2019, the US government banned the importation of tobacco from Malawi, which was thought to have been produced using exploitative children’s work.

For commercial tea and tobacco estates, and indeed for the country, banning children’s work from tea and tobacco – probably the most outbound globally connected value chains in the Malawian economy – lowers reputational risks, which appear to be responding to consumer demands for accountability. However, little is known about the impact these bans are having on the lived experiences of children who no longer have the opportunity to work in commercial tea and tobacco estates.

This is what my study, therefore, aims to examine – the impact on under-18-year-olds of the ban from working in tea and tobacco plantations. I will be asking the following set of guiding questions:

1) To what extent have the universal minimum age policy interventions contributed to the elimination of child labour in tea and tobacco-growing communities?

2) How have the universalised minimum age policies and related interventions influenced the lives of children, their families and their communities?

3) How could interventions relating to child labour elimination in tea and tobacco-growing communities protect and empower children, families and communities?

I have decided to use the following investgative techniques to collect data: I will conduct key informant interviews targeting service providers and community leaders; set up  focus group discussions; and create survey questionnaires targeting household members. The study will be conducted in the Southern Region districts of Thyolo and Mulanje (for tea production) and Zomba (for tobacco production).

I am grateful to the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST)’s Center for Innovation and Industrial Research (CIIR) in Thyolo District for offering to host me during the period of fieldwork. Their various capacity-building initiatives will enrich my research experience and further my career development. In addition, the stay at MUST will ensure that I have an office and access to the internet when I am not in the field for reporting and reading. In turn, I will dedicate four hours per week to any work assigned to me by the CIIR.

I now have the ethics approval from the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FoSE) at the University of Hull and am in the process of applying for ethics approval  with MUST’s research committee. Once I get the MUST research ethics approval, I can begin my fieldwork with stakeholder mapping and consultations before field data collection proper begins. With over 60% of research costs secured, I am in the process of applying for the shortfall from the National Commission of Science and Technology (NCST)’s Small Grant Scheme, designed to support postgraduate students in research.

All in all, I am very excited to enter the field data collection phase of my PhD studies. With the support I am getting both at the University of Hull and MUST, I hope this will be successful fieldwork.


Caption: Mavuto K. Banda in Mulanje tea fields, Southern Malawi (Source: Mavuto K. Banda, 2016)

‘This is the first blues I no doubt heard in my life’: The role of African-American GIs in introducing Britain to Blues Music

James Baker

PhD student, Falling Through the Net Cluster

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

J.Baker-2019@hull.ac.uk

On 31st March 2013, the BBC broadcasted a documentary entitled ‘Blues Britannia: Can Blue Men Play the Whites?’, outlining the rise of blues music in late 1950s and early 1960s Britain. Featuring interviews with the likes of the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, Jack Bruce from Cream and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, the programme provided several reasons as to why the genre became so popular. Britain already had a well-established jazz culture prior to this era and so when the blues was beginning to reach the peak of its popularity, the BBC began to give the genre more airtime. London music shops helped too by stocking blues records in far higher quantities. However, an important factor that this documentary and many other histories of British blues music often overlook is the role of African-American GIs in introducing many Britons to the genre during and after the Second World War.

The history of blues music is defined by the histories of slavery and African-American oppression. Work songs and religious spirituals sung by enslaved African-Americans were heavily influenced by traditional African harmonies and rhythms. They would use these songs not only to pass the time but also to communicate with one another, as typified by the call and response element of this music. Even after emancipation, many African-Americans in the South were forced to work for little or no pay, and the blues music of this era came to symbolise the plight of those whose lives remained blighted by prejudice, hard labour and incarceration. The Delta blues, originating from the Mississippi Delta, were first recorded in the 1920s and told of the ongoing poverty, discrimination and poor working conditions that continued to affect African Americans at the turn of the century. Although African-American GIs played a vital role in the Second World War, with around 100,000 stationed in the UK alone, institutional and societal racism remained highly prevalent.

Despite being stationed in the United Kingdom, the African-American GIs who served here remained subject to US law, meaning that they continued to experience segregation and racial oppression. African-American GIs were largely consigned to service and supply duties, including having to endure poor living and working conditions while building airfields. When they attempted to raise issues regarding their ongoing racial segregation, they were met with brutality at the hands of their own military police, as was the case at Bamber Bridge in Lancashire during June 1943 and Park Street in Bristol on 15 July 1944[NJE1] . In both instances, one African-American soldier was killed and several more were injured. Legalised prejudice towards African-American GIs continued throughout their time in the United Kingdom and the British government did little to remedy the situation despite being aware of their ongoing mistreatment. The GIs also experienced discrimination during their recreation time with many pubs, such as the Colston Arms in Bristol, enforcing racial segregation between soldiers.

The reception of the wider British population towards African-American GIs was on the whole rather more welcoming and facilitated a number of important cultural exchanges. This included many Britons being introduced to blues music for the first time during the 1940s and 1950s, a phenomenon that would help change the course of British music for the coming decades. As a means of endearing themselves to their hosts, the GIs gave away large numbers of records to local children and would perform the blues to British military personnel while stationed at their bases. Many Britons during the war could listen to blues records and blues-themed programmes via the American Forces Network. This station proved to be an important forum for the genre even after the Second World War had ended, allowing many who were not situated in the vicinity of army bases to become familiarised with this style of music.

There were also several chance encounters between these GIs and the families of future British blues stars. A young Mick Jagger was first introduced to the music of Muddy Waters after meeting an African-American cook who worked at the same US airbase as his father, a PE teacher. Furthermore, merchant seamen stationed in port cities including Belfast and Newcastle exchanged records with their British colleagues, including the fathers of Van Morrison and the Animals’ Eric Burdon. In addition, many of the blues LPs that were sold in UK record shops in the decades after the end of the war previously belonged to African-American GIs. Many other prominent blues musicians including Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones would buy these albums and take inspiration from them while creating their own music in later years. 

Although there is a rich scholarship concerning the impact of the blues on British rock and pop music, the influence of African Americans and in particular GIs is all too often missing from these narratives. The 1950s and 1960s would undoubtedly see Blues music become drastically more popular in Britain, but the earlier cultural exchanges that occurred in Britain during the Second World War sowed the seeds for this later musical trend. At a time when African Americans faced extreme discrimination both at home and abroad, African-American GIs based in Britain can be credited with performing and distributing the music describing their ongoing oppression, as well as influencing countless bands and musicians who remain household names to this very day.


Caption: Steel Guitar, courtesy of Steve Garry at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JHS_Vintage%C2%AE_AMG1_Acoustic_Resonator_Guitar_-_f-holes.jpg

Mothers with lived experience of modern slavery

Ndiweteko Jennifer Nghishitende

PhD student, Living with the Consequences of Slavery Cluster

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull.

N.J.NGHISHITENDE-2020@hull.ac.uk

When we consider life after modern slavery, we should not only consider survival, but also the prospect of survivors having opportunities to become thriving members of society. My research focuses on women and young persons who have left situations of modern slavery in the UK, and I have recently commenced fieldwork, speaking to women as well as practitioners who support them. I am increasingly becoming aware of the large gap in the manner in which mothers with children are supported, which may severely impact their potential to thrive after exploitation. Many women enter exploitation as mothers, while others emerge out of exploitation pregnant, or with young children, some having their children as a result of the exploitation.

Motherhood

Motherhood requires ‘maternal work’, which comprises daily repetitive tasks towards the raising of children. This ‘maternal work’ is three-pronged in that it encompasses the physical care of children, the emotional and spiritual care of children, and the training of children to be social. This makes motherhood a multidimensional role, in addition to taking care of oneself as an individual. The ‘cultural story’ of motherhood, however, makes mothers out to be strong, independent, and nonthreatening- thus expected to be able to bear almost anything.

Mothers with lived experience of modern slavery seem to be expected to conform to this ‘cultural story’ having to rely mostly on strength to survive. Strength is needed to perform their ‘maternal work’ – physically, spiritually, and emotionally taking care of their children, doing school runs – and during the COVID-19 lockdown, this included home-schooling. This is done in conjunction with moving forward; battling insecure immigration statuses; dealing with insecure, sometimes temporary accommodation; dealing with criminalisation; integrating; working (if allowed and able); dating, or sustaining a marriage; fostering friendships; and so forth.

A suspended future

Women generally consider their children to be their lives, and some mothers find solace in vicariously living through their children by throwing themselves into their upbringing. After all, a mother’s love is ‘supposed’ to know no bounds, and part of her ‘maternal work’ is to protect her child. Because the support available for those who can access it is limited, mothers with lived experience of modern slavery may have to pause or suspend their own lives in favour of those of their children. Some would, for instance, skip their therapy sessions  and other important appointments, but would ensure to take their children to the doctor when needed.

However, children grow up and move out. What happens then? A mother I recently interviewed could not answer me when I asked her about what she wanted the next few years of her life to look like. Her children are her life and soon they will grow up and leave the nest, after which she will be left to deal with her past trauma that was deferred to raise her children.

Work

The benefits of being able to work have been well documented. The inability to work, on the other hand,  has been found to affect individuals negatively, as it can impede social integration and increase destitution, impair confidence, cause loss of skills, accentuate isolation and increase vulnerabilities. Working is important in restoring mental wellbeing and a sense of dignity and self-worth and the provision of a meagre weekly allowance does not address the mental health implications associated with living without work.

Mothers with lived experience of modern slavery express a strong desire to work, but there are various compelling challenges that prevent them from doing so. The issue of work affects mothers differently and it is not simply a matter of having the right to work or the capability. Usually, these mothers are lone parents, and encounter problems surrounding childcare. Some women are British survivors for instance who are unable to work due to insecure childcare. Others may be international survivors with the right to work but face other layers of difficulty in addition to childcare – women may have language barrier problems or long gaps in their resumes that are hard to explain to potential employers because of time spent in exploitation.

In addition to childcare, some mothers are also faced with skills deficits.  Some may have spent many years in terrible working conditions performing unfulfilling tasks that may have stunted their productive abilities. Others may have entered exploitation while they were still children and as such were deprived of the opportunity to gain certain skills. One of the women I interviewed relayed to me that in the quest to obtain skills and thus gainful employment, she would take her babies to class with her, sometimes having to breastfeed during lectures and subsequently having to repeat modules multiple times.

Effects on children

With World Children’s Day commemorated on Saturday, 20 November 2021 (and on 20 November of every year since 1954) to ‘promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare’ it is apt to recognise the impact on the children discussed within this context. Children emerging out of exploitation with their mothers are being let down by the system, even though the need to extend particular care to the child has been emphasised in various international and national human rights instruments. Insufficient support for a mother invariably means insufficient support for the child.

Further, some children are affected by their mothers’ experiences. Those with their mothers and are exposed to their mothers’ hardships may face the possibility of stunted growth and development and/or mental health problems. Children are at times forced to grow up too quickly – taking on responsibilities such as taking care of younger siblings and sometimes even suppressing their feelings to protect their mother’s emotions.

Others are affected by being left behind – a significant number of migrant women have children and are usually unable to migrate with them, because of a lack of safe and legal pathways to migrate and other factors. Some then decide to leave their children behind, in the care of relatives, friends, or nannies, although most feel guilt and remorse  for doing so.

While existing studies suggest that the circumstances surrounding each cohort of children left behind are highly variable, some children struggle without their mothers and some may become withdrawn or perform poorly in school.

The way forward

Although I am in the early stages of my data collection, I have found that the journeys of these mothers and those of their children have barely been researched. Data needs to be collected to inform solutions. More needs to be done, to ensure that women and children in this category are given equitable treatment to not only survive but also thrive, given that their background conditions are complicated. As a mother myself, I know that thriving mothers have a better chance of raising thriving children.

Caption: Mother and child photo from Pexels, copyright free.

Publication: Decolonizing Colonial Heritage

Professor John Oldfield

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

John.Oldfield@hull.ac.uk

This month marks the publication of Decolonizing Colonial Heritage: New Agendas, Actions and Practices in and beyond Europe (Routledge), a major output of the Horizon 2020 project ECHOES. Running from 2018-2021, this project – ‘European Colonial Heritage Modalities in Entangled Cities’ – was led by Professor John Oldfield of the Wilberforce Institute.

Decolonizing Colonial Heritage explores how different agents practice the decolonization of European heritage in a number of different urban settings. Including contributions from academics, artists and heritage practitioners, the volume explores decolonial heritage practices in politics, contemporary history, diplomacy, museum practice, the visual arts and self-generated memorial expressions in public spaces. The comparative focus of the chapters includes examples of internal colonization in Europe and extends to former European colonies, among them Shanghai, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro. Examining practices in a range of different contexts, the book pays particular attention to sub-national actors (curators, artists, citizens groups), whose work is opening up new futures through their engagement with decolonial heritage practices in the present.

Decolonizing Colonial Heritage in divided into three parts. Part I, ‘Haunted Worlds: Ghosts of the Colonial Past’, includes chapters on the multiple imperial entanglements of countries in Europe’s North and East, as well as its West and South; Sam Mendes’ highly-acclaimed film 1917 and the question of imperial nostalgia; an in-depth analysis of Cecil Rhodes’ spectral presence across the landscape and built environment of the campus of the University of Cape Town; African- and Afro-descendent life stories in contemporary Lisbon; and an assessment of another spectral presence, that of the Nigerian-born jazz musician, August Agboola Browne, also known as ‘Ali’, who was apparently the only black participant in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

Part II, ‘Contemporary Heritage Practices’, hones in on museums and curatorship, both inside and outside Europe, with case studies from Amsterdam, Shanghai and Warsaw. It then moves on to consider colonial culture’s echoes within visual culture and site-specific art, starting with the Valongo Wharf region of Rio de Janeiro, now a World Heritage Site. Other contributions deal with European settings and events, including the annual Todos festival in Lisbon and the life experiences and working practices of a number of artists currently working in Marseille. The section concludes with a meditation by Meghna Singh on her multimedia, virtual reality installation, Container, which links South Africa’s history of slavery to forms of modern exploitation, prejudice and discrimination.

Part III, ‘Imagining Decolonial Futures’, investigates new decolonial ways of thinking about Europe today and its inseparability from historical entanglements with other countries. Britta Timm Knudsen’s contribution, ‘Decolonial Countervisuality’, offers an experimental approach to decolonial methodology in which she invites heritage practitioners to reflect on the Belgian-Congolese documentary, Faire-part (2019). The second chapter turns to ‘New Diplomacy and Decolonial Heritage Practices’, offering a vision of what International Cultural Relations might look like in a decolonial world. The final chapter links Europe’s historical record of dealing with ‘others’, including European Jews, to recent histories of excluding ethnic minorities located within and beyond the content, not least Muslims. Framed by the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing fallout from the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, it also suggests new ways of imagining an intercultural, transnational and entangled Europe of the future.

Decolonizing Colonial Heritage is edited by Britta Timm Knudsen, John Oldfield, Elizabeth Buettner and Elvan Zabunyan, and includes contributions from Dr Cristina Clopot and Dr Meghna Singh, research fellows at the Wilberforce Institute. Generously supported by the European Commission, the book is available as a free resource online here, as well as in hardback. For further details, see https://www.routledge.com/Decolonizing-Colonial-Heritage-New-Agendas-Actors-and-Practices-in/Knudsen-Oldfield-Buettner-Zabunyan/p/book/9780367569600

Decolonizing Colonial Heritage is one of two books produced by the ECHOES project, the other being Practicing Decoloniality in Museums: A Guide with Global Examples, edited by Csilla Ariese and Magdalena Wroblewska and published by the University of Amsterdam Press (November 2021) https://www.aup.nl/en/book/9789463726962/practicing-decoloniality-in-museums

Black History Month 2021: Our African door

As part of Black History Month 2021 we are appealing to you to help us understand an object given to us a number of years ago by a former Lord Mayor of the City of Kingston upon Hull, Honorary Alderman David Gemmell – a carved door. David’s sister was an avid visitor to Africa during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. On one of her visits she acquired a door that he later presented to the Institute for us to look after. 

The 45 x 75cm door, pictured above, appears to be made out of planks of a hard wood, nailed together using handmade nails. It has some impressive carvings on the front with a clear handle near the centre. The reverse is plain. But what do the symbols represent? Where was the door originally used? And where in Africa does it originate? We would love to know more so that we can share the story with visitors to the Institute.

A quick search on Google images returns numerous types of African doors variously described as ‘traditional’ doors, ‘Dogon granary’ doors, ‘palace’ and ‘shrine’ doors, for example. The doors themselves come in various shapes and sizes, and the patterns appear to reflect the traditions of a range of wood carvers right across Africa.

Wooden doors with elaborately carved reliefs may at one time have been reserved for the wealthiest and most important of African chiefs and created by professional carvers.  In any case it seems likely that the size of the doors and the quality of the carving would have reflected the status of those who commissioned them. The carvings themselves, symbolic representations of gods or celestial bodies, animals or plants, or scenes from everyday life, can sometimes give a clue to the purpose of the doors.

Where did our door originate, and who might have produced it? Could it perhaps be a Dogon door? It certainly has a number of similarities with Dogon doors for sale on the Internet. The Dogon, who live in present day Mali, produced carved wooden doors for their granaries, and the elaborate designs they used were intended to provide ritual forms of protection for their food supplies. These appear to be very popular with collectors and were sometimes sold in craft markets. Many are likely to be copies, produced expressly for the consumer market.

We have had our door for a number of years now, and would like to know more about it.  So if you are able to add to our knowledge in any way, please get in touch with Nick Evans at N.J.Evans@hull.ac.uk or Judith Spicksley at Judith.Spicksley@hull.ac.uk

Images of African doors taken from Google Images

Public lecture: A British family’s legacy of slave ownership, and its relevance today

Thursday 4 November 2021

4.00-5.30PM GMT

Wilberforce Institute, 27 High Street, Hull. HU1 1NE

Or join us by livestreaming on Microsoft Teams. Please click here to register and receive a link.

For other information contact R.Bloomfield@hull.ac.uk          

Cecile Oxaal: Alex Renton: Karen Okra

This talk will be given by Alex Renton, author of Blood Legacy: Reckoning With a Family’s Story of Slavery, and will include contributions from Cecile Oxaal and Karen Okra, who will both share details of their own family histories.

Alex’s ancestors were prominent Scots who were also slave holders in Tobago and Jamaica. In the excerpt below, Alex reflects on what he decided to do when skeletons fell out of his family cupboard. As he notes, it’s not easy to stuff them back in. When they’re 150 years old, and more, you might think they represent what police drama calls a cold case. But often the old crimes turn out to have much more relevance today than first appears.

Alex’s family’s cupboard was an archive store-room in the old house in Scotland where his grandparents lived. His grandfather was a historian, in charge of Scotland’s national archive for twenty years. At home he carefully curated the family’s own papers, which went back to the seventeenth century. Several of his books on Scottish history were based on them. But in the great mass of letters, diaries and accounts was a story that he never got around to telling, or that he decided was best left untold.

‘Like many old families in Britain, we grew up with a legend of our ancestors’ essential goodness. The men whose pictures hung on the walls of the old house had played their role in the management of the best empire the world had ever known, we learnt: a benevolent machine for civilising the greater part of the globe. But there was another, less pride-inducing side of the story. The first I knew of it was seeing, in my grandfather’s catalogue of the papers, the words ‘Tobago’ and ‘Jamaica’, again and again. His own grandfather had been a third generation plantation-owner: he had received £1.5 million in government compensation money in 1833 at abolition for ‘giving up’ the 198 enslaved people in Jamaica.

My family has glossed over this history, as my education did, as Britain has. This denial – of the 3.25 million Africans who were enslaved and transported, of the generations that were exploited and abused afterwards, and of what the 12% of GDP slavery-related industries meant to Britain in the early 1800s – is a crime that still toxifies Britain today.

It also acts to deny that the racism and inequality that afflicts our 21st century country has its roots in the story of British slavery and colonialism. I believe it is right for people like me, with the privilege of access to this history, and as beneficiaries of the wealth of slavery, to acknowledge it today. We cannot change the history, but – as Sir Geoff Palmer, campaigner in Scotland for acknowledgement of the country’s history in enslavement puts it – ‘we can still change the consequences’.

Alex will be joined by Cecil Oxaal who will talk about her family history, one of mixed heritage from wealthy white slaveholders. Karen Okra will also be sharing her family heritage. Together our speakers will offer three different but equally interesting perspectives on people in Britain with Caribbean histories.

For more information about Alex’s book go to www.bloodlegacybook.com

Taking a Knee: a gesture redefined for protest

Chloe Baker, Research Intern

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull.

chloe.ambaker@gmail.com

Getting down on one knee has been anything but a threatening gesture. For some examples, it’s used to pay one’s respect, to devote oneself to the Lord in prayer, and to love another human being by asking for their hand in marriage. However, Colin Kaepernick’s and Eric Reid’s decision to Take the Knee on September 1st, 2016, during the American national anthem, was seen as an act of defiance and disrespect, at least that’s how it looked to some of the white population of the United States. For Kaepernick and Reid, this was their way of demonstrating that enough was enough. Why should they stand and salute the flag when it represented a country that continually treated black communities and other minorities as unequal? Since then, a growing variety of sports have become the stage for Black Lives Matter protests involving Taking a Knee, as both have a long history with the struggle for equality and the fight against oppression.

Is Taking a Knee a new way to protest?

The short answer to the above question is no. The Wilberforce Institute has been researching the idea behind Taking a Knee, and what it has uncovered is that while Taking a Knee has been firmly established by 2021 as a way to challenge racism and oppression through George Floyd protests, black individuals have been making the gesture for centuries. Its earliest depiction was in 1787 on a Wedgewood medallion for the abolition cause with the famous words ‘Am I Not A Man and A Brother’. However, this popular abolitionist image is controversial because it was created for a white audience. It shows a supplicant slave in chains with minimal clothing and sanitised of the brutality of slavery, asking white society for the right to be human (Marcus Wood, The Horrible Gift of Freedom, 2010). It was the civil rights era that saw a reclamation of the gesture by black communities as black men and women took a knee in prayer protests and civil disobedience for equality. In the twenty-first century, it is through sports that people of all backgrounds associate Taking a Knee with protesting racism.

Sport as a platform

Since 2016 the question ‘why sports?’ has made its appearance now and then regarding protests taking place in sports settings. The answer to that question can be broken down into several factors. The most obvious one is that sports games congregate the population of the surrounding areas into one spot which means the protest will be seen by a substantial amount of people. Bigger arenas such as the 2020 Olympics are filmed too, and will therefore have the bonus of reaching an even greater audience over a larger radius. Secondly, like any other profession, playing sport is a job and its players are people who wish to create a better working environment with equal opportunities. Scholars Adam Love, Alexander Deeb, and Steven Waller use the National Basketball Association for an example, stating that within the profession people of colour make up 80% of players, but only hold 30% of head coaching positions, 10% of general manager positions, and 6.9% of CEO/President roles.

As outsiders, fans only see that high player percentage, and so they tend to think of sport as removed from ‘everyday concerns of inequality, power, and discrimination’, and the success of athletes of colour as proof that racism is not rampant in the sporting world. Taking a Knee disrupts that view. Thirdly, the reaction the protest receives reflects the attitudes of the area and can therefore prove its point. For example, a football match between Millwall and Derby saw fans boo football players who decided to Take a Knee to protest racism. Lastly, and most significantly, black athletes have been using sports to fight for change for the better part of a century.

Jackie Robinson joined the Montreal Royals, a baseball team, in 1946 and successfully broke the ‘colour line’ of Major League Baseball when appearing on the field for the National League Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 until 1956. Eroseanna Robinson stayed seated for the American national anthem at the Pan American Games of 1959. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were kicked out of the Olympics in 1968 for their raised fist gesture at the podium, and Wyomia Tyus wore black shorts at the same event to subtly protest, all in the name of highlighting racial injustice. The list continues. Why sport? Because it’s where people give their undivided attention.

Taking a Knee in sport is the next step in a sequence that goes back to slavery. Black men and women Taking a Knee for a cause is not a twenty-first-century idea but has appeared in history at crucially important moments. The idea of the gesture within sports means that it is kept in the front of people’s minds via popular events, expressing that racism does not cease to exist because one cannot see it.

‘Am I Not A Man And A Brother’ Chair, Wilberforce Institute. Photo taken by Chloé Baker.

The Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture – a brief history (Part II)

Part II: the end of the first phase of the Annual Lecture and its later re-inauguration

Emeritus Professor Michael E. Turner,

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull.

M.E.Turner@emeritus.hull.ac.uk

Tonight Professor Douglas Hamilton of Sheffield Hallam University will give our Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture. If you haven’t yet signed up you can do so here where you will also find details of the lecture. Having given us the first part of his brief history of the lecture last week, Emeritus Professor Michael Turner concludes this week with a discussion of the end of its first phase, and its later re-inauguration.

Sydney Smith died in 1984 at the age of 99, but the annual lecture he founded in 1972 continued for another four years before coming at that point to an abrupt end. In October 1988 the Department of Economic and Social History was looking forward to welcoming Arthur Marwick, the flamboyant professor from the Open University, to deliver a talk, but he never came.

The 1980s saw quite considerable debate and sometimes unrest in the University sector. Many universities embarked on radical restructuring programmes in order to embrace some of the new technologies and subject areas that society would demand in the future. More traditional areas of learning came under attack as intellectual knowledge was no longer valued for its own sake. Universities embraced different ways to confront the more targeted funding provided by the conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher. More specialisation took place, for example, and the activities of so-called fringe subjects, especially languages, were discontinued. Members of staff moved to other universities where central funding for their activities was increased. The University of Hull lost Classics, Scandinavian Studies, Dutch Studies, and Russian, and in the sciences the Physics Department was lost. Some of these activities did return, but with much reduced activity. It was the attack on Philosophy which led to the redundancy of a specific lecturer, but it also served to ignite the fuse of revolt. Redundancy was not a word easily applied to the University sector and Hull became the first or at least the most prominent University to declare a redundancy. In consequence the AUT, the national Association of University Teachers, rallied to Hull’s cause and a boycott of all activity at Hull was declared. The impact was considerable. The University found it very difficult to recruit external examiners not only for undergraduate degrees but also to examine research theses. Colleagues were no longer invited to speak at external events, and external speakers cancelled their visits to Hull. Most significantly for our story here, Arthur Marwick cancelled his invitation to give the Annual Sydney Smith Lecture.

For whatever reason, the lecture was not reinstated once order had been restored, though the income from its investments grew nicely during the years of double-digit interest rates. In 2001 the Department of Economic and Social History was amalgamated with History. From 2004, however, the Wilberforce Institute began to take shape, under the three ‘WISE’ men who founded it, David Richardson, Michael (Mike) Turner and Gary Craig; it opened its doors late in 2006.  Mike and David had both worked in the old Department of Economic and Social History, and so in 2009 they negotiated with the University to release the Alderman Sydney Smith endowment specifically to the Wilberforce Institute in order to re-inaugurate the lecture. It was a perfect match, a lecture in social and labour history but specifically devoted to slavery and all its exploitative labour connotations. To make this rebirth something to be remembered, the distinguished American historian, Professor Seymour Drescher, was invited from Pittsburgh in 2010. His credentials included books on slavery, antislavery, abolition and most controversially his Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition (1977).

Later speakers included Professors Marcus Wood in 2011, Philip D. Morgan in 2012, Catherine Hall in 2013 and Verene A. Shepherd in 2014. In 2018, we welcomed Professor Jean Allain, a scholar of international law who helped draft the Bellagio Harvard Guidelines on the Legal Parameters of Slavery. Two of our former Directors have also given lectures – Professors David Richardson in 2016, and John Oldfield in 2020.

Over the years, the lecture has moved between the University Campus and the Wilberforce Institute. Last year Covid-19 forced John Oldfield to deliver his lecture using a virtual format, but this year we are planning once again to hold the Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture in the Institute, with live-streaming of Professor Hamilton’s talk for those who cannot make it. We would be delighted to welcome you in person or inline.

Reproduced by kind permission of Hull History Centre

https://hullhistorycentre.org.uk/home.aspx

A21: Walk for Freedom in Hull

Saturday 16 October 2021, 11am

Sarah Colley, PhD student

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull.

S.E.Colley-2013@hull.ac.uk

Walk in single file! Quietly! Wear black!

Aren’t these the kind of instructions often given in schools?

Perhaps on occasion, but on Saturday October 16th this is the guidance we will be adopting on the Walk for Freedom, which is taking place this year in Hull for the first time. A21, the charity behind the walk, describe it as a silent protest against contemporary slavery. Its aim is to raise awareness that slavery still exists.

Those of us working or studying at the Wilberforce Institute strongly believe in social justice and the principle of freedom for all. Being next door to the birthplace of William Wilberforce, I have been constantly reminded that millions of people are still living in situations of contemporary slavery, such as forced labour, sexual exploitation, debt bondage and forced marriage. So, what can we as individuals do, when it feels that any action we take won’t make much of a difference to the 40 million people estimated to be in some form of slavery today?

Well, on one of A21’s awareness cards, it says “when we show up for the freedom of others, we show up for the world we want to see. A world where justice, human dignity, and freedom prevails. Your steps matter. Your voice matters. For those enslaved in your city, and around the world.” By walking here, or in a city close to us, or even by taking up A21’s virtual challenge, we can all play a part in learning more about slavery. And by having more discussions on the topic, by more people learning what to look out for and how to report it, I would argue we can all play our part.

We’d love to have you join us on the Hull walk, and this is not just a local event –  we will be joining with people in walks organised in over 50 countries, in hundreds of locations across the world, all on the same day. So, what do you need to know about the Hull walk? I will try and answer the most common questions below, but feel free to email me if you have any other queries: s.e.colley-2013@hull.ac.uk

Where is the walk taking place?

We will be following a historic route around Hull, starting from the Wilberforce Monument and walking down Humber Street, along the marina, across the new Murdoch connection bridge, and through the city centre. Our walk will end in Queens Gardens, where Wilberforce will be atop his 90-foot column, looking down on us as we finish.

What time are we walking?

We are starting the walk at 11am and as it is a 2-mile route, it will take us around an hour to walk it. We are suggesting that everyone registers online, via the A21 website before October 16th, but we will be able to register people on the day, if preferred. Registration will be open by 10am.

Who is supporting the walk?

Raising awareness is always a team effort and huge thanks need to go to the amazing support offered by my colleagues and friends at the Freedom Festival, the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership and of course, those at the Wilberforce Institute. We are all passionate about doing whatever we can to raise awareness of the topic.

More about A21

For more information on A21, please have a look at their website: https://www.a21.org/ where you can read more about the charity and the work they do, and also find information on the walk and this year’s virtual challenges.

If you are concerned that someone might be held in slavery, forced labour or being exploited in other ways, you can always call the Police (999 or 111, depending on whether it is an emergency or not) or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or you can report or contact them online.

Hope to see you on October 16th!

The Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture – a brief history

Part I: Sydney Smith and the establishment of the Annual Lecture

Emeritus Professor Michael E. Turner,

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull.

M.E.Turner@emeritus.hull.ac.uk

In advance of our Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture next week, Emeritus Professor Michael Turner provides a brief history of the lecture’s creation and development. The first part is given below, and the second part will appear next Thursday on the day of the lecture. You can sign up to the lecture here.

The history of the Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture goes back to the 1970s, and the Department of Economic and Social History, which was later absorbed into the Department of History. To understand the lecture’s creation, however, we have to begin with the man himself.

Sydney Smith came from a family of tailors who moved from Birmingham to Ipswich and then to London, where he was born in 1885. After spending his earliest years in the capital, Sydney moved to Goole at the age of nine when his father fell ill. His father’s brother lived there and the family thought it would be wise to be nearer to him. Sydney’s cousin was a Goole newsagent and Sydney became one of his newspaper sellers, later buying into the newsagent’s business himself.

By the age of 18 Sydney had moved to Hull and was living on the Boulevard. Thereafter he never strayed far from the Hessle Road. Born into a Methodist family, Sydney became a lay preacher in adulthood, but there were also early family connections with politics – his maternal grandfather, Charles Hedges, had been political agent to conservative politician and Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Sydney took a different political direction, became a socialist and joined the ILP (Independent Labour Party). He eventually attended Ruskin College in Oxford, a popular college for bright young socialists before attending St Catherine’s College, also Oxford, where he read modern history. He expanded his newsagent business into books, especially those of the Fabian Society, and active politics beckoned. He was first elected to Hull City Council in 1923. Sydney remained almost continually on the Council until 1942, and served as Lord Mayor in 1940. Being unmarried, he took as his lady mayoress his niece, Miss Daisy Sunderland, who was only 23 at the time.

In the 1945 General Election Sydney was elected to Westminster as part of the Labour landslide. Representing the South-West Hull seat, he deposed the sitting MP Richard Law, who later became Lord Coleraine. His maiden speech was on the subject of the National Insurance Bill, where he spoke against a proposal to introduce a means test for unemployment benefits – it was contrary to the Beveridge line that paying into a fund conferred rights of entitlement if hard times and unemployment followed later. Sydney’s other main interventions at Westminster were on local issues, specifically the urban reconstruction of Hull which had been the most ‘densely’ bombed city during the Second World War. He also spoke on Hull’s fishing industry. However, Sydney stood down from Parliament after only 5 years in 1950 at the age of 65 and returned to municipal politics. Twenty years later, when he retired from the Council, he was made an Honorary Alderman for life. External honours followed in the final years of his life: a school was named after him in Hull; he became an Honorary Freeman of the City; and the University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Law and conferred on him membership of the University Court for life.

The Alderman Sydney Smith Lecture was created when the new Department of Economic and Social History was formed in 1970-71.  Following negotiations conducted by two of the Department staff, John Saville and Mike Brown, Sydney made a financial bequest to inaugurate a four-year lecture series in labour and social history. Saville was the first Professor of Economic and Social History at Hull, and Mike Brown was an historian of the labour movement and very much a friend of Sydney. Reputedly Mike’s family dog Syd, was named after him. The endowment became perpetual through a trust fund.

The very first lecture was given by Professor Asa Briggs on 15 May 1972, then Vice-Chancellor at Sussex and himself a noted historian of the Labour Movement. Brigg’s lecture was on Social History and Human Experience. Sydney was therefore in his mid-80s when the lecture series began. He attended the first lecture and wrote Briggs a warm letter of appreciation, although he disclosed that he ‘scarcely heard a word of what was said. I knew he was carrying the audience with him by the ripples of laughter which shook those sitting about me’. Sydney was already blind and nearly deaf by this point, and so in subsequent years details of the lecture were narrated to him by Mike Brown (and tape recordings of the lectures were made).

Following Briggs appearance, the annual lecture became a who’s who of the intellectual left with such noted and often controversial figures as Edward Thompson in 1974. Three more heavyweight intellectual Marxists followed in the period 1978-80 in the shape of Rodney Hilton, Eric Hobsbawm, and Christopher Hill. The lecture also attracted the Welsh fireball Gwyn Williams in 1983, not to mention a relatively young new member of the intellectual left, Gareth Steadman Jones, in 1986. In those early years there was only one female lecturer, Charlotte Erickson, who spoke on Women Emigrants from Britain to the USA in the early nineteenth century. However, the lecture was proving to be a great success, attracting academics of reputation and distinction to Hull, and confirming the Department of Economic and Social History as an important centre for the study of Labour History. As Part II will show, it is somewhat ironic then that it was labour relations that would bring the first phase of the Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture to an end.

Reproduced by kind permission of Hull History Centre

https://hullhistorycentre.org.uk/home.aspx