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!

Wilberforce Institute Summer Webinar: Windrush Day 2021

Tuesday 22 June 2021, 4pm – 5:30pm BST

On Windrush Day 2021 the Wilberforce Institute welcomes you, on behalf of partners across the City of Hull, to highlight Hull’s important migrant ties with the Caribbean at a free online event.

Chaired by Karen Okra, the panellists include Gifty Burrows (Founder of the Africans in Hull and East Yorkshire Project), Dr Nicholas Evans (Senior Lecturer in Diaspora at the University of Hull), and Catherine Ross and Lynda-Louise Burrell (Founders of Museumand, The National Caribbean Heritage Museum). Closing remarks will be provided by Councillor Aneesa Akbar, Portfolio Holder for Communities at Hull City Council.

This region’s links to the Caribbean are very strong. Planters from Hull and the surrounding region were among the earliest colonists settling Barbados in the first half of the seventeenth century; an early Governor of the Island emanated from Ryedale; Lincolnshire planter, Thomas Thistlewood, had a friend on Jamaica who came from Hull; and trade from the British West Indies arrived at the port of Hull from numerous islands including modern day Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Haiti and St Kitts. More recently, during the Second World War thousands of RAF personnel from the Caribbean were based at nearby RAF Hunmanby.

It is therefore unsurprising that personal connections established over centuries encouraged people from the Caribbean to come and live, study, or work in our region after the Second World War to bolster Britain’s post-war labour shortages. It was a period often described as the Windrush Generation after the HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on 22 June 1948, carrying passengers from the West Indies. Those coming to this region in the following decades included lawyer Sir Roy Marshall, who became the fourth Vice Chancellor of the University of Hull and the first black leader of any UK university; historian Sir Hilary Beckles, a triple graduate of the University of Hull and present Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies; and rugby captain Clive Sullivan, whose family originated in Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda.

The personal bond between both regions is the focus of a new £16,000 project funded by the UK Government’s Windrush Grant. Led by Hull City Council the partnership includes the University of Hull, Wilberforce House Museum, Hull Libraries, Hull Culture and Leisure Limited, Hull City Council, Museumand, The National Caribbean Heritage Museum and the Hull Afro Caribbean Association. It will draw upon the expertise of historians Professor Trevor Burnard and Dr Nicholas Evans from the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute.

To learn more about the ties the project seeks to highlight then please click on the link below to register for the webinar:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6896312166844011789

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

HMT Empire Windrush, source: http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//19/media-19146/large.jpg

The Wilberforce Institute and Sierra Leone

Professor Trevor Burnard

Director of the Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

trevor.burnard@hull.ac.uk

The city of Kingston-upon-Hull has been twinned with Freetown in Sierra Leone for forty years. That twinning is a natural fit given the close history of both places with the age of abolition in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and with major abolitionists, black and white, in Britain, Canada and Sierra Leone. The Wilberforce Institute has developed close links with a variety of institutions in Freetown and values very highly its connections with individuals and societies in that city and in the country of Sierra Leone.

One of our primary links in recent times has been through an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project, led by John Oldfield of the Wilberforce Institute in conjunction with the Universities of Liverpool and Nottingham. This project, the Antislavery Knowledge Network has developed community-led strategies for creative and heritage-based interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa. It includes individual projects such as one working with film makers in Sierra Leone to shed light upon vulnerable seaside communities.

A recent event connected with the Wilberforce Institute is worth noting. We have been involved with the Wilberforce Lodge in Hull (it is based in Beverley but has a strong Hull connection) in informing members of this Masonic lodge about the person after whom both the lodge and the Institute are named. As part of its outreach activities this year, I was delighted to attend an online meeting between the three Masonic Lodges named after Wilberforce – one in Hull, one in South London and another in Sierra Leone. We took part in what we might term a Covid-inspired event, which was an online meeting between members of the three lodges, in which they shared their history and outlined their philanthropic aims and objectives, many of which connect with the vision of the Wilberforce Institute. We were delighted to receive from the Hull lodge a very generous gift of a book series – The Cambridge History of Violence – which is now added to our library at the Wilberforce Institute.

We very much hope these links continue and develop, especially once life returns to whatever normality is going to be in the future.

Book presentation by members of the Wilberforce Lodge to Professor Trevor Burnard outside the Wilberforce Institute.

Africans in Yorkshire

Gifty Burrows

Educator and Project Lead

Honorary Fellow at the Wilberforce Institute

g.burrows@hull.ac.uk

To mark her appointment as Honorary Fellow at the Wilberforce Institute, Gifty Burrows, Project Lead, talks about the African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire Project.

The history of Black presence in Britain is evident in the sensational rediscovery of human remains among Anglo-Saxon and prehistoric burial sites. However, given that Britain had an empire with subjects in colonies around the world, it is puzzling that many people still have some difficulty in understanding the longevity of Black presence in British society. This is not surprising however, given the paucity of historical research to show that people of African descent have lived, worked and visited Britain for hundreds of years. Instead, there is a persistent myth that Black presence began in the 1950s with the call for workers from its territories, heralded by the arrival of the Empire Windrush ship. Indeed, it is ironic that although Black people are hypervisible as a minority group in society, they are rendered invisible in terms of their narratives and their achievements too are diminished.

There is very little representation of Black people as individuals in fiction or nonfiction. Stories of their direct experience in historical narratives are rare and when they appear, they are often written by a second hand who has the power to edit their truth. It is also the case that despite Black people being the global majority, any aspect of history about them is consigned to a label of ‘Black history’, separating them from the main discourse and preventing them from influencing a long-established view of traditional beliefs. This can leave voids where context is omitted, and what is left is a truncated and incomplete picture. In 2015, African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire was created to rebalance this absence at a local level and bring the hidden stories of remarkable everyday lives to the fore as a reflection of an honest and inclusive view of British social history.

The project

The strength of African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire was that this type of study had not been done before. It gained support from the Heritage Lottery Fund with a remit of looking at the presence and contributions of people of African descent from the Wilberforce era of 1750 up until 2007.  It was bold and challenging to look at a region that has never been demographically diverse.

Stories were difficult to unearth. A disheartening parallel between the past and the present (that quickly became apparent) is that race is often only deemed important in criminality. Therefore, for the majority of ordinary people for whom that was not relevant, careful survey and meticulous research of local and national archives was needed to yield results. The emergence of themes such as maritime, religion, education, service members, judiciary, occupations, sports, activism and the arts demonstrated a broad Black presence in Hull and East Yorkshire. The outcome was helped by the project’s design, inspiring energy and contributions from a broad sweep of people from various backgrounds.

The project was further bolstered by a number of families who directly asked for their histories to be included as a celebration and acknowledgement of their presence in this region. This, together with the Contemporary Voices oral history series, represented over two hundred stories, providing an archive on the website that remains in the public domain.

Legacy

The African Stories project has been hugely successful. The unearthed material had the potential to expand further by the end of the funded period, and the level of interest has remained very high. To maintain the integrity of the project, requests to expand its scope were rejected as well as stories with insufficient proof of presence. That said, for people who wish to research the stories further, accurate references and signposts have been included in all entries so there is a factual base to work from.

The reception of the project outcomes has engaged and surprised many. It has fed into media broadcasts, online articles and six exhibitions, as well as inspiring similar research by other local historians and academics. This demonstrates an appetite for an inclusive history that would be more reflective of modern society and address an absence in national education.

The continued interest in the African Stories archive shows that the passion for local history does not stay local. Rather, it feeds into the social history of the nation itself. The stories provide an insight into historic and contemporary life experiences with aspects that will resonate. Indeed, if it is the case that the value of research is in its relevance and impact on society, then it can be said that African Stories has been successful by having started a much needed conversation about Black presence – particularly in light of the current discourse about Black lives and as we continue halfway into the UN International Decade for People of African Descent

For the African Stories website go to: https://www.africansinyorkshireproject.com/

For a virtual library focusing on Africa and the African diaspora go to: https://www.theafricanist.co.uk/

Exhibiting the African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire

The centenary of race riots in Hull

Dr Nicholas J. Evans

Lecturer in Diaspora History

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

n.j.evans@hull.ac.uk

Recent events across the UK and America remind us of the continual struggle for black and ethnic minorities to secure the equalities most of us take for granted. Despite Britain championing the historic and contemporary crusades against slavery, it has not prevented outbursts of violence scarring our nation. This month marks the centenary of widespread anti-black violence in Hull, what was then the third largest port in Britain and home to the world’s largest fishing fleet.

Whilst both the city and port of Hull showed sustained growth during the long nineteenth century, the outbreak of the First World War brought an end to both commercial and urban expansion. Following the outbreak of the war, Hull’s position as one of the world’s largest migrant entrepôts came to an abrupt end. During the war a shortage of maritime labour was supplemented by the casual employment of large numbers of non-white seafarers, especially on long haul routes to Asia and Africa. Despite valiantly staffing vulnerable steamers ploughing through bomb ridden waterways, and being paid less than their non-white counterparts, at the end of the conflict most non-white mariners were dismissed as military personnel returned from active service and demanded their jobs back.

For non-white seafarers, further misery followed as a wave of xenophobia swept British ports, including London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Cardiff, Salford, Hull, South Shields, Newport and Barry between 1919 and 1921. Despite being British subjects, competition for jobs fuelled blatant prejudice against the non-white seafarers. As Jacqueline Jenkinson has observed, this was not just related to the end of the war, but instead “evidence of a persistent anti-black sentiment in British society which, at times, in specific circumstances, spilled over into violence.” Though organisations in Hull tried to forcibly resettle mariners back to Africa or the Caribbean where they had originated, a colour bar on vessels bound for those destinations meant they could not work their passages back home.

Violence followed in June 1920 as those left stranded became the scapegoats for sustained outbursts of racial violence. Focusing upon Osborne Street, Pease Street and Lower Union Streets, close to the Paragon Railway Station, events reached a crisis when in one incident over 200 people were seen attacking a “negro child”. To try to bring some degree of order, the nearby pubs banned all non-white men, yet further attacks prevailed. Attempts were made to bribe sailors to leave Hull, but these too were largely ineffective. Meanwhile the wives and children of interracial unions were left traumatised.

Accounts published in local newspapers detail how xenophobia prompted Hull’s non-white population to decline to between 60 and 100 people by the close of 1920. In its aftermath the city developed a trend for growing intolerance to those seen as racial outsiders. Despite its proud record of accepting waves of migrants and refugees for centuries, the economic challenges of the interwar period made life for Hull’s ethnic minorities challenging. That racism emerged as the economic well-being of the port city diminished reinforced the close ties between austerity and racial intolerance.

Yet as we approach the centenary of these events, a real stain on Hull’s racial past, perhaps we need to pause and reflect upon how inclusive the city is to racial and ethnic minorities today. Despite the great work by organisations including Hull City Council, Hull Culture and Leisure Limited, Humber All Nations Alliance, the Freedom Festival, the University of Hull, and the creation of education resources like the Africans in Hull and East Yorkshire website, anti-black racism is again on the rise. Speaking to those who have chosen to make Hull their home in the past few decades, the pervasiveness of prejudice is once again alive. We all need to stand up during this centenary year for everyone. #BlackLivesMatter!

* This blog entry is based on Nicholas J. Evans, ‘The making of a mosaic: Migration and the port-city of Kingston upon Hull’, in D. J. Starkey, D. Atkinson, B. McDonagh, S. McKeon, & E. Salter (eds.), Hull: Culture, History, Place (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017), pp. 144 – 177

The headline of a report about the riots in the Hull Daily Mail, 21 June 1920.