The Power of Protest – tracing black abolitionist history in Kirklees

Text reads: The power of protest. 20th May 2021

The movement to end the transatlantic slave trade is well documented however, what local residents may not know is that during the nineteenth century black abolitionists also campaigned in what is now known as Kirklees.

A partnership approach

A collaboration between the West Yorkshire Archive Service; Kirklees Libraries and Kirklees Council’s BAME Network and Community Cohesion Team has produced a virtual tour with the University of Edinburgh that shines a light on five abolitionists who campaigned across Kirklees to end the cruel trade.

Who’s in the spotlight?

Streaming live on 20 May at 1pm the tour, titled the ‘Power of Protest: black abolitionists in nineteenth century Kirklees’, will reveal the activism of inspiring black self-liberators including Frederick Douglass, James Watkins and Sarah Parker Remond, and how they addressed Kirklees audiences.

Richard Parry, Strategic Director for Adults and Health at Kirklees Council said:

“Kirklees Libraries have often been at the forefront of activities that make a real difference in communities. Through this collaboration, they are giving residents an opportunity to learn how local the struggle to end the slave trade became when abolitionists arrived in our area in the nineteenth century.  By understanding the challenges of our communities in the past, we can help to build stronger and more cohesive communities in the future.”

Dr Hannah-Rose Murray, Early Career Leverhulme Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“I am delighted to work with Kirklees Libraries and partners to create this virtual tour that highlights the radical role these warriors of social justice played in the black freedom struggle on both sides of the Atlantic. Hopefully Kirklees residents will gain a greater understanding of their local community and be able to place these important lecturing tours in parallel with other reform movements in Kirklees and across Britain as a whole, from the nineteenth century to today.”

Curated collection from Kirklees Libraries

Alongside the tour, a special e-book collection of non-fiction, fiction and poetry, including Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Fredrick Douglass, The Poetry of Phyllis Wheatley by Phyllis Wheatley, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, will be available from Kirklees Libraries.

A series of promo clips will be released on social media in the run up to the virtual tour on 20 May as part of this year’s Local and Community History Month.

Where can you see the tour?

You can watch the tour live on Kirklees Libraries’ Facebook page or on their YouTube channel where you can also find previous local history videos related to Kirklees.