Telling the story

16 November 2015 by Alison

Indian girl with samll baby

Photo © Catherine Rubin Kermorgant. Lakshmi, 14 was dedicated by her aunt, against the will of her mother.

At 1pm on Saturday 21 November, we welcome Catherine Rubin Kermorgant (author of ‘Servants of the Goddess’), to a special event at the International Slavery Museum: ‘Telling the Story’

Catherine is one of three authors taking part in the event, all of whom have been inspired to write books about modern slavery in India.

Here we talk to Catherine about what first inspired her to put pen to paper, and about the impact that working with the devadasis of India has had on her own life. Read more…

Claim no easy victories: Cape Verde and Cabral

12 November 2015 by Richard

Poetry performance at Cidade Velha

Poetry performance at Cidade Velha


I have just returned from Cape Verde where I attended a committee meeting and colloquium in my role as the UK representative of the UNESCO Slave Route project.

The committee is made up of a global mix of experts from disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology and history along with those of us who represent museums and research institutions.   Interests are wide-ranging and all contribute to a greater understanding of the transatlantic slave trade and indeed other routes of enslavement such as the Indian Ocean.

Several committee members gave presentations on this region at the colloquium, which was held at the Universidade de Cabo Verde on the theme of ‘Scientific Research on Slavery and Challenges of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024)’.  Dr. Vijay Teelock (University of Mauritius) spoke on People of African descent in post–emancipation Mauritius and Dr. Abdulazziz Lodhi (Uppsala University) on the spread of the African diaspora in the coastal areas through the Swahili Culture.

Cape Verde has a fascinating and often troubled history. The Portuguese claimed the islands in the 15th century thus starting several centuries of involvement in the transatlantic slave-trade, the enslavement of Africans and colonial expansion.  This was no passive relationship though and subsequently a notable liberation struggle was born.

Standing outside the National Library is a very large public memorial to one Amilcar Cabral, revolutionary, pan-Africanist thinker and a founder of PAIGC Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde).  In 1926 Portugal had become a right-wing dictatorship, one that that was ruled by António de Oliveira Salazah from 1932-1968 who was determined to hold on to their African colonies (and established the infamous prison camp at Tarrafal on Cape Verde).  As a result Cabral and many of his fellow Guinea-Bissauans and Cape Verdeans fought a long war of liberation, which long after much of the independence movements of the 1960s, eventually led to Cape Verde gaining independence from Portugal in 1975 and Guinea-Bissau in 1974.  Cabral’s famous words ‘Claim no easy victories’ sadly ringing true as he was assassinated shortly before independence. Even so his brother Luis Cabral became the first President of Guinea-Bissau.

A lasting impression were the performances one evening in the town square of Cidade Velha – one of the oldest settlements –  not far from where we were staying and some 10 km west of the capital Praia. There was capoeira, various Cape Verdean music and poetry. One might have expected a lull in the tempo but it was the opposite as several young Cape Verdean poets gave rousing performances, their passion palpable, and indeed heartening.

Até logo!


Forgotten? : Black Soldiers in the Battle of Waterloo

21 October 2015 by Sarah

The Recruitment Officer c1815, showing a Black trumpeter rallying locals. It is exceptionally rare to find an image depicting a Black soldier at the Battle of Waterloo. Image reproduced by permission of Leslie Braine-Ikomi

The Recruitment Officer c1815, showing a Black trumpeter rallying locals. It is exceptionally rare to find an image depicting a Black soldier at the Battle of Waterloo. Image reproduced by permission of Leslie Braine-Ikomi

As we are now remembering and commemorating the Centenary of the First World War, Black British colonial troops are only now receiving attention by historians. 2015 is also the bicentenary of another great conflict, the Battle of Waterloo, and on 24th October at 1pm Dr Ray Costello will focus on another group of soldiers of African descent, Black soldiers who fought at the Battle of Waterloo a century earlier than the Great War. Here, Ray writes a blog for us ahead of his talk at the International Slavery Museum:

“If Black British colonial troops have been long neglected by historians, the existence of any narrative around Black British soldiers enlisting in the United Kingdom in the Napoleonic Wars is even less known. Black soldiers based in the United Kingdom would seem to have been a component of the British army for a very long time and there is some evidence to suggest that the British Army actively sought black soldiers during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

“Individual Black soldiers are known to have taken part in many of the Napoleonic war campaigns, including the Battle of Toulouse, the Peninsular War, Quatre Bra, and the final battle to defeat the French Emperor Napoleon at Waterloo in June 1815.

“Who were these Black soldiers and where were they from? Whilst the majority of Black soldiers found can be identified as coming from the West Indies, reflecting the slave trade, others came in roughly equal measure from Africa, continental North America, (i.e. the United States and Canada), the East Indies and Britain and Ireland. The 88th Foot had a number of Black soldiers serving with it in the Peninsular Campaign, and even after the Napoleonic Wars continued to recruit Black soldiers. One or two were even British-born, as Black people were being born in such ports at Liverpool at that time.

“Both before and after the Battle of Waterloo, amongst other regiments, black individuals were to be found in the 13th light dragoons, the 10th Hussars and the 88th Foot. After the Napoleonic Wars, we also look at what happened to those who had taken part. Did some receive medals? Who looked after them in their declining years and did they receive pensions?

“Although the numbers of Black soldiers may have been relatively small compared with the thousands who fought and died in this epic battle, the aim is to give these soldiers of African descent a deserved face and draw attention to the interest and importance of a previously under-researched history. I am inviting you to come along to the International Slavery Museum to listen to these forgotten accounts, and to perhaps rethink your perceptions of this phase of military history.”

Hear more from Dr Ray Costello this weekend, at his Black Soldiers at Waterloo talk at the International Slavery Museum – Saturday 24 October at 1pm. Part of our Black History Month 2015 event series. 

A visit to Tate – Glen Ligon : Encounters and Collisions

15 October 2015 by Richard

Glenn Ligon - Untitled 2006

Glenn Ligon Untitled 2006
© Glenn Ligon; courtesy Thomas Dane Gallery, London

In this guest blog, produced for Tate Liverpool, I talk of my recent visit to the gallery’s major exhibition curated by one of America’s most distinguished contemporary artists, Glenn Ligon (b.1960, New York) – Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions.

My first guest blog for Tate Liverpool also happens to be during UK Black History Month (rather than US Black History Month which is in February).  Dr. Carter G. Woodson, often referred to as the father of African American history, established what was originally called ‘Negro History Week’ in 1926.   The week became a month, February chosen as it contains the birthdays of influential figures such as Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. It was against this backdrop that I visited Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions at Tate Liverpool. Read more…

Thrown out of his village: now bringing hope to thousands

15 October 2015 by Alison


Kumar Swamy is South India Director for the Dalit Freedom Network and is responsible for oversight of a range of on the ground education, healthcare and economic programmes run for the benefit of Dalit communities in India. These trafficking prevention projects are helping to bring about real change – not only freeing Dalits from modern forms of slavery, but freeing them from the factors that make them so vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in the first place. Here Kumar tells us of the challenges he faced growing up as a young Dalit boy in India, and of the work going on to bring about meaningful and long-lasting change in the country he loves. Read more…

Did you know Black boxers were banned from becoming British Champions until the 1940’s?

7 October 2015 by Sarah

Kid Tanner photoLiverpool journalist and author, Gary Shaw, writes for us ahead of his free talk at the International Slavery Museum on 10 October for Black History Month, on the rise and role of the colour bar in British boxing:

“Not a well-known aspect of sports history by academic, let alone popular historians, the rise and role of the colour bar in British boxing is a sorry tale of establishment resentment, colonial self-glorification and bureaucratic stubbornness that prevented a host of domestic fighters from competing for their own national titles as a professional due simply and sadly to the colour of their skin.

“Introduced almost in a fit of transatlantic pique by the semi-aristocratic owners and members of the National Sporting Club that ran British boxing at the time, the ban, informal at first but effective nevertheless, ran from 1911 until 1947, when pressure from papers, public and even Parliament forced the British Boxing Board of Control to repeal a clause they had embraced unquestionably on their formation as the governing body of the sport in 1929.

“For almost four decades, Britain was aligned with South Africa as the only countries in the world that prohibited black fighters from becoming national champions in their own country. The ban continued throughout the First and Second World Wars – the self-evident and tragic contradiction of the latter being one of the main reasons why calls for it to be repealed became so vociferous from 1944 onwards.

“My presentation touches on all these aspects, showing how wider social, economic and political arguments were used to highlight both the reasoning behind the ban’s introduction, and the rationale for its eventual abolition. In so doing, I will showcase a number of key individuals who, up until now, have rarely been referred to by historians of Black culture in Britain as well as the wider, and ever expanding, sports historian network”.

Find out more about Black History Month and our programme of free events throughout October.

Welcome to Black History Month

1 October 2015 by Alison

legacy-gallery-visitor_3As we move into the month of October, Black History month in the UK, Mitty from the Education team tells us all about the events and fun, family friendly activities that are taking place at the museum. Read more…

Fashion victim?

17 September 2015 by Alison

Indian girls hands

Image courtesy of STOP THE TRAFFIK

Are the garments you’re wearing today free from human trafficking, or is a heartbreaking story woven through their fabric?

Carolyn Kitto, Co-Director STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia Coalition, highlights the challenges facing fashion consumers, retailers and manufacturers:

“About 16 young women had been waiting for us to arrive in a small and stiflingly hot room. They were in their late teens and early 20s. They were all eager to tell their stories of being in the Sumangali Scheme. This Scheme is a form of bonded labour and human trafficking which targets the poorest families of India. Read more…

Celebrating Heritage: events in September

4 September 2015 by Mitty

Adam Duckworth scaled

Adam Duckworth, Education Demonstrator, giving the first of September’s Wednesday 3pm ‘Collections in Focus’ talks which highlight Liverpool’s connections to transatlantic slavery

As the holidays have now finished and we settle back into delivering our school sessions we are celebrating our Heritage status and we have some events and activities throughout the month. We have a fantastic group of speakers for our event on the 19 September, Heritage in Focus. Read more…

A Black History of Britain?

21 August 2015 by Sarah

David Olusoga

David Olusoga

British-Nigerian historian, broadcaster and film-maker, David Olusoga is delivering the keynote lecture this evening at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, as part of a weekend of free events to commemorate Slavery Remembrance Day on Sunday 23 August.  Read more…

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