Penny Lane and the legacies of slavery

7 October 2014 by Sam

Penny Lane street sign in Liverpool

Kayleigh, a third year history student at Liverpool University who has a keen interest in slavery studies and African history, has written this guest blog post for Black History Month.

There is currently a series of free seminars at the Centre for the Study of International Slavery at the University of Liverpool, including several for Black History Month. You can also get involved in a number of free Black History Month talks and events at the International Slavery Museum and Museum of Liverpool throughout October.

“Though the mentioning of Penny Lane usually brings up thoughts of The Beatles, the famous street in suburban Liverpool has a lesser known history. It is believed to have been named after James Penny, an eighteenth century slave ship owner, merchant, and prominent anti-abolitionist. This is only a small legacy of inexplicable involvement Liverpool had with the transatlantic slave trade, let alone the rest of the United Kingdom.

As part of Black History Month, Sandew Hira (International Institute for Scientific Research) and Professor Stephen Small (University of Amsterdam and University of California, Berkeley) will be visiting the Centre for the Study of International Slavery to discuss the legacies of slavery and its undeniable role in creating the United Kingdom as it exists today.

Many of these legacies still cause controversy today – recently debates occurred about changing the names of streets believed to have been so-called after pro-slavery advocates within Liverpool, with these names being reminders of the shameful past. The names were kept however, with both concerns about concealing history and the loss of a cultural icon such as Penny Lane meaning the streets are not likely to be changed in the immediate future. Similar debates are likely to continue because of the sheer impact slavery has had on the culture and landscape of the United Kingdom.

Those who would like to hear more about the legacies of slavery within Liverpool and the UK may be interested in attending the aforementioned talk at 5pm on 14 October at the Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre, and may also want to visit the Centre for the Study of International Slavery’s website for further information and future events.”

  1. Agnes Meeker says:

    here in Antigua we have the same problem and as part of the Museum of Antihua & Barbuda I strongly believe that original names should NOT be changed. Recognize our new heroes by naming new structures.
    The past is just that, the past, but it is who we are and where we have come from and these names help to remind us of the past regardless of painful memories. These memories help to insure that slavery never occurs again – one cannot change history.

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