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Debating the legacy of slavery in Bristol

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Press release issued: 25 June 2014

An important debate will be hosted at the University of Bristol tomorrow [26 June] to consider the legacies of the Atlantic slave trade.

A panel of academics and community representatives will meet to discuss ways in which the city should commemorate and remember how over half a million Africans were shipped in Bristol ships to the New World to work on sugar and tobacco plantations during the eighteenth century.

Experts in the history and archaeology of West Africa have been invited to provide an African perspective on the slave trade and how its heritage is seen in countries such as Ghana and Benin.

One of the invited speakers is Dr Kodzo Gavua, Professor of Heritage and Archaeology at the University of Ghana, who has been closely involved in the display of the slave forts and plantations of the West African coast.

Dr Cameron Monroe from the University of California will be explaining how the kingdom of Dahomey – one of the main suppliers of slaves to the Bristol merchants – was able to obtain its slaves for trade.

They will be joined by Dr Madge Dresser, Bristol's leading historian of the eighteenth century and Ros Martin, the well-known poet, playwright and community activist.  The panel will be chaired by Arthur Torrington, director of the Equiano Trust.

The debate has been prompted by concern that in the modern city of Bristol – where so many of the historic buildings were built from 'slave' money – there is so little commemoration or awareness of the city's notorious past.

Professor Mark Horton of the University of Bristol, who has helped organise the event, said: "As I travel around all the places involved in the slave trade, there are museums and World Heritage sites, but here in Bristol – arguably the very centre of the network – there is nothing.  It’s high time the city faced up to its responsibilities and helped educate the next generation, especially when slavery still exists in the modern world."

The debate will allow the audience to participate in the discussion and to ask questions of the panel.

Slavery: Legacies and Remembrance, aInstitute for Advanced Studies public panel discussion in association with the Bristol Festival of Ideas, takes place on Thursday 26 June at 6.30pm in the Great Hall, Wills Memorial Building, University of Bristol.

The event is free, but online registration is required.


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