'The Long Road to Freedom' is an exhibition about the relationship that Leicester and Leicestershire had to the slave trade, using documents from the record office.
BBC Radio Leicester's Rupal Rajani spoke to Margaret Bonney who works at the Record Office to find out more about the exhibition…
'The Long Road to Freedom' is a major exhibition and has several parts:
- Agriculture, the plantation economy of the Caribbean Islands and the north coast of South America, and the relation of the slave trade to some of the big Leicestershire families of the late 18th century and the early 19th century.
- Former slaves who have come to Leicestershire and settled down, including a very interesting story of one slave who went from rags to riches.
- Thomas Babington and his relationship to William Wilberforce and the passing of the Act to Abolish the Slave Trade in British possessions.
- Famous women of Leicestershire involved in the campaign to abolish the slave trade and slavery itself.
- Modern slavery, for example the trafficking of young women.
Margaret says that the exhibition reflects slavery and the slave trade as seen through the record office for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, with lists of enslaved people owned by Leicestershire families featuring in the exhibition:
"The slaves are just treated as commodities. There's a couple of documents here which say a slave is worth so much in terms of output, sugar output, and there are detailed lists of the conditions of these slaves – their ages, the jobs they did on the plantations – you can trace some of these slaves through several years because of these detailed lists."
Although Margaret thinks some aspects of the exhibition may seem "horrifying", other features like the participation of Leicestershire women in the campaign to abolish the slave trade are very inspiring.
Elizabeth Heyrick and Susannah Watts promoted the antislavery campaign in the county, and Watts's scrapbook is on display, which includes information about the propaganda of the campaign and her personal views.
Artefacts like sugar sifters are also included, which show the things that rich families did with their sugar in the 18th and 19th centuries.
'The Long Road to Freedom' will be at the Wigston Magna Records Office from 05 March to 27 April 2007, it will then move to Highfields Library in early May, to the Central Lending Library later in May, to Abbey Pumping Station in June and will then tour the rest of the county for the rest of the year.