Locks to Legacies Stop One
This audio tour is about a journey from locks to legacies. The stories which we share with you on this walk will involve the most immoral behaviour in all human history. It will involve stories which have never been told before and histories which have hidden from the people of Leeds. These involve tragedy, pain and loss however we have chosen to highlight in each story, narratives of empowerment, heroes, strength and the lasting legacy which belongs to Leeds, our black community and the history of this canal and city.
Our first hero is Olaudah Equiano. Equiano was kidnapped mercilessly at the age of 11 years old with his sister, from what is now modern day Nigeria. He came to lead an extraordinary life and became a prominent figure associated with the campaign to abolish the slave trade, which did not happen without Equiano’s personal struggle and his strength. Although shunned at the time, he remarkably managed to buy himself out of slavery and start a life as a free man. His life would take him on many adventures, including voyages in the Arctic and bravely fighting for Britain in the 7 years war. After writing his autobiography he found himself in Leeds sharing his work. One of the first editions of his book is in the private collection of The Leeds Library. Whilst in England he worked for the resettlement of black people in Sierra Leone and married an English woman and became a leading and respected figure founding The Sons of Africa.
The Sons of Africa:
The first British political black organisation, led by Ottobah Cugoano and Oluadah Equiano. Made up of highly educated freed African slaves, living in London, they had ties with religious groups such as the Quakers and Anglicans who supported them to abolish the slave trade in 1787. They also campaigned against the colonisation of Sierra Leone. The legacy which The Sons of Africa created inspired other abolitionists like Ellen and William Craft.
William and Ellen Craft:
Ellen Craft was a black female abolitionist who planned a remarkable escape from slavery for herself and her husband, William Craft, in 1848. By Ellen disguising her race and gender the enslaved couple managed to escape the plantations. Ellen Craft manipulated her appearance to look like a white male slave owner who was travelling with their black slave, this was played by Ellen’s husband William. Because Ellen had a fair skin tone and her White father’s facial features their escape was made possible with their disguises.
After escaping the plantations and making themselves a home, they made their home into a hub of activism which allowed for black voices to be heard. A famous activist who contributed to abolishing slavery who attended Ellen Craft’s club was Sarah Parker Reymond. She was a free woman who became an international activist for human rights and women’s suffrage during the early 19th century. Reymond was able to speak to both upper class wealthy women who had a lot of influence in society, as well as young male factory workers who were part of the Anti Slavery society. She was able to get all people on board with the abolition of slavery. She was remarkable because she made speeches in Victorian Britain, a time when this was very unusual for a black woman.
If you want to hear us discuss more about the abolition of slavery and why learning about it is important for all people including young adults to learn about female and male abolitionists, please follow the link on your mobile phone and listen to our podcast episode one.