Here you’ll find a list of some of the public engagement work I’m working on right now. This is not an exhaustive list, as it doesn’t include the talks and seminars I’ve held, the podcasts I’ve recorded or the performances I’ve written and orchestrated: do get in touch with me if you’re interested in learning more.
As my research into Black abolitionism grows, I have collected sites of importance where women and men spoke about slavery, racial injustice, lynching, temperance and suffrage. These locations have led to the digital maps on this website, but they have also provided information for walking tours that I have created and organise on a semi-regular basis. Unfortunately, I don’t live in London anymore, but I try and do a tour once every 1-2 months. Check my twitter account for updates and recent dates: @Hannah_RoseM.
I won’t paste the entire content of the tours on here, but just enough to give you a flavour of what I’ll be covering! Two of the first points I make, straight up, are that 1) the tours are infused with the history and testimony of formerly enslaved individuals, and 2) this is NOT an architectural tour – I stop at sites where activists spoke, but am interested in the stories of these individuals, not the places where they spoke.
Black Abolitionist Walking Tour: Central London
Freemason’s Hall: At this first stop, I cover an introduction to my research and to the tour. Among others, Frederick Douglass, Josiah Henson, Henry Highland Garnet, Samuel Ringgold Ward, William Wells Brown, Alexander Crummell and William Wells Brown all spoke here. Chiefly, I tell the story of Josiah Henson!
Royal Opera House: Once the site of the Covent Garden Theatre, I discuss Frederick Douglass and his speech at the World’s Temperance Convention, held here in August 1846. I use this story as a base to discuss some of the difficulties Black abolitionists faced in their journeys to Britain, namely racism from abolitionist quarters.
Strand Palace Hotel: The hotel stands on the site of the famous social reformist venue, Exeter Hall. Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Samuel Ringgold Ward, John Anderson and William and Ellen Craft all spoke here, and I tell the story of Ellen’s incredible bravery.
Somerset House: In July 1860, Black nationalist Martin Delany publicly humiliated the American minister to Britain, George Dallas at the International Statistics Conference. Boring, this conference was not. I tell Delany’s story and his challenges against rising scientific racism, and since he was the only Black officer who rose to the rank of Major during the American Civil War, I use this site as a springboard to discuss what African Americans were doing in the British Isles during the American Civil War (including John Sella Martin and Frederick Douglass)
Arundel Street: The site of the Crown and Anchor Pub. The Antislavery League was formed here in August 1846 with Frederick Douglass playing a leading role, so I delve deeper into Douglass’ fame in the British Isles, and in particular why his oratory was so spellbinding.
Holborn Town Hall: The last stop on the tour is a short 8-10 minute walk from Arundel Street, and is the site where Ida B. Wells lectured to the Women’s Temperance Meeting. I discuss Wells’ inspiring and courageous activism in the UK and her two tours of the British Isles in 1893 and 1894, as well as focusing on the white abolitionist sabotage she experienced with Frances Willard and Isabelle Fyvie Mayo. I end the tour by reminding everyone that we walk past sites rich in Black activism on a daily basis – whether it’s London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Edinburgh or tiny villages on the Northumberland coast. These sites are monuments to their unrelenting activism, their roles as radical freedom fighters, and their hope that one day we will live in a more equal and just world.
Black Abolitionist Literary Tour: Central London
337 Strand: In 1860, William and Ellen Craft published their slave narrative, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom. Although they had living in Britain since 1850, they penned the narrative to raise money for their financial independence and for the transatlantic antislavery cause.
21-22 Furnival Street: This was the location of the publishers Alexander and Shepheard, who distributed Thomas Johnson’s slave narrative, Africa for Christ: Twenty-Eight Years a Slave. Johnson studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and was a missionary who spent several years in Africa. He published several versions of his slave narrative and died in Bournemouth in 1921.
89 Farringdon Street: This was the headquarters of The Christian Age, a weekly religious journal edited by the social reformer John Lobb. In 1876-1877, Lobb became the benefactor of formerly enslaved individual Josiah Henson, who had travelled to the British Isles to pay off his mortgage. Lobb capitalized on Henson’s association with the character of Tom from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s infamous antislavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and marketed Henson as the Uncle Tom. At this office, Lobb revised Henson’s slave narrative, Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life and also published a children’s version, Young People’s Edition of Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life. Both works were a phenomenal success.
Stationers Hall: Here, Mary Prince’s The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave was published and distributed in 1831. It was the first slave narrative orchestrated by a woman, and as was written in the preface, the idea “was first suggested by herself. She wished it to be done, she said, that good people in England might hear from a slave what a slave had felt and suffered.”
Paternoster Row: Between the 1780s and the 1860s, several slave narratives were published here. Letters of the Late Ignatious Sancho, An African (1782) was sold and distributed by R. Baldwin in Paternoster Row, and J. Sewell in Cornhill. In 1843, the Quaker publishers Harvey and Darton published Moses Roper’s A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper from American Slavery. Harvey and Darton were based at 55 Gracechurch Street, but the book was also distributed in several places in Paternoster Row. Similarly, Solomon Bayley’s A Narrative of Some Remarkable Incidents in the Life of Solomon Bayley, Formerly a Slave in the State of Delaware was also published by Harvey and Darton, and distributed in Paternoster Row. In 1855, the Reverend Samuel Ward wrote Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro which was published by John Snow of Paternoster Row. In 1861, an edition of The Leisure Hour was published with John S. Jacob’s narrative within it, entitled A True Tale of Slavery.
5 Bishopsgate: During his five year stay in the British Isles, William Wells Brown wrote books, lectured on antislavery and exhibited his infamous panorama to thousands of people, travelling (by his count) 25,000 miles. In 1849, Brown published his slave narrative in Britain: it was published by Charles Gilpin, whose office was situated at 5 Bishopsgate Street. Gilpin published numerous antislavery tracts and three years later in 1852, published Brown’s unique travel book Three Years in Europe; or Places I Have Seen and People I Have Met. This was also the location of publisher A.W. Bennett, who in 1863 distributed a slave narrative by Dinah, whose amanuensis – John Hawkins Simpson – entitled the work Horrors of the Virginian Slave Trade and of the Slave-Rearing Plantations. The True Story of Dinah, an Escaped Virginian Slave, Now in London.
Since 2013, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in the development of three heritage plaques to African American abolitionists.
In 2013, I was approached by the incredible and indefatigable Jak Beula, of Nubian Jak Heritage Plaques, to help with the erection of a plaque to Frederick Douglass in South Kensington, London. Jak had organised pretty much everything up to that point, but I designed and wrote a free e-book about Douglass’ time in the British Isles and spoke for five minutes on the day of the ceremony. Jak had organised workshops for local school children, who designed some amazing artwork which was then displayed after the ceremony.
The plaque’s address is 5 Whitehead’s Grove, London, SW3 3HA – about a 5-10 minute walk from South Kensington Tube Station, and on the site of abolitionist George Thompson’s house.
Ida B. Wells
In 2019, I worked with Jak once again to erect a plaque to the inspirational Ida B. Wells. We had a few problems in the development of this project, particularly with funding and the University of Nottingham being incredibly slow to process payments, but also the essential question of where to put this plaque in the first place. Wells stayed with the Clayden family in Tavistock Square in London, but this location was rejected by the planning permission; I created a list of other possible places, which included where Wells stayed in Birmingham (66 Gough Road) and in Aberdeen. I was reluctant to use the address in Aberdeen, the site where Wells lived briefly with social reformer and author Isabelle Fyvie Mayo, who for a time, was instrumental in raising support for Wells’ mission but also used her white privilege to damage the success of her second visit to Britain in 1894.
We managed to have successful conversations with the address in Birmingham, and in February, we erected the plaque on the site of a community church, surrounded by local citizens and activists. One of Wells’ descendants Skyped in for the ceremony, school children from the institution next door performed poetry, music and displayed their artwork, and there were workshops and talks in the evening. It was a really incredible day, and I’m so lucky and grateful to be part of it.
William and Ellen Craft
Over the last few years, English Heritage have issued a call to the public for more plaque nominations of people of colour. I nominated William and Ellen Craft, whose residence in Hammersmith, London still stands today. There is already a small plaque to them in the vicinity, but EH have managed to negotiate with the building’s owners to erect a plaque on the actual building itself. I’m still working on this at the moment, providing consultation along help from other historians in the field!
Since I began studying Black abolitionism in the British Isles back in 2012, I’ve designed numerous teaching resources for both primary and secondary schools. Over the years, I’ve taught in several schools in Nottingham and in Southampton.
Check back soon for these revised and updated teaching resources, which I will publish here over the course of 2020.
In 2022, as part of my Early Career Leverhulme Fellowship, I am planning an exhibition focusing on Black Abolitionist tours within the British Isles. Check back here for updates and progress!
Check back to this page as I follow in Moses Roper’s footsteps around Scotland. He was one of the few formerly enslaved individuals to travel around the Highlands, particularly in the late 1830s and mid 1840s, and I’ll post pictures and info about the places he visited, and whether they still exist today.