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School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Bittersweet: Legacies of Slavery and Abolition in Manchester

The Portico Library played host to the 2017 Bittersweet: Legacies of Slavery and Abolition in Manchester exhibition, curated by University of Manchester Senior Lecturer in English and American Studies Natalie Zacek to educate audiences on abolitionism.

Image from Bittersweet exhibition.

In the exhibition was Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid MBE's work, alongside notable artists such as Keith Piper, Amy Lawrence and Mary Evans.

There were also public talks by Dr Zacek and by University of Central Lancashire's Professor Alan Rice on art's public engagement, as well as commentary on the 2007 bicentenary for the Transatlantic Slave Trade abolition.

In addition, there were examples of Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping of Manchester, showing the distribution of pro- and anti-slavery sentiment historically.

The exhibition also included historic books from the Portico Library's collections.

The event tied in with the University's social responsibility goals through the following aims:

  • to encourage an understanding of the history of the Greater Manchester area which recognises the importance of slavery to the area's socio-economic development;
  • to encourage a commitment of Mancunians of diverse backgrounds to both the abolitionist and pro-slavery movements;
  • to engage a broader public, particularly BAME individuals, with histories and cultural institutions that have previously centred on the experience of white Britons.

This exhibition was a significant event for the Portico Library, as it represented the first commemoration of Black History Month there since its opening in Manchester in 1806.

The project was supported by a Social Responsibility and Cultural Engagement Funding Award from the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures.

Find out more about the Portico Library.