Not every day of travel is fun.
Sometimes we go to places with sad, disturbing stories to tell.
Such is the case with Liverpool. This city that was home to the Beatles was also a hub of the international slave trade from the 1600s to the 1800s. Rather than leave this dark history in the past, the city has placed it front and center in a museum of its own at The Albert Dock. There people learn about the economic, social and personal implications of the Transatlantic slave trade as well as the horrible legacy of the practice. But more, they learn about slavery today.
Special Exhibit Shines Light on Slavery Today
Slavery, while outlawed in most places, still exists in many forms all over the world. In some cases people are absolutely enslaved and in other cases paid workers are exploited to the point that they may as well be slaves. The special exhibit when I was there explored the current link between slavery and cotton focusing on child labor in Uzbekistan. The exhibit encourages people to make informed choices by going to retailers that reveal the origin of the cotton in the clothes they sell.
Estimated that 5000 People are Working as Slaves in London Today
In 2010 I saw a shocking film at the Toronto International Film Festival called “I Am Slave”. Based on a true story of a slave imported from Sudan, the film is described on IMDb as “A thriller set in London’s slave trade and centered on a woman’s fight for freedom”. Written by Jeremy Brock of “Last King Of Scotland” fame, this film is as riveting as it is disturbing as it is eye-opening. Below is an interview with the director, actress and the woman whose life the story is based.
The Atlantic Slave Trade
To get back to the museum, the Atlantic Slave Trade triangle involved manufactured goods going from Europe to Africa where they were bartered for slaves. The slaves were then taken to the Caribbean and North America and sold. That revenue was used to buy raw goods like cotton and sugar which was taken back to Europe for sale. The ships were kept full on each leg of the voyage. The museum explains the critical role that Liverpool played in the triangle as a port. Thankfully, it also points to those who voiced their objections to the slave trade.
Traveling to Liverpool and visiting the museum actually took me to three continents and four centuries. That’s the wonder of travel.