Liverpool Museum: slavery then and now!

The International Slavery Museum

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.

White Gold was a special exhibit that lived within the International Slavery Museum. Powerful photos show us the reality of slavery today

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.

At the entrance to the museum there are many quotes about slavery.

Traveling to Liverpool and visiting the museum actually took me to three continents and four centuries. That’s the wonder of travel.


  • Anonymous

    An interesting blog .. I lived and worked in Bahrain for 2 years, and slavery is alive and well there also. Workers are shipped in from the sub-continent, often as construction workers, stripped of their passports and forced to work 7 days a week in searing heat for a pittance .. never able to return home. It is time the world woke up to the cruelty that exists in the Middle East.

  • Vasko Ristov

    Very sad storie.Didn’t know this.Thank you.

  • Karen Hofatt

    I actually saw an exhibit at the museum in Key west last year at the Maritime museum. Intriguing, so sad it exists today in its many forms.

  • Matthew Russell Oates

    Although I live in the UK relatively close to Liverpool I have never had the opportunity to see the International Slavery Museum. It’s certainly a very worthwhile place which I hope many people including myself will have the chance to visit. Thanks for the article Janice.

  • Fria@golf packages in arizona

    Sometimes, you need to see the actual suffering of others for you to get awakened. That’s how Siddharta Gautama changed from a much better person.

  • Jim @NeverStopTraveling

    How right you are with this post. The real value of travel is how it educates us about the world about us and about history, sometimes as we didn’t know it.