Celebrate Black History Month

October is Black History Month, an event that originated in the US but has been celebrated in the UK for more than 30 years. The month was originally founded to recognise the contributions that people of African, Caribbean and other black backgrounds have made to the UK over many generations, and to allow communities to challenge racism and educate themselves.

The events of 2020 have thrown a new light on the way we portray some aspects of UK history. Lancaster is taking this chance to look sensitively at its history and the lessons we can learn today.


Lancaster Museums’ Digital Encounters

Lancaster Maritime and City Museums are celebrating Black History Month with a series of ‘digital encounters’ throughout October via their Facebook pages.

The ‘encounters’ will include the ‘Memorial to Zong’ exhibition by artist Lubaina Himid, the first black woman to win the Turner Prize. The exhibition is a powerful re-interpretation of the history and brutality of the slave trade and remembers the Zong Massacre, the mass killing of 130 enslaved Africans by the crew of a British slave ship.


Further digital encounters will include historical information on key figures such as the actor Ira Aldridge, who performed in Lancaster in the 19th Century, and conversations with the likes of Kevin Dalton-Johnson, the creator of the ‘Captured Africans’ memorial sculpture on St George’s Quay.


The campaign is designed to not only inform, but also to encourage the public to participate. The museums are asking people to help build a collection for the future, through the sharing of items such as banners from Black Lives Matter protests, photos, stories from within families, diary entries and other items that can help connect to the city’s Black history. If you have anything to contribute, please do contact them via their Facebook pages. @LancasterMaritimeMuseum and @LancasterCityMuseum.


Lancaster’s Legacy

Local journalist Louise Bryning has written a piece for Lancashire Life about Lancaster’s history as one of the UK’s largest slave ports, importing mahogany, sugar, dyes, spices, coffee, rum and cotton from the West Indies and Americas, and exporting furniture, gunpowder, woollen and cloth goods. Lancastrians are looking at ways in which to sensitively acknowledge this “hidden history” and ensure that it is interpreted appropriately.


Read Louise’s article on Twitter:

or on the Lancashire Life website.


Memorials to the Past

The ordeals of the slaves are commemorated by two very different memorials.

Standing at the end of St George’s Quay and opened in 2005, Kevin Dalton Johnson’s Captured Africans is a memorial to enslaved Africans transported on ships originating out of Lancaster as part of the Transatlantic slave trade. Reminiscent of a ship, its layers represent the people and the commodities that were transported across the trade routes between Europe, Africa and the Americas.


Sambo’s grave, at Sunderland Point, is a poignant memorial to a young, black slave who is thought to have arrived in 1736 at the port with his master. He was born in Africa and taken first to the West Indies as a slave before being brought to Lancaster by his master. He was taken ill and died near a local inn at Sunderland Point and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1795 a schoolteacher – Rev Watson – raised money to erect a memorial to Sambo – the site today is marked by coloured pebbles placed by locals and visitors.


Resources for Schools

Please email lancastermaritimemuseum@lancaster.gov.uk if your school would like copies of the new Lancaster Slave Trade, Abolition and Fair Trade Trail.

Moving Forward

For Black History Month, Lancaster Black History Group is collaborating with Preston Black History Group on Black To The Future, online films celebrating local black people’s achievements. The intention is to create a permanent exhibition of black history in Lancaster, learning from the past and moving forward in celebration of the people who have shaped this city for the better.

To find out more about Black History Month, visit blackhistorymonth.org.uk.