During a time where self-education about Black history is as important as ever, it’s long overdue to revisit the legacy of plantation slavery in the Midlands, something that was all but hidden when we posed some questions in 2007 during the slave-trade abolition bicentenary. The short piece Nottingham and Slavery – A Hidden History (The Nottingham Sparrow | 16.03.2007), which is archived by Nottingham Indymedia, highlighted slave ownership and Caribbean plantation inheritance linked to the well-known family name Mellish in our region.
Since then, some academic and community effort has resulted in workshops that put a spotlight on slave owners in the region and a series of blogs and videos were published from the Slave Trade Legacies project which ran in Nottingham during 2014 and 2015. The Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies Group (NSTL) explored the extent to which heritage attractions acknowledged their links to the transatlantic slave trade or not. As recounted in a 2015 workshop, when members of the Slave Trade Legacies group visited Nottingham City Council run Newstead Abbey they saw no mention of previous 19th century Jamaican plantation-owner Thomas Wildman having spent £100,000 of the plantation’s profits restoring the house after buying it from Lord Byron. After enquiring about this omission they received a response from the site saying that because Wildman never visited Jamaica these links links with slavery and the slave trade were not important. The group subsequently co-created the video Blood Sugar based on a poem by Michelle Mother Hubbard in association with the Abbey, made by Shawn Sobers.
It seems a lot more could still be done to highlight the history of slavery in the East Midlands in the local media rather than banging on about whether people will get back to shopping in the city centre next week.