Tag Black History Month

Historic Liverpool 2010: A year in review

Photograph of Liverpool waterfront, including new museum under construction

Liverpool Waterfront, by Ade Bond via Flickr

It’s the end of 2010. It’s been an… interesting year politically – a coalition government for the first time in my lifetime; frequent use of the word ‘swingeing’ in many and varied ways; the Conservation Centre is shutting its doors to the public; and snow is keeping you indoors reading this.

But what else has happened this year? Anything to warm our annual nostalgia cockles?

2010 started on an optimistic note – it was the World Museum’s 250th anniversary, though this was somewhat overshadowed with the closure of the Conservation Centre.

February saw start of the excellent Streets of Liverpool blog. Later in February the keys were handed over for the new Museum of Liverpool, although controversy rose its ugly head later in the year when a historic view was shown to have been blocked.

March and April went by in a blur (oh yes, probably because I got married) and when things recovered the election was fast approaching. At the same time Lewis’s was heading for closure as everyone felt the pinch of recession.

In July the first object – a carriage from the Overhead Railway – moved into the museum, but at the same time the North West Development Agency closed its doors. Another funding source for culture had disappeared.

The Peel Waters project cropped up again and again in 2010. English Heritage expressed concerns about the effect of the new buildings on the World Heritage Site, while in later months Council Leader Joe Anderson reacted angrily to what he saw as EH’s interference with Liverpool’s development and future prospects.  Meanwhile we were spoiled for heritage and arts projects, including: Edge Hill station being turned into an arts venue, Heritage Open Days bringing people into Liverpool’s historic water supply, the funding of conservation for 95,000 aerial photographs of England as well as Visible in Stone – women’­s history and the built environment and in October Black History Month. Finally, Historic Liverpool underwent a bit of a redesign, although it’s far from a finished project. Here’s to another year of additions to that!

Phew! Liverpool and its heritage have had their ups and downs this year. We’ve celebrated the old, welcomed in the new (mostly) and commemorated the highs and lows of Liverpool’s past and imminent future.

Any predictions for the coming 12 months? Or is that an impossible task? And as for 2011, what kind of posts would you like to see here? More about researching Liverpool local history? Should I keep to the news and concentrate the history on Historic Liverpool? Or something completely different?

Black History Month and Liverpool

Carving of two black children at the entrance to Martin's Bank, Liverpool

Carving at the entrance to Martin's Bank, Liverpool, by Gadgetgirl2007 via Flickr

Black History Month is held in October each year. It’s origins go back to 1926, and the work of Carter G Woodson, editor for thirty years of the Journal of Negro History. It’s aims are:

  • Promote knowledge of the  Black History, Cultural and Heritage
  • Disseminate information on positive Black contributions to British Society
  • Heighten the confidence and awareness of Black people to  their cultural heritage.

Any student of Liverpool history (and any Liverpool child schooled in the history of the last 300 years) knows the role of black people in the growth, development and wealth of the city, particularly in the Victorian period.

At this time every year, however, a wider debate occurs as to whether Black History Month is still relevant. Is black history not worthy of study the rest of the year? Does the study of general history not include black people to the proper extent (and what is the ‘proper extent’?).

It’s probably not an argument that can be resolved conclusively, easily, or soon, but Liverpool for all its crimes during the height of trans-Altlantic slavery is in a well-placed position to enter the debate.

Black History in Liverpool

The award-nominated International Slavery Museum at the Albert Dock is perhaps the major place to go to learn about Liverpool’s role in transatlantic slave trade, and was built on the success of the transatlantic slavery gallery in the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

As the Vision for the museum states, despite the horrors that went on as part of that trade “the story of the mass enslavement of Africans by Europeans is one of resilience and survival against all the odds, and is a testament to the unquenchable nature of the human spirit.” The museum is telling an affirmative story of the people, who are depicted as humans, not simply victims.

Another story which is being told, and which has special relevance to the subject of this blog, is that by Eric Scott Lynch on the Black History Tours.

As their website explains, the tours encourage us to “raise our eyes from the ground, both physically and metaphorically”. This, coincidentally, was how I developed an interest in the physical urban history of Liverpool: by looking at the details of the buildings, the friezes above the great doors of the Victorian institutions and the road names dotted around the city centre, you can see generally the past written out for you, and specifically the role of slavery – enslaved Africans and the wealthy who traded in them – in the creation of Liverpool as it is today.

Speaking of street signs, you may remember that Laurence Westgaph wrote a leaflet called ‘Read the Signs’ back in 2007. The leaflet covered a number of streets in Liverpool who were named after those involved in the slave trade – either making money from it or campaigning for its abolition.

A debate surrounded whether these streets should be renamed – including Penny Lane and Bold Street – or whether by keeping the streets as they are we would be reminded of how history played itself out.

Further Information

There are events going on during Black History Month in Liverpool Museums. See the 2010 Events Programme for details.

You can download Laurence Westgaph’s Slavery Remembrance Tour as MP3s and an accompanying map from the Liverpool08 website.

There are a number of books covering the trans-Altantic slave trade and Liverpool’s role in it:

Liverpool Continuing Education

Another useful resource for your educational needs is of course Liverpool University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning. They have an ongoing programme of courses, of which you may be most interested in History and Local History, or perhaps Irish Studies, which includes Finding the Liverpool Irish.

If you know of any courses which might be of interest to readers of this site, do get in touch. Or have you been on a course just mentioned, and want to recommend it? Let us know in the comments.

Mapping the History of Liverpool

Interactive old maps of Liverpool's suburbs, old maps of Merseyside, and details of our protected, listed heritage.

And don't forget the book, Liverpool: a Landscape History

Recommended Reading

These are some of my favourite books on Liverpool history. They're what I'd recommend to someone who wants great coverage of the whole history of the port and city.

All these books are available via Amazon UK, and buying from through the links above will help fund the web hosting costs of Historic Liverpool.

Old maps from Cassini

Buy old maps from Cassini

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