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Slavery Remembrance Day

Today is Slavery Remembrance Day, and its important as a community to recognise the acts of our ancestors in contributing to and ending slavery. As an area, the North East has a woven tradition of activism both then and now. For this reason, we should be proud and grateful our predecessors, like Grey, paved the way in ending global slavery and emancipating those who didn't have the freedom to live in peace. The Guildhall was also a forum of political activism, with the Newcastle community regularly holding anti slavery meetings to huge crowds and support. One petition gained 3000 signatures in the city.

However, it is also critical to recognise the North East's role in perpetuating slavery and prolonging its legitimacy abroad. John Erasmus Blackett (you'll recognise the surname) served as an apprentice under a leading Liverpool slave trader George Cuncliffe, and imported slave-made Jamaican rum. The Hylton family, who resided in the castle on the Wear, played a role in Caribbean Slavery. Anthony Hylton acquired a tobacco plantation, appointed governor of St. Kitts and Nevis and was later a tobacco merchant in London. The Hylton surname is widespread in Jamaica today, through descendants of enslaved Africans who worked on the Hylton plantations.

Here's a couple of features already on the site, though do have a browse as there's lots more to find.

Eloudah Equiano, an emancipated writer, visited Newcastle as part of his 1789 book tour. He visited St Anthony's Colliery near Byker, and found comradeship in the miners there. Miners then and now have a tradition of political activism.

"Having received Great Marks of Kindness from many Ladies and Gentlemen here, (who have subscribed to my Interesting Narrative) particularly Thomas Walker, Esq., the Rev. Dr Bayley, Mr Ralph Kirkham, Mr Isaac Moss, jun., Mr Richard Routh, Mr John Lowe, jun. & Family, & Mr Lloyd. I beg you to suffer me thus publickly to express my grateful acknowledgement to them for their Favours, and for the Fellow-­feeling they have discovered, for my very poor and much oppressed Countrymen; these acts of Commisseration have fill’d my Heart with Gratitude, therefore, permit me Sir, on Behalf of myself and the rest of my Brethren, to offer this sincere Thanks, for the Testimony of your Regard to the Sable People. May your endeavours meet with the desired success."


Harriet Martineau was regarded as the first female journalist, and highlighted the plight of the slave population of the United States in her works. She lived at 57 Front Street, Tynemouth during a period of illness, as her doctor practised at Eldon Square.

A pillar we strive to attain at the North East Heritage Library is to ensure we diversify our content and still make it accessible to all while being engaging at the same time. Being open about our past is critical in ensuring the generations that come after are aware of the crimes and tribulations of the past, or else apathy ensues and distasteful attitudes rise up. Please remember the lives that were damaged or lost due to our predecessors, but remember the good that was done in our region to move forward.



Kieran Carter
Kieran Carter
Aug 29, 2020

It's great to see the current generation really grasping our past history Sandra. Both its tribulations and causes for celebration. Has the exhibition been digitised or available anywhere online? Would love to see.


Sandra Barlow
Sandra Barlow
Aug 23, 2020

Here's to Mary Ann Machem, born into Slavery in 1802 in Middlesex County, Virginia. She escaped, and after a harrowing journey, arrived in North Shields on Christmas Day 1831. An adopted Geordie, she died at the age of 90 and is buried with her husband James Blyth in Preston Cemetery, North Shields. She was the subject of the 'Breaking Chains' exhibition at the Old Lowlight Heritage Centre in Cliffords Fort North Shields early in 2020, culminating in the dedication of a gravemarker on their shared grave, purchased by the people of North Shields and their donations to the exhibition. More information to follow....

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