International Slavery Remembrance Day at the National Maritime Museum: 23 August 2016

On 23 August 1791, the first successful slave uprising in the western hemisphere took place in Haiti. This event led to the island's independence and was a major step towards the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Now designated by UNESCO as International Slavery Remembrance Day, the National Maritime Museum has marked 23 August for over 15 years, highlighting transatlantic slavery as a maritime history with a series of free family–friendly events.

From 11.00 | Admission free | All ages welcome

Taking place throughout the Museum and around Greenwich on this date, the programme includes music, workshops and a talk from historian and presenter of BBC Two’s BAFTA award-winning Britain's Forgotten Slave Owners, David Olusoga. The day culminates in a moving and powerful commemorative ceremony by the River Thames, the river from which so many slave trading vessels once departed. This year’s events explore the National Maritime Museum’s collections relating to the trade of enslaved people, as well as focusing on the many local connections to be found in the Greenwich World Heritage Site.

From a screening inspired by the British Library’s West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song exhibition and storytelling sessions based on real enslaved peoples; to a walk focusing on the result of former slaves settling in Greenwich, the activities will reveal the hidden impact of the transatlantic slave trade on Britain.

Event Details:

Opening ceremony

Mayor of Greenwich, Olu Babatola, and Director of Royal Museums Greenwich, Dr Kevin Fewster, welcome visitors to the day of commemoration.

Time: 11.00 | Venue: Under the Propeller

The Transatlantic Slave Trade at the National Maritime Museum

Senior Curator of World and Maritime History, Dr Robert Blyth, shares the long history of the transatlantic slave trade in a maritime context in this talk.

Time: 11.30-12.00 | Venue: Lecture Theatre

British Library film Screening: West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song

Inspired by the themes in the British Library’s recent exhibition, West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song, four community groups worked with storytelling, sound and music to develop short films. This screening will be followed by an opportunity to explore the handling collections related to the history of Africa.

Time: 12.00-12.45 | Venue: Lecture Theatre

Caribbean Social Forum

Explore the cultural legacies of the transatlantic slave trade through board games from across the world with the Caribbean Social Forum.

Time: 11.45-14.30 | Venue: Learning Space

Ethno Vox Singing Workshops

Singing group Ethno Vox will lead this workshop, exploring how songs were used as a powerful medium of resistance, whilst bringing about a message of solidarity, hope and freedom.

Times: 11.45–12.30, 14.15–15.00 | Venue: Seminar Room

Objects in Focus

Senior Curator of World and Maritime History, Dr Robert Blyth shares the dark history behind the most innocuous of drinks – a cup of tea.

Time: 12.30–13.00, 13.30–14.00 | Venue: Atlantic Worlds Gallery

John Simmonds: A Sailor’s Trafalgar Story

Discover what life was like for a black sailor in Nelson’s navy through the eyes of John Simmonds. From being taken away from his home in Jamaica, to serving at the Battle of Trafalgar, his moving story reveals the surprising realities of a life at sea. This interactive performance will take you on a journey through the Museum’s galleries and back in time.

Time: 11.30, 12.30, 13.30, 14.30 | Venue: Meet in Sammy Ofer Wing

The Lion Keeper’s Boy Storytelling Session

Developed in partnership with Historic Royal Palaces, and delivered by experienced world storyteller, Sandra Agard, hear the remarkable true story of a young enslaved boy who escaped from the Tower of London’s lion keeper over and over again in our family storytelling sessions.

Time: 12.00, 13.00, 14.00 | Venue: Compass Lounge

Object Handling and Archive Session

Discover archives and collection objects relating to the transatlantic slave trade from the Museum’s collection and learn about their significance.

Time: 12.00–12.30, 13.00–13.30 | Venue: Baltic Memorial Glass gallery

Walking Tour: Black Sailors and Scribes

This walk will look at the impact of African sailors and writers who settled in or visited Greenwich, the effect of enslavement upon their lives, and the subsequent growth of this part of London.

Due to the gradient before the Observatory, the walk may not be ideal for people with mobility issues.

Times: 12.00–12.45, 13.30–14.15 | Venue: Meet in Sammy Ofer Wing

Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners

Historian and presenter of BBC Two’s BAFTA award-winning Britain's Forgotten Slave Owners, David Olusoga, joins us to talk about the abolition of slavery and how slave ownership has shaped modern Britain.

Time: 14.00–15.00 | Venue: Lecture Theatre

Commemoration Ceremony

The closing ceremony of 2016’s International Slavery Remembrance Day takes place by the River Thames at the Water Gates of the Old Royal Naval College. Participants are invited to throw white rose petals into the river in an act of silent commemoration.

Time: 15.00 | Venue: Begins at the National Maritime Museum

If you would like to attend David Olusoga’s talk about the abolition of slavery then please get in touch with the Press Office.

General Information

The National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory Greenwich, Queen’s House and Cutty Sark operate under the banner of Royal Museums Greenwich.

In preparation for the 400th anniversary in 2016 of its commissioning and design, the Queen’s House will be closed for refurbishment until 11 October 2016.

The National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory Greenwich and Cutty Sark are open daily, 10.00–17.00 (last admission 16.30). Opening times may be subject to change, please see website for details. General admission to National Maritime Museum is free.

All events included here are free of charge to all visitors unless stated. Admission prices for the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Peter Harrison Planetarium and Cutty Sark, as well as Museum special exhibitions can be found online.

The Museum is located a short walk from the Cutty Sark DLR, and Maze Hill and Greenwich train stations. The closest tube stations are North Greenwich (to change to local buses) and Canary Wharf (to change to DLR), both on the Jubilee line.

For updated information prior to visit please visit our web siteor phone 020 8858 4422.


For further information or images please contact:

Royal Museums Greenwich Press Office Tel: 020 8312 6789 | 07960 509 802 Email: