Back to All Events

Black Abolitionist Walking Tour

  • Outside Freemasons' Hall 60 Great Queen Street London, England, WC2B 5AZ United Kingdom (map)

To celebrate the British Library (BL) Labs Competition project of 2016, 'Black Abolitionist Performances and their Presence in Britain' by Hannah-Rose Murray, BL Labs and Hannah-Rose are hosting a walking tour and a short performance on Saturday 26th November 2016. 

The 'Black Abolitionist' project involves the harnessing of machine learning in order to search the British Library's digitised newspaper collections to access black abolitionist speeches and performances that have never been discovered before. The project stems from Hannah-Rose's PhD project, which focuses on African Americans in Britain during the nineteenth century and the myriad ways they resisted British racism. 

Connected to our October event about William and Ellen Craft, BL Labs and Hannah-Rose have designed a walking tour around central London, highlighting six sites where African American abolitionists made an indelible mark on the British landscape. For example, the site of the current Strand Palace Hotel marks the spot of Exeter Hall, a huge venue which was well known for its reformist meetings, and numerous black abolitionists lectured there against slavery including Frederick Douglass, William and Ellen Craft, William Wells Brown and John Anderson. During the 1890s, the famous black reformer Ida B. Wells created controversy across Britain when campaigned against the lynching of black men, women and children in the Holborn Town Hall.

Date and Time
Saturday 26th November 2016, 13:30 - 17:00*

*The walking tour starts at 13:30, so please be there at least 10 minutes early to register. Remember to bring suitable clothing for the weather.




The walking tour begins outside the Freemason's Halll, Great Queen Street WC2B 5AZ, shown on this map.


13:20 - 13:30

Arrival and registration
The walking tour will start promptly at 13:30.

13:30 - 15:00

Walking tour

The tour begins outside Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, at 13.30. The total walking time for the tour is roughly 30 minutes, and we will be stopping at 6 sites:

Freemasons' Hall – numerous formerly enslaved individuals and abolitionists lectured here, including Josiah Henson, Henry Highland Garnet, Sam Ward and Frederick Douglass.

Royal Opera House – listen to the story of how Frederick Douglass advocated antislavery, temperance and embarrassed prominent Americans.

Strand Palace Hotel – the infamous Exeter Hall stood on this site during the nineteenth century, and white and black reformers lectured here to thousands of people. Hear the stories of William Wells Brown, William and Ellen Craft, and John Anderson, all of whom were fugitive slaves.

Somerset House – in 1860, black activist Martin Delany boldly declared “I am a Man!”, foreshadowing the famous phrase of the modern Civil Rights era.

Arundel Street – this was home to the Crown and Anchor Pub, where Frederick Douglass launched a new transatlantic antislavery society in 1846.

Holborn Town Hall – Ida B. Wells lectured here on the barbarity of lynching against black men, women and children.

15:00 - 17:00

Food, drinks and performance

All are welcome to join us after the walking tour at the nearby Old Crown Public House, 33 New Oxford Street WC1A 1BH, for food, drinks and a short re-enactment of an antislavery meeting.

The event will conclude at 17:00.

Earlier Event: 25 November
Open Cultural Data Symposium
Later Event: 29 November
CHASE Encounters