Lancaster was one of Britain’s busiest slave ports during the 1700s with over 200 slave ships heading in and out with enslaved Africans. An estimated 29,000 Africans were brought to Europe by slave merchants and sailors from Lancaster between 1750 and 1790.
It is against this dark past that the ‘Captured Africans’ memorial was erected by authorities in Lancaster in honor of the thousands of enslaved people forced to work on plantations under whips and in chains, according to the Age of Revolution. The memorial is situated at St George’s Quay in Lancaster and was unveiled in 2005.
The memorial comprises six rectangular Perspex blocks which float between a rectangular, stainless steel column and an oblong as well as stone column. It rests on a circular base polished with a mosaic and small metal sculptures, according to slaverymonuments.org.
These represent the decks of the slave ships used during the transatlantic slave trade that shipped enslaved Africans to the United States. The six Perspex blocks bear the names of the different community objects such as cotton, rum, mahogany, sugar and slaves among others the slave ships transported to America.
The stainless steel column stands for the many slave ships that sailed out from Lancaster and the number of slaves forced to board these ships from Africa. The mosaic symbolized the map used by the slave ships during the transatlantic slave trade with the metal sculptures reflecting the trauma and violence of the Middle Passage.
Millions of enslaved Africans including women and children endured unimaginable hardship and pain during the 300-year transatlantic slave trade era. The enslaved people were treated as commodities bought and paid for depriving them of their dignity as humans.
Their usefulness only lay in the sugar, cotton and other raw materials they generated for slaveholders who made unmeasurable profits off their backs. Though slave trade was outlawed in Britain in 1807, it was not until 1833 that it was eventually stopped in the British Empire. Its legacy today lies in the monuments and memorials erected in recognition of the roles places like Lancaster played.
For many and the Black community in Lancaster, the sculpture is a representation of the horrors the slave ships seized from Africa and brought to Europe and America. There are some significant features of the memorial such as the famous image of the slave ship brooks used by the abolition movement campaigners to speak against the inhumane and crude practices of the slave trade.
There are also the four plinths which stand for the commodities the enslaved people were solely responsible for. There are also sections of the plinth with the inscription wealth and coins embedded in it to show the immense benefits the slave trade generated for these nations.
The memorial was the brainchild of Dr. Alan Rice at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) and was commissioned as part of the Slave Trade Art Memorial Project (STAMP). The artist behind the sculpture was Kevin Dalton-Johnson with support from mosaic artist Ann McArdle and local young people who made the iron figures.
The work is to serve as a reminder to the present generation to pause and reflect on the impact of the transatlantic slave trade on the human race and its lasting legacies.