A community project organised by the William Wilberforce Monument Fund is attempting to tell the stories and create a vivid picture, of the African presence in East Yorkshire. African Stories in Hull & East Yorkshire, is a Heritage Lottery funded project, lead by senior lecturer Gifty Burrows.
Launched in May this year, African Stories in Hull & East Yorkshire, is building a detailed online archive of information, in order to tell the many different stories of Africans and Afro-Caribbeans who have called Yorkshire home from the 1750s to 2007. There are plans for exhibitions at Hull History Centre in 2017 and at Beverley Treasure House in 2018.
Using this time window links the project with the 200th anniversary of the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. The parliamentary campaign to abolish the British Slave Trade was led by Hull’s most famous resident William Wilberforce.
‘We are aware that African presence tracks back far longer than we realise there are stories of Shakespearean actors in the late eighteenth century coming to Hull: records indicate an African pygmy community living in Brandesburton and the first black vicar in Swinefleet.
Gifty Burrows Project Lead & Chair of Trustees of the William Wilberforce Monument Fund
African Stories in Hull & East Yorkshire is a wide-ranging interactive project with a number of different strands and research areas. They include the study of historical documents that chart the black presence found throughout the county: including stories of choral group the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the Afro-American airmen based in Cottingham during World War II and Jamaican-born sailor Thomas Henry Biggs, who lived in Hull around the 1920s.
Since July documentarian Jerome Whittingham has been capturing present-day oral histories from participants to the project, via a series of recorded interviews for the ‘Contemporary Voices’ strand. Notably among those participants has been Janet Alder, who grew up in a children’s home in the Avenues area of Hull, Chiedu Oraka, a gifted musician born in North Hull, Joseph Bvumburai who arrived from Zimbabwe in 1982 to study at the Hull School of Architecture and Glynis Neslen who was raised by white British parents from aged 2 and grew up in a multiracial home in Great Yarmouth.
Excerpt from Glynis Neslen interview – transcription on site.
“In the past there was this trend to put Black or coloured, (they used to called me coloured in those days as well), children in, out of big cities, you know, sort of into white areas. I don’t know if it was sort of like an integration issue or whether they thought you’d get a better upbringing if you were in a sort of, nicer, more calmer area.” Glynis Neslen
Listen to full interview: http://www.africansinyorkshireproject.com/glynis-neslen.html
“Living in Hull we tend to think we know something about Wilberforce and freedom, however, these contemporary stories are certainly broadening my understanding of equality, racism, migration, and community.” Jerome Whittingham @photomoments Interviewer and Photographer
As part of the project organisers are hosting ‘Contemporary Voices‘ a free publicity event Saturday 8th October
1 – 3pm at the James Reckitt Room inside Hull Central Library.
The Event is open to everybody and visitors will be able to learn more about the project, contribute, and share ideas to help build more stories. Some may wish to be direct participants.
African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire is organised by the William Wilberforce Monument Fund and is supported by Hull Culture and Leisure in partnership with Hull City Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the James Reckitt Library Trust, Hull 2017 and WISE.