How City's Women Opposed Slave Trade; the Abolition of the Slave Trade Was One of the Great Social Triumphs of the 19th Century. Birmingham, like All the Great Cities of the British Empire, Benefited from the Trade in Human Beings. as the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade in Britain Approaches This Sunday, Tom Scotney Looks at Archives Recording the Anti-Slavery Movement
Byline: Tom Scotney
"To be sold: a negroe boy from Africa, supposed to be about ten or eleven years of age, he is remarkably well proportioned, speaks tolerable good English, of a mild disposition, friendly, efficient, fond of labour and for colour, an excellent fine black."
The yellowing newspaper advert, placed next to one offering a second-hand wagon, starkly brings to mind a desperate scene of misery, with shackled men, women and boys being bought and sold.
But this is not the cotton fields of America's deep south, this is an advert in the Birmingham Gazette for a slave auction in Lichfield.
The newspaper is just one of hundreds of pieces of material showing how Birmingham went from a city whose huge industrial base benefited from the miserable trade in captive people, to one of the first hotbeds of universal human rights in the country.
Historian Dr Andy Green has spent nearly two years researching the history of the anti-slavery movement in Birmingham, and gathered together the material for the Connecting Histories project, which is looking into the history of social cohesion in the city.
Dr Green said there had been a deep division between pro-and anti-slavery groups in Birmingham in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
He said: "One thing that was very important was to look at the industrial links of the city to the slave trade."
In the archive, a petition placed in the newspaper by local businessmen calls for the trade not to be abolished, describing it as "greatly and effectively beneficial to this town and neighbourhood".
But despite so much of its wealth coming from the slave trade, not everyone in the city accepted it so readily.
The Female Society for the Relief of British Negro Slaves was the biggest abolitionist group in Birmingham, and one of the first women's anti-slavery group in the country. …