Many people in the US might struggle to tell you much about Manchester except perhaps knowledge of Manchester United – the football team (called “socceer” in the US). Yet, Manchester has more to it than meets the eye.

According to The Guardian, Manchester is a city which is currently in the mdist of a civic dispute about Black history. Yet, the history of a city serves as part of the foundation for its civilization. Coming to terms with that history is part of the foundation for its healing. As academics, we understand the temptation to investigate and research a topic before we weigh in. However, history is important, in part, because it helps explain how we got to where we are today. Why is the Academy unwilling to hire African descended professors and lecturers – particularly in Religious Academia? (By “Religious Academia,” we mean the study of religion in higher education.)

Please read the following partial article by Lanre Bakare. At the bottom, you will find a link to the entire article. We hope you will find it insightful as you choose to seek out mishpat or justice.

The Misogynoir to Mishpat Research Network © 2023




31 MARCH 2023, 9:00 BST

The city’s image of protest and rebellion obscures its links to slavery. But there is a push to acknowledge the Black radicalism in its past.

On a sunny June evening last year, members of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society filed slowly into the Friends’ Meeting House, just off St Peter’s Square. When the neat white building tucked behind Manchester Central Library was built in the 1820s, it became the base for the Quakers who led the abolitionist movement in the city. Now, in the same hall almost 200 years later, the second oldest learned society in the world gathered to examine its own links to transatlantic slavery.

Images of mills flashed up on a projector screen as the academic Alan Rice described how cotton powered Manchester’s transformation into a booming industrial metropolis. “If you’re in the business of cotton in the 18th and 19th century, you’re connected very deeply to the slavery business,” Rice, who runs the Institute for Black Atlantic Research at the University of Central Lancashire, told the audience. His next slide featured portraits of three of Manchester’s most prominent 19th-century industrialists: Samuel Greg, George Hibbert and Sir George Philips. Greg and Hibbert campaigned to preserve slavery and all three “owned” enslaved people (Philips, whose contemporaries dubbed him “King Cotton”, was among the first funders of the Guardian). They were also members of the Lit and Phil – like many prominent Manchester men of this era, who gathered at the society for lectures on science and the arts. A number of the city’s leading abolitionists, such as the physician John Ferriar and the clockmaker Peter Clare, were also members.

The kind of historical investigation conducted by Rice and his team of researchers has become increasingly common among British institutions seeking to excavate and analyse their own pasts. Many were prompted by the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, but others were set in motion before.

In 2018, the University of Glasgow published the results of a year-long investigation into the “significant financial support” it had received from people whose wealth derived from slavery, and announced a £20m reparations package. Glasgow’s council commissioned its own report into the city’s ties to transatlantic slavery the following year.

In Edinburgh, academics recommended the city apologise for the role it played in sustaining chattel slavery. In Bristol, the city council voted for a parlimentary inquiry into slavery reparations. The Bank of England, the insurer Lloyd’s, the royal palaces, the National Trust, Kew Gardens, the Church of England, and the University of Cambridge have all launched inquiries into their own slavery connections.

Brazil Street: You can walk down this street or past the cotton bud fountain and have no idea of their links to chattel slavery
You can walk down this street or past the cotton bud fountain and have no idea of their links to chattel slavery

But in Manchester, few other institutions have been so unsparing. The University of Manchester conducted research which found that some of its early supporters – including the Heywoods, who launched Manchester’s first bank – made their money from trading enslaved people. When asked if it might take action comparable to Glasgow’s reparations, the university said only that “at this time, nothing is off the table”. It plans to use the results of a staff and student survey to shape an official response, which is expected this year.

The city council has commissioned research canvassing opinion on Manchester’s public statues. But the civic institutions of the city that was built on slave-picked cotton have been in no rush to interrogate their connections to slavery. “It’s certainly not part of the official history,” said Dr Shirin Hirsch, a historian at Manchester Metropolitan University and the People’s History Museum – in part, she added, because the city’s connections to slavery were obscured by distance. Unlike Liverpool, where the city’s docks are an unavoidable reminder of its role as Britain’s main slave-trading port, Manchester had a more remote relationship with the enslaved people who produced its cotton. “It was literally called ‘Cottonopolis’,” Hirsch said, “but I think because it was not quite as direct [as other cities], it has been much easier to avoid that history.”

“People can point in Liverpool’s direction and say ‘look over there’,” said Dr Matthew Stallard, an academic who conducted the University of Manchester research. But in this regard, Manchester is emblematic of most of the United Kingdom; distance has always been crucial to minimising our ties to slavery. Being thousands of miles from the Caribbean, Alan Rice said, is what allowed Manchester’s cotton merchants to avoid opprobrium. “It allows this veneer: you have plantation wealth, but you don’t see the Black people producing it. You don’t see the exploitation, you just see the riches.”

Since 2007 Liverpool has been home to the International Slavery Museum, and there has been a sustained and successful campaign, led by Black Liverpudlians, to have the slave trade connections of places such as Bold Street (named after Jonas Bold, the sugar trader and former mayor of Liverpool) and Seel Street (named in honour of Thomas Seel, an enslaver and merchant) made obvious.

But in Manchester, you can walk down Brazil Street or past the cotton bud fountain in St Ann’s Square and have no idea of their links to chattel slavery. You can buy fashionable menswear and eat at a swanky restaurant in Manchester’s Northern Quarter that both use the city’s “Cottonopolis” nickname in their branding, completely untethered from its origins.

Walking around Ancoats, a former textile district where cotton warehouses have been turned into luxury flats, there are no signs of the neighbourhood’s connections to slavery. The city council has made no apology, and no study has been commissioned into how the profits of human suffering helped develop the world’s first industrialised city.

Today, some argue that contemporary Manchester has, like its pioneering industrialists, done a very good job at putting distance between itself and slavery.

Click the link below to read the rest.

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