Robert Burns' statue: Scotland's National Bard was due to take up a position as bookkeeper on a slave plantation in Jamaica before the success of his first book of poems.
Robert Burns’ statue: Scotland’s National Bard was due to take up a position as bookkeeper on a slave plantation in Jamaica before the success of his first book of poems.

Black History Month runs each October in the UK to highlight the contribution made by black men and women to Britain’s heritage. This year, LJMU English’s Michael Morris led two public walking tours for Black History Month in Glasgow. Michael’s research revealed that all twelve of the statues in Glasgow’s central George Square have a connection to slavery and abolition.

George Square was laid out in 1781 and the statues, erected between 1819 and 1902, are designed to celebrate scientists, writers, military figures, politicians and royals. These statues tell a sanitised story of Empire – whether a clean story of trade from the Clyde, or an orderly procession of colonised peoples paying tribute to a monarch. In an example of ‘guerrilla memorialisation’, this walking tour read the statues ‘against the grain’ to reveal a hidden history of Glasgow and Scotland’s involvement in slavery associated with each and every one of the statues on display.

Both tours were sold out and led to great discussions about how to further this kind of counter-memory work. The walking tours were also featured in a newspaper article titled ‘Fresh Call for Memorial and Museum Recognising Scotland’s Slave Trade Links’.

Michael was also interviewed for a radio series in which Billy Kay explores ‘Scotland’s Black History’. people-make-g2This seven part series has been running on Radio Scotland throughout Black History Month and you can catch up here.

Michael’s walking tours were developed from research for a chapter titled ‘Multi-directional Memory, Many-Headed Hydras and Glasgow’ which has just been published in Britain’s History and Memory of Transatlantic Slavery: Local Nuances of a National Sin, ed. by Donington, Moody, and Hanley (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2016).

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