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School children visit Lancaster’s Judges' Lodgings Museum to mark Black History Month

School children were given a special tour from the artist behind a poignant exhibition at Judges' Lodgings Museum in Lancaster as part of Black History Month.

Facing the Past: Black Lancastrians – A Portrait exhibition by Lela Harris, shines a light on the lives of the enslaved Africans living in the area in the 1700s.

To mark Black History Month, children from St. Stephen's C.E. Primary School in Preston were given a tour of the powerful exhibition by Lela Harris, who used church records, runaway slave adverts and family stories to piece together a new narrative for the forgotten people who were enslaved in Lancaster.

Children learnt about the Black Lancastrians depicted in a series of striking portraits, which are shown alongside some of those who benefitted from slavery, and the creative process behind them.

They also visited the young peoples' exhibition, which features portraits created by local school children of ‘Ebo Boy’, a young African man who escaped from slavery in Heysham, Lancashire

Another element of the project saw Judges' Lodgings Museum, Lela Harris and Lancaster Black History Group work with three local primary schools to run history and art workshops at the museum. This led the children to rename ‘Ebo Boy’, Afamefuna, to reflect his Igbo African heritage.

Lela Harris said: "It was super inspiring to work with the young people from the local primary schools. We worked with over 120 young people on the project.

"It's fantastic to see the way they embraced the project and tried to bring the story of Afamefuna to life through their artwork.

"The name Afamefuna is from the Igbo culture and actually means 'my name will not be lost'.

"So, I think it's a great way of symbolising how invested the local community have been in telling the stories of these enslaves Africans who were brought to Lancaster."

The historic Black Lancastrians depicted in the exhibition lived at a time when Lancaster merchants invested in selling an estimated 30,000 enslaved Africans through the Atlantic Slave Trade.

In the 18th century, Lancaster was the fourth largest slave trading port in the country, with slave ships making 125 slaving voyages from the city to West Africa. Some of the furniture and portraits on display at the museum were bought by Lancaster families involved in the slave trade.

Lynda Jackson, manager of Judges' Lodgings Museum, said: "I think it's really important for us to tell the whole story of Lancaster. A lot of the buildings that you see around you were part funded from the West Indies trade and the slave trade.

"So I think the story of Black history is a fundamental part of Lancaster's story.

"The exhibition has been really well received.

"We've had lots of school groups visits and we've had lots of great feedback and lot of emotional responses from visitors.

"Some people have been brought to tears looking at the new portraits and hearing the stories behind them."

Facing The Past is a collaboration between Lancaster Black History group, Judges' Lodgings Museum, The Institute For Black Atlantic Research at UCLan, Sociology at Lancaster University and local schools. It has been supported with £30,000 from the Art Fund and the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) and National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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