Our Research

The project originated in Professor Bennett’s research on the United States of the nineteenth-century and on the impact of the Atlantic in understanding British and American relationships in that period, on which she has written extensively.

Her earlier work has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust and by grants from a number of universities including the University of Leeds, where she currently works. In 2009 she was awarded an Undergraduate Research Scholarship by the Faculty of Arts at the University of Leeds to develop this research along with a Level One undergraduate Yosra Awad. Together, they have investigated archives and collections in Yorkshire to trace the important contribution the people of Leeds made to the abolition of slavery in the United States. Additional funding from the Faculty has allowed them to develop the project in a number of different directions and to disseminate academic research beyond the academy.

The work centres on tracing and documenting the extensive connections between abolitionist activists on both sides of the Atlantic in the decades immediately preceding the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment which made slavery illegal in the United States.

Abolitionist activity relied on extensive personal networks, relationships and collaborations. We have chosen to look in particular to the visits to Leeds of a number of key figures, some of whom had experienced slavery personally. They gave lectures in the city, many of which were reported in the local newspapers, building awareness of slavery and support for abolition. In addition we have investigated the impact of American culture in Leeds, using original playbills to show the appetite for anti-slavery melodrama. We also wanted to demonstrate the accessibility of key archives and records to encourage research by non-academic researchers. Most of the resources we have relied on are publicly accessible. We hope that the people who encounter our work through this website will be encouraged to reflect more deeply on the history of Leeds and its relationship to international politics and concerns.

The results of our work can be seen on this website, in an exhibition for the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds, opening on 1 October 2011 and in a variety of ongoing events at the University, Leeds City Museum and at other venues in Leeds.