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From Africa to the Americas: The Landmark Sites of Slavery, Resistance and Civil Rights

Our panel showed the pivotal role heritage can play in helping us uncover underrepresented historical narratives, by exploring key sites in African-American history

Between 1500 and 1866, 12.5 million enslaved Africans were transported by ship from Africa to the Americas as part of the Middle Passage crossing. Some 1.8 million of them died, their bodies thrown into the Atlantic, while the others who survived undertook journeys of misery and terror – chained together, starved, and surrounded by disease, to be sold into slavery and forced to work in brutal, dehumanising conditions. The slave mutinies that took place on these ships were the beginning of a long history of Black resistance.

In February 2022, the World Monuments Fund in partnership with Intelligence Squared brought together a panel of experts to explore key sites in Black history and illustrate the pivotal role heritage can play in teaching us about underrepresented narratives from the past.

We began our journey by examining buildings connected to slavery across Africa and the Caribbean, focusing on the ports, trading posts, and slave forts that were the starting points of the transatlantic slave trade. Moving forward in time we then discussed the struggle for emancipation, highlighting lesser known sites where newly freed slaves took refuge. Our trajectory ended with the landmark places in Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and across the Black Belt in the U.S. that stood at the heart of the civil rights movement. These include churches and a barber shop where historic meetings took place between representatives of the Black and white populations of Montgomery in the beginning of the civil rights era.

Our panel unlocked the stories associated with these historic buildings and their importance in ensuring that the long struggle for racial equality is never forgotten.



Alberta Whittle

Barbadian-Scottish artist, researcher, and curator

Barbadian-Scottish artist, researcher, and curator. She works across media: film, sculpture, print, installation and performance. She was the winner of the Margaret Tait Award in 2018, winner of the Frieze Artist Award in 2020, received a Turner Prize bursary in 2020, and will represent Scotland at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2022.

Bonnie Greer OBE

Playwright, author, broadcaster and former Deputy Chair, British Museum

Author, playwright and broadcaster. Her plays have been produced on the BBC and in the West End. She was Deputy Chairman of the British Museum’s Board of Trustees and is former Chancellor of Kingston University. She is an Honorary Doctor of Writing from Kingston, and an Honorary Doctor of Drama from The Royal Glasgow Conservatoire.

John Darlington

Executive Director at WMF Britain

Archaeologist and author. He joined World Monuments Fund Britain (WMF) in 2015 as Executive Director. Previously, he led projects for the UK’s National Trust focused on historic mansions, gardens and landscapes across North West England. He also served as County Archaeologist for Lancashire and is a specialist in medieval towns and landscapes, castles and abbeys. He runs WMF conservation projects in various north African countries and in the Caribbean.

David Harewood MBE

Actor, director, author, and activist

In a career spanning almost 35 years, his screen and theatre credits include Homeland, Blood Diamond, The Night Manager and Best of Enemies. His first book Maybe I Don’t Belong Here: A Memoir of Race, Identity, Breakdown and Recovery was published to critical acclaim in September 2021. Through his activism, he is a driving force for systematic and cultural change on mental health and race in Britain.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Writer and broadcaster

Broadcaster, writer and social advocate. She is author of You Must Be Layla and the critically acclaimed essays It's Not About The Burqa and The New Daughters of Africa.