Local and global consequences of trans-Atlantic slavery, abolition and racial oppression

Submitting Institution

University of Central Lancashire

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Rice's research in various aspects of slavery and the black Atlantic (1750-2010) has facilitated museums in the North West to use their internationally important collections to make innovative exhibitions; his research engages artists, performers, schoolchildren, community groups, civil servants and documentary filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic. His work on Transatlantic black presences in the North was instrumental in the development of outputs that range from a commemorative public performance in Leeds (2009), through an exhibition catalogue in Manchester (2011), public debates with American broadcasters at the International Slavery Museum (2013) to lectures to Civil Servants (2012) about black presence beyond London.

Underpinning research

From 1995-2013 Rice has been engaged in research work on the black Atlantic, on slavery, racism and its consequences across geographies and chronologies. His latest monograph, Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (2010), funded by an AHRC grant and reviewed widely and enthusiastically including a Roundtable in the Journal of American Studies (2012), both embodies the research on which the impact is based and provides extensive and multifarious interdisciplinary materials for creative workers, curators and policy makers to utilise in their development of cutting-edge outputs and policy ideas across a range of formats. This work has used various case studies across disciplines to assess the importance of the institution of slavery and race in Britain, wider European locations, the West Coast of Africa and the Americas. These case studies have appeared in various peer-reviewed articles, edited collections, edited books as well as in his two monographs and been supported by an AHRC research leave grant. The disciplines covered include history, literature, visual arts and music and range from the eighteenth century to the contemporary. Much of the work has discussed famous and obscure black residents and travellers and their place in a reconstructed narrative of Britishness that foregrounds black presence (this is related to monographs and essays and a supporting grant on blacks in Britain (1, 2, 4, 5 & 6; see section 3) and has proved particularly valuable for civil servants and has enabled them to gain new understanding of the history of blacks in Britain (1, 2, 4, 5 & 6). Artists and performers such as Simeon Barclay (2), Front Room Theatre (2) and Charlie Horse Productions (2) have used different aspects of the research to enable them to create dynamic public outputs. In broadcasts and public events, at jazz festivals and with the International Slavery Museum, these findings have been disseminated to audiences across the region and beyond utilising research from a range of outputs (1, 2, 4 &5). Research on historically important visual art about slavery and contemporary responses to its legacy of racism both through analysis and in interviews with key living British and Transatlantic artists (1, 2 & 3) has established Rice as an expert and has meant his expertise has been utilised by the Whitworth Art Gallery, Nottingham Contemporary and Manchester Art Gallery as consultant, curator and catalogue contributor. In both his monographs he has explored memorialisation and its importance for African Atlantic cultures by looking at memorials which deal with race around the Circum-Atlantic (1, 2 & 5). This work, following on from Paul Gilroy's work on the black diaspora and Paul Ricoeur's work on memorialisation, has interested a wide range of curators, especially in the wake of the 2007 abolition bicentenary commemorations and enabled him to be a consultant on Manchester's key multi-venue international exhibition, We Face Forward: West African Art Now (1-5). More recently, Rice has moved into analysing museums' responses to race and this forms another theme of the research that underpins the impact (2 & 5).

References to the research

1) Monograph: Radical Narratives of the Black Atlantic. Continuum, 2003. ISBN 0826456065 (hb) & 08264 56073 (pb), 244 pp.

2) Monograph: Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010, pp244. 9781846314711. Extract published in Hilda Kean and Paul Martin, The Public History Reader, London: Routledge, 2013.

3) Peer-Reviewed Journal Article: `African Atlantic Visual Arts in the 1990s' in Slavery and Abolition special issue, `Slavery and Memory in Black Visual Culture', eds. Celeste-Marie Bernier and Zoe Trodd. Forthcoming, Spring 2013.

4) Peer-Reviewed Journal Article: With J.C. Kardux. "Confronting the Ghostly Legacies of Slavery: The Politics of Black Bodies, Embodied Memories, and Memorial Landscapes." Atlantic Studies 9.3 (Sept. 2012): 245-272.


5) Exhibition Catalogue Essay: `Manchester and the Shadow of the Black Atlantic: Trade, Empire and Slavery in the Whitworth Art Gallery Collections' in Trade and Empire: Remembering Slavery (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, 2011) pp. 13-27.

6) Awarded to Alan Rice: AHRC Research Leave for the project Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (c. .£27,000) (July 2007). Jan- December 2007.

Details of the impact

As co-curator of the Trade and Empire: Remembering Slavery Exhibition, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, June 2007- April 2008 (50,000 visitors in the period Jan-April 2008), Rice provided workshops, gallery tours and study days for the public and audiences in the cultural and creative industries. The exhibition was part of the Revealing Histories initiative in the Greater Manchester region. Rice contributed to workshops and study days at many of the institutions for schoolchildren, community groups and museum staff including Manchester Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Touchstones Rochdale, Gallery Oldham and Manchester Art Gallery (MAG) all in 2008. As editor (content) of the accompanying Revealing Histories Website, he contributed over 12,000 words and expertise to its development. He was featured at its launch in various media including Channel M, North-West Tonight and local radio in July 2008. He also featured in a live public debate on slave history and memorialisation on Radio Lancashire in 2010. In October 2011 the exhibition catalogue was launched at the Gallery as an advocacy document. A related project with Nottingham Contemporary on works curated at the Whitworth led to a talk there in January 2008 and an essay in their catalogue in 2010. A key part of Rice's contribution to the exhibition related to the British sojourn of abolitionist and author, Henry Box Brown, which inspired performances of his famous escape in a packing box both in the educational programme and beyond. The artist Simeon Barclay became aware of Box's story through Rice's "impressive" scholarship in the exhibition and a lecture given in Leeds in 2008 and decided to recreate Box's 1851 visit in a performance at Leeds City Museum in October 2009 that attracted a large crowd and much press attention.

Rice was invited to be a consultant for the 2012 London Olympiad exhibition, We Face Forward: West African Art at the MAG and the Whitworth. This exhibition attracted over 250,000 visitors over 3 months and over 12,000 to its public programme of events as well as substantial press coverage. Rice gave a public lecture in June at MAG and contributed a catalogue essay about the history of the African Diaspora in Manchester, which led Dr Maria Balshaw, Director of MAG, to thank Rice for his "support and enthusiasm" in contributing to "the amazing impact (of) the programme". This work was showcased in two events for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG, Oct & Dec 2012). Sharone Collins from DCLG commented: "Your lecture on `Historical Black Presences in the North West' was the most well attended of the series and attendees are still talking about it. We attracted attendees from Departments across Whitehall, including DCMS, HMRC, BIS, DfT and DfE. The event was an eye opener for those of us who assumed the history of blacks in the England began in London and ended just North of the Watford Gap!"

Rice was academic advisor and on-camera commentator on the film Choc'late Soldiers from the USA, which had its world premiere at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in November 2009. It had a British premiere supported by Preston City Council during Black History Month in October 2009. This film and Rice's scholarship underpinning it was a key influence on Front Room Theatre's development of Natalie Wilcox's play Lie Back and Think of England, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012. Rice brought together play and film in an academic and community event with the Preston Black History Group to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Bamber Bridge in June 2013 (please see
http://www.uclan.ac.uk/about_us/case_studies/sollis_marks_70th_anniversary_of_battle_of_bamb er_bridge_report.php).

Rice's research in jazz has led to contributions at both the Lancaster and Manchester jazz festivals and as lecturer at a night of poetry, drama and music organised in Manchester by the Human Rights organisation RAPAR to celebrate the international sojourns of Paul Robeson in November 2010 (over 100 participants).

In 2006 Rice was appointed the external management board member of the Centre for the Study of International Slavery at Liverpool at the new International Slavery Museum (ISM). The paperback version of his Creating Memorials was launched at ISM in March 2012 and he has contributed to a public event on Abraham Lincoln in April 2011 and was featured on a panel discussing the new American PBS documentary The Abolitionists at a filmed public event there in March 2013. His work on Lincoln and the Lancashire Cotton Famine was showcased on BBC 1's The One Show with Dan Snow in February 2013 (4m viewers; please see
http://www.uclan.ac.uk/news/academic_set_for_national_tv_appearance.php) and at a public symposium on Lincoln's legacy at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation in Hull in October 2013.

Sources to corroborate the impact

www.revealinghistories.org.uk for contributions to the website, archive material on exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery and video grabs of workshops and of Henry Box Brown material devised from Rice's research.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC9H0aewkXQ&feature=player_embedded for Simeon Barclay's performance initiated and inspired by Rice's research on Box Brown.

http://apanews.si.edu/2009/11/10/choclate-soldiers-from-the-usasex-race-and-rhythm/ for reference to Choc'late Soldiers premiere at the Smithsonian with Rice as academic advisor and commentator.

http://frontroomtheatre.weebly.com/about-us.html for Natalie Wilcox's play based on Choc'late Soldiers and consultation with Rice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hsT8zv2nrs for public launch of Rice's Creating Memorials at International Slavery Museum

Alan Rice's contribution to impact in this field can be attested to by:

1) Dr. Maria Balshaw, Director of the Manchester Art Gallery (statement)

2) Dr. Richard Benjamin Head of the International Slavery Museum (contact)

3) Freelance Artist Simeon Barclay (statement)

4) Clinton Smith of Preston Black History Group (contact)

5) Sharone Collins from the Department of Communities and Local Government (statement)