Even during the summer months when university faculty typically leave campuses to conduct research and write, things here at Universities Studying Slavery (USS) headquarters do not necessarily slow down. It has been a busy summer, with contact from several additional institutions interested in joining the team. Today, we are thrilled to announce that the European arm of USS continues to grow with the addition of the University of Manchester to the list!
Although the University of Manchester in Manchester, England, was founded after parliamentary emancipation throughout the British empire, and is located inland, rather than in a port, it is and has always been an integral part of the city renowned as “Cottonopolis,” and research in progress is illuminating the numerous ways in which the university was connected to North American and Caribbean slavery.
The impetus for Manchester to join USS came from two events: an exhibition called “Bittersweet: Legacies of Slavery and Abolition in Manchester,” which Natalie Zacek guest-curated at the city’s historic Portico Library in autumn 2017, and a conference organised by David Brown and hosted by the university’s American Studies programme in spring 2018, in which a number of faculty and graduate students from the University of Mississippi presented their research about the history of enslaved people on their campus. The University of Manchester is currently involved in a number of initiatives related to USS, including inviting to campus Stephen Mullen of the University of Glasgow to discuss that institution’s much-discussed report on its slavery heritage; employing a research associate to use the university’s archives for further enquiries into the extent to which capital from the production and sale of slave-grown commodities financed the early years of the institution; presenting these findings at several upcoming conferences; and making this project part of the newly created Undergraduate Research Initiative in the School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures.
The University of Manchester looks forward to continuing with those endeavours, creating new ones, and learning from other USS members, especially at the annual USS conferences. The University of Manchester’s team is especially grateful to Kirt von Daacke and Louis Nelson of the University of Virginia for their advice, and to the University of Manchester’s Alessandro Schiesaro (head of the School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures) and Peter Knight (head of the Department of English, American Studies, and Creative Writing) for their support. So, please welcome the University of Manchester to this growing movement of institutions coming to terms with difficult pasts.