Colonial Legacies Project

Last week, A Level Historians were able to build on their understanding of colonialism through a workshop delivered by the Bluecoats in partnership with the Greenhouse Project in Toxteth. This allowed us to look at Liverpool and Colonialism and to get into detail on Liverpool’s links to slavery.

The project, Colonial Legacies’ starting point is the Bluecoat’s connection to the sea, through the Liverpool merchants who supported the original school using profits derived from trade with Africa and the British colonies. This includes the transatlantic slave trade and goods enabled by slavery, such as cotton, sugar and tobacco, which contributed to the charity school’s fortunes.

With this as a foundation, students were able to explore stories of colonialism and the empire, slavery, migration, diaspora, independence, race and identity. They looked at the legacy of traders and merchants who benefited from slavery and the triangle trade and the role they played in the development of Liverpool as it is today.

Students also had the opportunity to explore their own family roots and consider their heritage. Students found out about the Liverpool Chinese community, which is the oldest Chinese community and first Chinatown in Europe with shops, boarding houses and cafes dating back to the 1890’s.

They also discovered that Liverpool is home to Britain’s oldest black community, dating at least to the 1730’s. Some Liverpudlians are able to trace their black heritage in the city back ten generations. There were seamen, the mixed-race children of English traders sent to be educated in England, servants, and freed slaves. Students heard how the slave trade played a large part in the build-up of the early Liverpool Black Community, both directly and indirectly. Parishes in the area now known as Toxteth and the southern fringes of the then Liverpool township centre, such as St. James, St. Thomas and St. Peters are possibly the earliest settlements.

This was a fascinating opportunity to learn more about our city and our family histories. It was also an opportunity to be creative as students explored the work of Linton Kwesi Johnson, a Jamaican dub poet, reggae artist and activist and studied ‘Streets of Hope’ by local poet, Levi Tafari. Students were encouraged to write a poem about the streets of Liverpool. This is an original work by student Lemyha Al-Aqel.

It might sound weird
But that’s how we talk
We’re not gonna rob you
That’s just how we walk.

Civil wars
Streets painted blue and red
Soldiers marching
If they shoot I’m dead.

The papers are liars
Don’t think that we’re dumb
The moonlight echos round here
We don’t see the sun.

Glad I’m not from Birkenhead, inabit

Lemyha Al-Aqel

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