March of the Abolitionists, White People walk in Yokes and Chains to Apologise for Slavery
White people will walk in yokes and chains from Hull to London from Thursday 1 March to Saturday 24 March, as part of an apology for the Transatlantic slave trade. They will be accompanied by Africans and descendants of enslaved Africans. This walk is the first part of the March of the Abolitionists, a National Project for the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
The march will begin in Hull, the birthplace of abolitionist William Wilberforce, with a commissioning service led by the Bishop of Hull, on 1 March at Holy Trinity Church at 9am. Lady Kate Davson (a great, great, great granddaughter of William Wilberforce) and William Wilberforce (a great, great, great grandson of William Wilberforce) will walk in the yokes and chains at the outset of the march. The march then continues south, taking in some important abolitionist sites along the way.
Among the highlights will be 7 March in Lincoln, when the Bishop of Lincoln will don the yokes and chains to mark his support for the initiative. Other notable events along the way in the region include stopping in Wisbech (where abolitionist Thomas Clarkson was born) on 12 March; Ely Cathedral on 15 March; Soham (where the African abolitionist Olaudah Equiano was married) on 15-16 March; Cambridge (where abolitionists William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson studied) on 16-17 March.
Throughout the first stage of the March of the Abolitionists, white team members will don yokes and chains and attempt a journey of over 250 miles to London, recalling the gruelling journeys of enslaved Africans, during the period of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Their penitential action, appropriately taking place in the season of Lent, will also draw attention to the estimated 12 million people still in slavery today. The journey will end in Westminster on Saturday 24 March, when the team will join the Walk of Witness led by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (see www.makingourmark.org.uk).
The March of the Abolitionists is the final stage of the epic seven-year Lifeline Expedition journey, a Christian response to the legacy of the Atlantic Slave Trade. After the first Jubilee 2000 Lifeline walk in England, teams of Africans, descendants of enslaved Africans and white people have journeyed to slavery sites in France (2002), Spain and Portugal (2003), USA (2004), the Caribbean Region (2005) and West Africa (2006).
A special feature of the March of the Abolitionists will be the presence of 12 children aged between 5 and 15. Two of the older children, Jacob (15) and Anna (12), sometimes walk in the yokes and chains. They chose to do this after seeing pictures of children in the slave coffles of 200 years ago and learning that towards the end of the slave trade up to half of Africans taken were children.
The second stage of the March, called the Sankofa Reconciliation Walk, takes place between 4 June and 11 July and will link the former slave ports of London, Bristol, and Liverpool.
The purposes of the March are:
– to bring an apology for the slave trade (especially the role of the Church) and to help those we meet deal with its legacy.
– to engage with schools, public forums and the media about the true history of slavery and abolition, promoting greater understanding, reconciliation and forgiveness.
– to remember the black and white abolitionists of 200 years ago and wholeheartedly support the current campaigns seeking to end the atrocity of contemporary slavery.
The March organisers welcome people to walk with the core team as they pass through their localities (full itinerary below). They also hope to organise a continuous schools relay along the Hull to London route. Schools who participate in the March will be given an educational DVD about the legacy of the slave trade and the work of the Lifeline Expedition.
The Lifeline Expedition has received extensive publicity in recent years, including the story about Andrew Hawkins (a descendant of England’s first slave trader, Sir John Hawkins) who made an apology for the slave trade in the Gambia at the International Roots Festival — see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5105328.stm
The March of the Abolitionists is a huge undertaking and walking in yokes and chains in March will be challenging. David Pott, Project Leader, comments, “I have been reminded that it is normal that expeditions involve risks — slave trading expeditions were risky ventures, so as we seek to undo the damage initiated by the slave trade, it should be no surprise that we face challenges. However, on our journey, we will not suffer a fraction of what slaves went through.”
The March of the Abolitionists is an initiative of the Lifeline Expedition in partnership with Anti-Slavery International, CARE, Church Mission Society, the Equiano Society, Northumbria Community, Peaceworks, USPG, Wilberforce 2007 (Hull) and Youth With A Mission. The march is also associated with the Set All Free and Stop the Traffik coalitions.
David Pott – Project Leader
Tel: 0208 6942220
Mobile after 25 February: 07977 915474