Lancaster’s neglected black history to be showcased in upcoming exhibition

An exhibition by Turner Prize-winning Preston artist Lubaina Himid will focus on the neglected black population of the 1700s.

The ‘Facing the Past’ exhibition will feature a series of past portraits of black people living in Lancaster in the 18th century and has been commissioned by 2022 V&A Award-Runner Lela Harris.

Portraits of people who benefited from slavery, created by significant artists such as George Romney and Joseph Wright, will also be on display at the Judges’ Lodgings Museum.

Lubaina Himid. Credit: Magda Stawarska, Lancashire County Council

Newly-commissioned portraits of black historical individuals, including Thomas Anson, Frances Elizabeth, Johnson, John Chance, Isaac Rawlinson, ‘Ebo Boy’, and Molly, will be on display.

Lynda Jackson, Museum Manager of Judges’ Lodgings, said: “We are very proud to present this fantastic exhibition which shines a light on an important period of our history.

“It is a great coup for artists Lela Harris and Lubaina Himid to be involved in this project.”

Lela Harris. Credit: Lancashire County Council

Schoolchildren from Bowerham Primary School, Cathedral Catholic Primary School and Dallas Road Primary School created the portrait of ‘Ebo Boy’, a young African man who escaped slavery in Hisham, Lancashire.

The children helped to give ‘Ebo Boy’ a new name to reflect his African heritage and life story, Afamefuna, which means ‘my name will not be lost’ in Igbo. Africans who were enslaved in the past are often given new names to deprive them of their identity.

In history, slave ships made 125 slaving voyages from Lancaster, which was once the fourth largest slave trading port in the UK, to West Africa.

Church records, runaway slave adverts and family stories show the stories of those figures in the new commissions. They lived at a time when Lancaster merchants trafficked about 30,000 enslaved Africans through the Atlantic Slave Trade.

The exhibition will run from March 30 to November 5 at Judges’ Lodgings Museum in Lancaster and has been supported by Art Fund, the Association of Independent Museums and National Lottery Heritage Fund.