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The Yorkshire Post and the York Evening Press

The Yorkshire Post and the York Evening Press reported the abolition commemorations as an ongoing struggle in the present. Whilst the histories of the local connections to the abolition movement were highlighted, a great deal of attention was placed on the campaign for the end of modern forms of slavery.

One of the more prominent features of the newspapers was a celebration of local figures that campaigned against the slave trade. The Press (Laycock 26/03/2007: 3) reported on the minor connection between York and an eighteenth century American abolitionist and a great deal of attention was paid to the 'Yorkshireman' William Wilberforce. Bristow (26/03/2007: 5) reported in the Yorkshire Post on the visit by the Prime Minister of Barbados to Wilberforce's family home in Hull. The Prime Minister is quoted as saying, 'Hull is a city that was not involved in the slave trade and Hull continues to care...the abomination of slavery should never be forgotten.' Similar to the majority of reports in both newspapers the article praises the compassion of the region's citizens without examining either complicity or slavery's legacy. This avoidance is evident in the 'Comments' pages of the Yorkshire Post as the issue of an apology and compensation are swiftly dismissed; 'a more significant gesture might be for this generation to commit to renewing the fight against slavery and human trafficking which, sadly, are still very much part of life in this country and around the world' (anon 26/03/2007: 23). Critical responses can be found from Church figures but these serve to distribute a sense of guilt or responsibility widely, not just in Britain. Archbishop of York, John Sentamu (24/03/2007: 31) stated in the 'Comments' page of the Yorkshire Post that, 'Britain needs to apologise for its involvement in the slave Trade; but just as those who grew fat off the profits of slavery owe an apology, so do those implicated in the capture and sale of slaves in their homelands. This evasion is demonstrated in the eye-catching event held outside the Castle Museum in York and reported on by both papers. This event consisted of a number of volunteers laying out on the ground outside the museum in the shape of the Brookes image of a slave ship (The Press, Lewis 23/03/2007: 10-11). Drawing attention to the 'Unfair Trade' exhibition at the Castle Museum the gesture is represented as a show of sympathy with those enslaved in the past and the present. It is also seen to sharpen local perceptions of the greater involvement in abolitionism rather than enslavement. 'The good thing is that, while the people of York colluded in and benefited from the slave trade as much as anyone, many York people played their part in its abolition (The Press, Lewis 23/03/2007: 11).

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