12.5 million African people were brutally enslaved, trafficked, used as forced labour, and killed between the 17th and 19th centuries – but they also resisted and created new lives for themselves. Some European people made immense profits by treating them in this way. This exhibition is a first step in revealing the role of Aberdeen and North-East Scotland in this history, and how its legacy continues today.
The language we use to describe historic crimes against humanity is important and continually evolving. We have therefore tried not to use words which define people by a status imposed on them, using ‘enslaved people’ rather than ‘slaves’. ‘Slavery’ is the institution under which these injustices were perpetrated, and ‘enslavement’ the active process by which individuals claimed to reduce others to property. These individuals are referred to as ‘enslavers’.
We have also tried not to use technical terms or words that obscure the reality of people’s experiences. For example, properties in the Caribbean are sometimes called ‘plantations’ or ‘estates’, but these terms can obscure the forced labour and oppression that took place there and we describe them as ‘forced labour estates’ to indicate what life was like in them.
This exhibition describes a violent and distressing history. Also, as it displays original material and quotes from people at the time, be aware that some of the historical language in the exhibition is now considered offensive.