Manchester Art Gallery

Sarah Parker Remond commission

In 1859, African American, lecturer and abolitionist Sarah Parker Remond came to Lancashire to appeal to mill owners and cotton workers to support the US anti-slavery movement, she spoke in the Atheneum (now part of Manchester Art Gallery) and said the words:

When I walk through the streets of Manchester and meet load after load of cotton, I think of those 80,000 cotton plantations on which was grown the $125m worth of cotton which supply your market, and I remember that not one cent of that money ever reached the hands of the labourers.” 

Sarah Parker Remond

Extinction Rebellion recently commissioned artist Venessa Scott to create two artworks, commemorating Sarah Parker Remond’s influential speech and celebrating the abolitionist meeting held at Manchester Cathedral in 1787, which fuelled the anti-slavery movement in Britain. 

On Sunday 30th August 2020, the posters were sited across Manchester City Centre, as part of the Extinction Rebellion, Stand up to Racism and Black Lives Matter solidarity march, marking the city’s historic involvement with the abolition of slavery as well as highlighting systems and leaders who opposed it. This included a 8.46 minute take-the-knee demonstration outside the Royal Exchange in memory of the brutal murder of George Floyd. 

Remond gave her first speech aged 16

Sarah Parker Remond (June 6, 1826 – December 13, 1894) was born free in Massachusetts and became known as a lecturer, abolitionist, and agent of the American Anti Slavery Society. An international activist for human rights and women’s suffrage, she made her first speech against slavery when she was 16 years old. In 1858 Remond traveled to England to gather support for the abolitionist cause in the United States.  

Primary school children from across Manchester find out about Remond as part of the Gallery’s school’s takeover programme. Working in the atmospheric space of the Atheneum they are introduced to this inspirational speaker and asked to reflect on what changes they want to see today. Taking up the mantle of identifying injustice and understanding they can also look to make change.

A moment of pride, empowerment, and encouragement

Venessa spoke of it ‘being an honour to be part of this history making march and cannot wait to see what other wonderful things occur when people join together in unity against injustice’. 

“Growing up in the UK there was a significant lack of discussion and education around the success of black people, particularly of black women throughout history. In the education I received black people were simply always slaves and then one day, sometime in contemporary history, we were not. To learn that there were effective, eloquent, well educated, and successful women of colour in Manchester in the1800s hundreds, not least to discover that one of them, Sarah Parker Remond, spoke on the site of Manchester Art Gallery was a moment of pride, empowerment, and encouragement.

I believe that it is important to include and celebrate these women and other strong women of colour in our cultural institutions; to display works of art and literature that discuss their achievements and normalise their beauty. For young people of colour be able to enter a gallery space and visually relate to the paintings that hang on the walls. To see people that look like them. I believe that women such as Sarah Parker Remond; educated, powerful women of colour, serve as beacons of inspiration and aspiration for women of all nationalities but especially for women of colour whose voices, presence, and impact has often been overlooked, downplayed or categorised as worthless and ephemeral.”

Copies of the artwork are available for purchase here.

Image credit: Vanice Scott

6 responses to “Sarah Parker Remond commission”

  1. D. Fletcher says:

    A very interesting article. I have lived in Manchester for nearly 40 years and knew nothing about Sarah Parker Redmond.
    Thank you.

  2. Gem says:

    I am so very proud to be an intelligent woman of colour. Often when I speak on the phone, I am asked, ‘ are you a recording? I am often tempted to respond negatively, but that would be unprofessional.

  3. Thel says:

    I am a woman of colour and was amazed and impressed to learn about Sarah Parker Redmond.
    Love the poster.

  4. Helen Parker says:

    Thank you for uplifting the history and voice of Sarah Parket Remond. I am from Bolton but living in the US. I have often wondered about the relationship between the cotton manufacturing industry and the slave labor that picked it – was there any local organizing in solidarity with the enslaved?
    Is the art work available for purchase?

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