October is usually known as the month of spookiness, but it is also Black History Month. So to mark it, here are two interesting objects from the Somerset County Council museum collection. They are tokens that relate to the abolition of the slave trade.
The following is a little information, borrowed from the website of Bristol Museum, which has lots of extra fascinating stories and is a thought provoking visit for anyone interested in the history of the black community in the UK.
‘At times when official coins were in short supply, people used tokens as small change. Most were made in Birmingham. Often the tokens carried an advertisement for a local shop, but many carried a political message. Abolition supporters issued tokens with the image from the seal of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The reverse usually had a quotation from the Bible, from Matthew Chapter 7 verse 12: ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them’ ‘ – (http://museums.bristol.gov.uk/narratives.php?irn=3214).
The first item (TTNCM : 2421/1990/4) is a token dating to 1700-1800. The obverse shows a slave kneeling in chains. The obverse reads: ‘AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER’. The reverse shows a pair of hands shaking. The reverse reads: ‘MAY SLAVERY & OPPRESSION CEASE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD’. Around the edge is written: ‘CORK OR BELFAST * * PAYABLE AT DUBLIN
The second item (TTNCM : 103.2001.344) is a token commemorating the extinction of slavery dating to 1834. The obverse shows a standing figure with raised arms and broken chains in a field. His upper body is naked and surrounded by rays from the sun. He wears a kilt. Inscription around the outside of the token. The obverse reads: ‘THIS IS THE LORDS DOING; IT IS MARVELLOUS IN OUR EYES. PSALM 118 V.23./ JUBILEE AUG 1/ 1834’. The reverse reads: ‘IN COMMEMORATION/ OF THE/ EXTINCTION/ OF COLONIAL SLAVERY/ THROUGHOUT THE/ BRITISH DOMINIONS/ IN THE REIGN OF WILLIAM THE IV/ AUGT. 1 1834’.
Whilst Weston-super-Mare may on the surface seem to have influences and demographics that are not hugely multi-cultural, there are histories and current stories of diverse communities that have called or still do call Weston home. At the museum, we are keen to consider how these communities and influences can be represented or hosted within the new museum. If you would like to share your views with us, then please feel free to get in touch.
For more information on Black History Month and ways to mark it or celebrate black history, head to the Black History Month Website.