Credit: Alexander London via Unsplash

Glasgow University partners in new project to tell the stories of runaway slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries

By Patrick Gaffey

The Runaways London project uses artistic depictions to convey the previously untold accounts of runaway slaves.

Runaways London is a new project led by the University of Glasgow in partnership with the literature charity Spread the Word, and the publishing house Ink Sweat and Tears Press, which explores the stories of those who escaped from slavery in 17th and 18th century London. 

An anthology of these artistic depictions was put together, under the leadership of Simon Newman, Professor Emeritus of American History at the University of Glasgow. It was released at the Museum of London Docklands on 21 October, alongside a film on the same topic.

Many enslaved Africans and South Asians spent a short time in London, as a stopover point between their homelands and the Americas. From there, some of them were able to escape and find a new life in the UK. Very little is known about those who made this escape, and until now their stories have been untold. 

In most cases, the only sources on these escapees come from “Runaway Slave” adverts in the London press, which offer money to those who could capture them. Using these adverts as a springboard, the project brings together poets such as Momtaza Mehri and Gboyega Odubanjo, and artists such as Olivia Twist and Tasia Graham, to imagine the stories of their later lives.


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