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New display in Canary Wharf explores London’s slave trade

PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 October 2016

Portrait of William Ansah Sessarakoo from 1749, Picture: © National Portrait Gallery

Portrait of William Ansah Sessarakoo from 1749, Picture: © National Portrait Gallery

(c) National Portrait Gallery, London

A new display exploring the history of London’s slave trade in the 17th and 18th century comes to Tower Hamlets next month.

The Royal African display, which will be on show at the Museum of London Docklands in West India Dock Road, Canary Wharf, follows the journey of an African prince, William Sessarakoo, wrongly sold into slavery.

The free display will also explore William’s connection to the Royal African Company - one of the largest slave trade companies at the time.

William was born to a leading family in West Africa and grew up in the Royal African Company’s fort in Ghana before being sent to London to study by his father where he was tricked and sold by a slave trader.

Alex Werner, head of history collections, said: “This is a very important story to be told at the Museum of London Docklands. “Our site is steeped in the history of slavery and in our gallery, London, Sugar and Slavery, we explore how the slave trade shaped London.

“This new display, within this gallery, offers a new perspective and reveals the complex politics and bitter power struggle in London for the control of the slave trade in the 17th and 18th century.”

The museum’s co-curator, Dr William Pettigrew, said the new display is significant because the Royal African Company played a major role in developing the British slave trade.

Dr William Pettigrew said: “The Royal African Company was London’s most important contribution to the slave trade.

“Visitors to this display will discover how the government used the Royal African Company to develop the trade in enslaved African human beings and how Londoners led the parliamentary campaign to end the Royal African Company’s monopoly over the slave trade.”

The Royal African display opens to the public on November 25 and runs until June 4 next year.

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