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The Joseph Sturge Project

Photos feature Carl Chinn, and young people from Al Hijrah School, at our project event at the Birmingham and Midland Institute.

Joseph Sturge (1793 –1859) was an English Quaker, abolitionist and activist. He founded the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Throughout his life he supported working class rights, and the universal emancipation of slaves. In the late 1830s, he published two books about the so-called ‘apprenticeship’ system in Jamaica. 


In 1833, an Act of Parliament abolished slavery in most of the British Empire. However, former slaves were bonded to work as 'indentured apprentices' to their former owners for six years after their supposed ‘liberation.’ In his books, Sturge described some of the conditions he witnessed on the Jamaican estates – including the infamous ‘treadmill’ which was used as a punishment. His campaigning helped to persuade the British Parliament to adopt an earlier full emancipation date.

This was a local history project. (Sturge moved to Birmingham in 1822. The photo shows a statue of Sturge in Five Ways.)


We worked with groups of young people based in different schools. We looked at Sturge’s life and work, in the context of the history of the slave trade. The consultant was Professor Carl Chinn.


Groups from Al Hijrah School and Penn Fields School devised drama performances based on the Anansi stories, which were popular with slaves in Jamaica. A group in Calthorpe Academy created a drama about pirates. (Pirates played a big role in the slave trade triangle - robbing the ships carrying goods from Jamaica to Europe.)


Young people from Al Hijrah School and George Dixon Academy composed poems about the conditions endured by slaves in Jamaica. You can hear some of their poems here:

sturge 1.jpg
Sturge and family with right.jpg
engraving of Joseph Sturge, originally p

The project was funded with a grant from Awards for All (National Lottery Community Fund).

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