Black history landmark in library display
A dramatic moment in Bermuda’s history in which a group of enslaved ship passengers won their freedom is up on display at the Bermuda National Library.
The exhibit commemorates a 19th-century court case after the American ship Enterprise reached Bermuda in February 1835, after a storm threw her off her designated journey between Alexandria, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina.
Aboard the vessel were 78 enslaved people, many of them children, who were freed by a Bermuda court in a precedent-setting ruling, because slavery had been abolished on the island seven months earlier.
Scores of Bermudians can trace their heritage to the milestone 185 years ago.
The free exhibit, produced by the Department of Libraries and Archives and the Bermuda Tourism Authority, uses artefacts and multimedia to tell the story.
Glen Jones, the BTA’s chief experience officer, said the exhibit highlighted “legendary” Bermudian hospitality alongside the legacy of the island’s legal system, and showed American visitors another cultural link with the island.
He added: “This milestone anniversary also overlaps perfectly with Black History Month in the United States.
“Since most of our visitors come from the US, we’re glad to have this new and relevant cultural tourism experience and we appreciate the Government’s collaboration.”
The limited-time exhibit is also being promoted from the BTA’s Hamilton Visitor Services Centre.
Inside the one-room exhibit, a ten-minute excerpt from Bermudian filmmaker Lucinda Spurling’s The Lion and the Mouse documentary explains the story of Enterprise, including how the ship came to land in Bermuda and what local Friendly Societies did to win the freedom of enslaved passengers.
Artefacts from the Bermuda Archives include documents from both the Enterprise and the court case that ultimately set free those in bondage.
An enlarged display of the 1835 Royal Gazette coverage of the Enterprise and a photograph of Chesley Trott’s sculpture “We Arrive” are part of the exhibit.
In addition, a popular Saturday bus tour of black heritage sites recommends the exhibit to customers when the excursion ends a block away from the library.
Students from CedarBridge Academy were among the first to experience the display.
The Enterprise Exhibit is open at the library, on Queen Street, Monday through Saturday until March 31.
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