Reclaiming the Islamic legacies of anti-slavery in the post-Apartheid Cape, South Africa
Sam North’s research aspires to recover the story of recaptured slaves liberated in the Cape area by the British Navy in the early to mid-nineteenth century for its retelling at Simon’s Town Museum. Around 3,000 non-white slaves – originating from Eastern Africa or South East Asia – were liberated between 1808 and 1848 by the British Vice Admiralty Court based at Simon’s Town. The perfect balance of time and place for British slave trade suppression efforts was provided through a combination of Simon’s Town’s status as a naval base, the Dutch ceding the Cape Colony to the British in 1806, and, of course, Britain abolishing her slave trade in 1807. Many liberated slaves settled and worked locally; their presence embellishing the size of the Islamic community in Simon’s Town where they coalesced with existing Muslim residents. Most descendants were forced to leave the area under the terms of the 1967 Group Areas Act which designated Simon’s Town a ‘whites-only’ area. With the arrival of democracy in 1994, numerous former residents returned having been forcibly displaced by racial segregation.
Sam’s project encompasses a multi-faceted approach. Archival work at the Western Cape Archives and National Archives (Kew, UK) will focus upon Vice Admiralty and other official records which detail slaves liberated at the Cape. A second strand will involve consultation with the Islamic community in Simon’s Town to recover their experiences, memories, and interpretations of the past. By allowing the displaced descendants of the area to re-tell their history in their own words for display in Simon’s Town Museum, Sam’s work endeavours to contribute to the post-Apartheid process of reconstituting the South African heritage industry towards a more inclusive offering.
Sam North is an AHRC PhD Heritage Scholar at the Department of History and the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) at the University of Hull, and the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University. His research to-date has focussed upon recovering forgotten voices of the past within the British World. Sam first graduated from the Department of History at University of Hull in July 2013 with a first class BA in History. His final year undergraduate dissertation explored white poverty in South Africa during the 1920s and 1930s. He subsequently studied for a MA in Historical Research at the University of Sheffield where his thesis investigated the anti-slavery movement in Britain between 1787 and 1833 with a particular focus on Sheffield abolitionism. This was completed with Distinction in September 2014.
Outside of academia, he has worked for the National Trust at Clumber Park, researching experiences of the First World War on the estate. He has also worked with secondary schools at heritage sites across Yorkshire including industrial heritage in Sheffield and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) heritage in Hull. In September Sam commenced a PhD in Heritage supervised by Dr Nicholas Evans, Department of History and WISE, University of Hull, and Dr Helen Dampier, School of Cultural Studies, Leeds Beckett University.
Awards include Sir Phillip Reckitt Educational Trust Grant, £200, September 2014.
Academia.edu profile: https://hull.academia.edu/SamNorth
Samuel North (2017) Museums as Tools for Understanding Slavery and its Legacies in South Africa, South African Historical Journal, 69:1, 82-100, DOI: 10.1080/02582473.2017.1297480
Related non-specialist outputs:
Samuel North, Remembering the enslaved in Cape Town, South African History Online: towards a people’s history.
Arrivals and Departures with Nick Evans and Sam North underpinned the stunning Made in Hull opening celebrations for Hull’s year as the UK’s City of Culture in 2017