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Name: Hannah-Rose Murray

PhD: Transatlantic Slavery and Abolition in the nineteenth century

Thesis Title: "The Low Growl of the Lion": Transatlantic Abolitionism and African American Resistance 1830-1895

Thesis Description:

I analyse the influence of African Americans in British society in the mid nineteenth century, and how they resisted British racism and impacted abolitionist reform networks. Black men and women such as Frederick Douglass, Moses Roper, William Wells Brown, and William and Ellen Craft enacted a resistance strategy via the medium of performance that exhibited not the scarred black body of abolitionist rhetoric, but the black desire for, and ownership of, self-mastery and independence. My thesis draws on literary studies, cultural history, memory studies and the visual culture of antislavery iconography, and using my original research into British newspapers I provide the first comprehensive examination of the fame and legacy of African Americans who travelled to Britain. Though visiting white abolitionists had proved popular in Britain, black abolitionists used their fugitive slave status and dramatic re-enactments, lectures and staged performances to persuade Britain to champion radical abolition. The majority of public opinion was decidedly antislavery, but these transatlantic visits tested Britain: where did she truly stand in relation to American slavery, and what was she willing to do to prove her antislavery credentials? I also shed fresh light on the interactions between African Americans and black people in Britain. I have found new sources that confirm for the first time that Africans were present at abolitionist meetings; my thesis therefore examines the impact of reform networks on Black British communities.

Supervisors and Institution(s):

Professor Zoe Trodd, University of Nottingham

Assistant Professor Matthew Pethers

Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

  1. “A Negro Hercules: The Legacy of Frederick Douglass’ Celebrity in Britain”, Journal of Celebrity Studies, (published online October 2016, forthcoming print edition)
  2. Frederick Douglass in Britain, an anthology submitted to Cambridge University Pres
  3. (Forthcoming) – Bookmakers Not Bootblackers: African American Narratives in Britain, a monograph submitted to Cambridge University Press
  4. (Forthcoming) – An interview in 1886 by Frederick Douglass, sent to the Forgotten Manuscript Section of the African American Review
  5. (Forthcoming) – “The Foul Spirit of Slavery”, chapter for a book entitled Black Lives Matter for Oxford University Press (2017)
  6. (Forthcoming) – “American Slavery in England”, chapter for a book arising from the 2015 ASA Conference on Misery (2018)
  7. (Forthcoming) – “Monstrous Perversions and Lying Inventions”, Moses Roper’s Resistance to the British Imagination of Slavery and Abolition”, chapter for a book arising from the Violence in American Imagination Conference at University of Loughborough 2015, (2018)
  8. (Forthcoming) - “The Real Uncle Tom”: Josiah Henson in Britain 1877, chapter in a book arising from the Postcolonial and Memory Symposium, University of Nottingham (2018)
  9. I have written numerous blog posts on my research for the University of Nottingham, the British Association for American Studies (BAAS), U.S. Studies Online (USSO) and independent heritage projects. For example, this blog post discussed William Craft’s activism in Britain - and another focused on my experience about organizing LGBT History Month for the University of Nottingham -

    Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:
  1. (Forthcoming): “To Hear the Black People’s Side of the Story”: Ida B. Wells and her Transatlantic Visit to Britain’, BAAS, Canterbury, April 2016.
  2. “African Americans in Britain”, talk from my Eccles Centre Fellowship at the British Library, 11th July 2016.
  3. “African American Performance in Britain”, Performance and Identity Conference, University of Bristol, 1st July 2016
  4. “The Real Uncle Tom”: Josiah Henson in Britain 1877, Postcolonial and Memory Symposium, University of Nottingham, 10June 2016
  5. “Digital Humanities and Black History”, BAME Heritage Day, 6 June 2016, New Arts Exchange, Nottingham.
  6. M3C Festival, Speech about funding and conferences, 11th May 2016, Nottingham
  7. “He Did Not Know Why They Called Him Tom”: The African American Fight Against British Racism 1830-1895, SASA, University of Stirling, 5March 2016
  8. “Slaves did OK Here” – Nostalgia and Protest Memory as Competing Uses of the Past”, Antislavery Usable Past Workshop, Hull, October 2015
  9. “The Foul Spirit of Slavery” – Racism and the Ferguson in a Transatlantic Context”, American Studies Association, Toronto, 8-11 October 2015
  10. “A Monstrous Perversion and a Lying Invention” – Descriptions of American Slavery and Violence in the British Press” Loughborough University, 22-24 July 2015
  11.  “A British Bow to American Prejudice”: Frederick Douglass and the Crafts in Britain”, Centre for African American Research, Liverpool, June 2015
  12.  “Eloquence, Intelligence, and Nobility: Former Enslaved African Americans in Britain and the British Press”, Black Atlantic Symposium, 30 April-1st May 2015, University of Central Lancashire
  13. “The Low Growl of the Lion”: Former Enslaved African Americans as Celebrities 1845-1895, BAAS Conference, Northumbria University, 9-12 April 2015
  14. “Celebrity Symposium”, Leeds University, 6-7th January 2015
  15. ‘The Legacy of Frederick Douglass in Britain’, as part of the 20th anniversary of the Frederick Douglass Institute, West Chester University, Philadelphia, Wednesday 15th October 2014
  16. ‘A Negro Hercules: Frederick Douglass in Britain’, Celebrity Encounters Conference, University of Portsmouth, 4th-5th July 2014


British Library

Finalist for the British Library Labs Competition, Autumn 2016 - This project involved working with the Labs team for 6 months to make digital collections more accessible. We used machine learning to attempt to make the digitized newspaper collection more accurate, resulting in the findings of hundreds of black abolitionist speeches (that would have taken years to find manually). This included a £3,000 grant and a £500 prize: with the grant, I organized numerous events including a performance focusing on William and Ellen Craft’s experience in Britain and a walking tour of black abolitionist history in London. The walk finished with food in a local pub, where I employed two performers to re-enact an antislavery meeting. I gave the final presentation on this project on 7th November to over 300 members of the public. This project has led to other work with members of staff – for example, working with the Living Knowledge Network (partnership libraries across the country) and with the digital humanities team to write new pages for their website on slavery and abolition.

Public Engagement

  1. (Forthcoming): Lead organizer of a heritage Plaque to Ida B. Wells, with the Nubian Jak Heritage Plaque Scheme and English Heritage, 2017.
  2. Curator of an exhibition to African American Activist Josiah Henson, as part of the Journey to Justice Project, Nottingham, April-June 2017
  3. BBC Radio Nottingham: I was asked to appear on the Jodi Law show to discuss a petition I had created, calling for the removal of items on websites such as Redbubble which commercialized the slave trade. This petition was successful, and was signed by over 400 people from around the world, Sunday 9th December 2017
  4. Frederick Douglass in Britain interactive map, displayed at the exhibit to Frederick Douglass at the African American Museum in Boston, June 2016-July 2017.
  5. Lecture on African Americans in Britain, American Museum in Bath, March 2016. I am working with the volunteering coordinator to teach volunteers about nineteenth century American history, with a particular focus on slavery and abolition.
  6. Talk on ‘The Role of White Allies in the History of Civil Rights’, Black Lives Matter Course, Nottingham, March 2016.
  7. Workshop leader for a project which launched Nottingham’s first black history mural, New Art Exchange, Nottingham, June 2016.
  8. BBC Radio Nottingham: I gave an interview on the Jodi Law show about my PhD research, Sunday 24th April 2016.
  9. LGBT History Month director in February 2016: I organised the following:
  • ‘London Spy: Screening and Q&A with Tom Rob Smith’, Broadway Cinema, Sunday 28 February
  • ‘Mojisola Adebayo: A Retrospective Performance’, Nottingham Writers Studio, Friday 19 February
  • ‘Hate Crime Event’, Five Leaves Bookshop, Thursday 18 February
  • ‘LGBT Rights are Human Rights’, University of Nottingham, Thursday 11 February
  • LGBT Film Festival, Nottingham Contemporary, Saturday 6 February


Rights and Justice RPA

  1. I am one of the postgraduate directors for the Rights and Justice Priority Area, which includes over 700 scholars from Nottingham working on areas associated with rights and justice, from slavery to migration, to citizenship and race.
  2. I’m currently working on several projects to develop them into Beacon of Excellence projects for the new Rights and Justice Lab, with a focus on contemporary slavery.
  3. Co-organizer, Nottingham in Parliament Day, which included discussions on how to end modern slavery (October 2016)
  4. Created profiles for staff and PG members on the new online website
  5. Digital Humanities – I created a walking tour showing six important sites in London where black abolitionists made a mark on British society. This tour was created into an online resource.
  6. I helped to organize the launch of the Barbed Wire Exhibition, a photographic exhibition on campus focusing on the use of barbed wire around the world (March 2016)
  7. I have mentored the LGBT and WHM directors for 2017.
  8. In Spring 2016, I organized a presentation to the Politics Group about the RPA and the wider PG community, as well as a digital engagement session with Mike Gardner. In October 2015, I met the Chancellor of the University to discuss this work.

Work with Secondary School/Higher Education

  1. ‘Why Study History?’ Talk at my local secondary school, St Anne’s, in Southampton, Hampshire, October 2016.
  2. Planned Black History Month, St Anne’s Secondary School, Southampton, Hampshire, October 2016.
  3. Planned Black History Month and LGBT History Month for Ellis Guilford Secondary School, Nottingham (in 2015 and 2016)

Other Research Interests:

  • Antebellum American South
  • Celebrity and performance
  • American Civil War
  • Social Reform in Britain


University email address:


Website on Frederick Douglass and other black abolitionists: 

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