This research started from the perspective of using Liverpool as a starting point for discussion. Liverpool remains historically relevant to launch narratives around the adoption of the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of African nations into music. The Beatles remains as one of the most important Liverpool bands in history. Furthermore, we used that centrality to Liverpool to highlight the most important or notorious victim in their history the 1.3 million enslaved Africans whom the town’s merchants forcibly transported to the Americas.

Liverpool’s centrality to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is due to a combination of several factors such as [1] the ocean currents and winds of the Atlantic, [2] the role of the Sugar Cane Industry when shifted from Asia to the Atlantic, and [3] the diverse Slave Trade routes before 1759. Besides this, the pool from which Liverpool gets its name.

The pool was originally built by King John to compete against Chester as a commercial port. It provided sheltered access to the open sea. Nevertheless, it was until 1709 when Thomas Steer started transforming the pool into what enabled Liverpool to become the primary commerce port in the country and perhaps Europe during that time.

Great Britain Slaves Shipped

The aforementioned combination of the previous British colonialism, and trade routes enable Liverpool to become the primary port for the commerce of a wide range of products including African enslaved people who were considered white goods. When the Dock opened in 1715 it facilitated the loading and offloading of goods and therefore, becoming an epicentre for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The British Flag was able to embark over 2 million enslaved people in the period from 1700 to 1800 alone*.

Whilst the British flag was shipping millions of enslaved people across the Atlantic, the country and Liverpool was thriving leaving traces of economic prosperity deeply linked to the slave trade. Liverpool, in particular, is impregnated with stories, landmarks that remind us about the role that the British had on the modernisation and industrialisation of the slave trade. Among the different landmarks, there are streets such as Ashton St., Bold St., and Cunliffe St., as well as landmarks such as the Mount Pleasant Memorial, and the Bluecoat to name a few. Nevertheless, among all these places, Penny Lane might be one of the most famous ones due to the Beatles’ song.

Slave Trade Places of Liverpool

Click to view the location and double-click the map to zoom out.

Sound Track

Penny Lane by The Beatles

As mentioned before we focused on highlighting the role that African nations had in the creation of a wide range of tangible and intangible cultural heritage results around the world. This materialised in popular music all across the Americas, where Rock ‘n’ Roll embraced all these wide range of African sounds. These contributions are present not only in Rock ‘n’ Roll but arguably in almost any present genre of pop music up to day.

Penny Lane was named after James Penny Liverpool merchant, as he described himself in the Liverpool Papers. James Penny was very vocal about being a slave trader and an absolute anti-abolitionist, under the pretence that the end of slavery would greatly damage Liverpool’s economy.

In 2006, Barbara Mace proposed to remove the names of the streets linked to well-known slave traders and replacing them with names of people who had made positive contributions. This proposal was criticised since it would only ‘airbrush’ the dark heritage of Liverpool. This can be linked to the criticism behind the way in which the United States aimed to change the slave trade narrative but only in a way that brushed off the rudest racist elements of it.

Here is the 30-second sample of the Beatles’ Penny Lane, released in 1967 and reached number 2 in the charts.

Here is also a video of Chuck Berry who’s music we used in the United States North section of the installation, playing with John Lennon performing together at the Mike Douglas Show in February 1972, New York City.