Our second day in Liverpool we spent most of our time at Albert Dock, where our hotel was located. We went to the Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum. These were in the same building together and we were able to spend hours looking at the amazing and horrifying history. First, we explored the history of WWI and WWII. There is a special exhibit for the Lusitania. This exhibit was quite amazing. I briefly remember a mention of the ship and it’s bombing from history class. However, there was so much to explore. It was heading to Liverpool when it was struck by German forces in WWI. This sent such an outrage throughout the world, but it especially affected the people of Liverpool and the surrounding areas as many of those on board were family and friends. Alex and Hazel enjoyed the audio exhibits and listening to clips of survivors speaking of their experience. Alex found it particularly interesting that it was sunk with one torpedo. It was such a huge ship to go down so quickly and such a devastating loss of civilian lives.
We then went through the exhibit demonstrating the ships of the world wars and, in particularly, the role of Liverpool in the war. Liverpool was heavy hit as it was a major import hub bringing in about a third of all the rations for the United Kingdom. In fact, in WWII, Liverpool was the second hardest hit city in the country after London. Mostly due to having the largest western port and its significant role in the British war effort. The kids liked learning about the different styles of boats and were fascinated by the U-Boat models.
After the Maritime museum, we had some lunch (where the kids got to make their own pizza!) and a carousel ride!
We then went back to visit the International Slavery Museum. This was a very humbling, sickening, and uncomfortable experience…as it should be. The museum at Liverpool was the first International Slavery Museum in the world. It discusses slavery in the Americas from many perspectives. After just learning of the major and important role Liverpool played in the world wars, we then learned the major role that Liverpool played less than a hundred years earlier in the Transatlantic slave trade.
Many ships and crews came from the port to go to Africa before heading to the American colonies in the now US, Central America, and South America. It was incredibly disturbing to see the ledgers that marked down human lives in the same way they accounted for pottery and other goods, looking at profit margins and cost of goods. It was hard to view the conditions in which the slaves were transported and lived. It was hard to read about the differences in the way slaves were treated according to where they lived, be it in the US colonies, Belize, or Brazil because there was nothing positive about it, only horribly bad and even worse. It was unfathomable to read the thinly-veiled reasoning that there were some that thought this was okay or just. To say it was horrendous is to put it mildly. We also learned of the history of African tribes and nations that lost almost entire generations of males. To imagine how Africa and the rest of the world would have been different if this era had never occurred is absolutely mind blowing. It makes you wonder if our world would in some way be a more peaceful place, if people would truly love their neighbor as themselves. It also leaves to question if there would have been something just as horrendous in its place. I have never been able to understand why someone would think that another human being is of lesser value due to the color of their skin…or any other reason. However, this was a mind-blowing reminder that this was so accepted by so many for so long.
The museum talks about the post emancipation period as well and what that looked like in different areas of the world. I found this plaque particularly interesting.
The museum also has an exhibit on the current day slavery of India. To think that this is still going on in our world is maddening. There is so much evil in all of this. A short film about a boy that was held captive as a slave to “work off” his family’s debt to another person was very impactful. This boy was fortunate to be rescued by an organization that helps to locate and free enslaved people. The video really made an impact on Hazel and led to some serious discussion.
Being from a place that many would call “white privilege” I cannot begin to say I understand the struggles that many people experience due to their skin color or ethnicity on a daily basis even now. What I (and all of us) can do is to educate my children on the past and present in order to make the future an improvement. They did not grasp a lot of what they saw. They both liked the African instruments and the hymns. Alex loved the action heroes display that show cased “up-and-coming” positive African-American portrayal in the 70s and 80s following the civil rights movement of the 1960s. What they do know at a young age is that all people are equal as human beings and that we are to show love to all.
I was so incredibly saddened, uncomfortable, and angered by all that I saw at the museum. I was also amazed at the incredible things the human spirit can endure and overcome. It was good to see the ways in which people came together, as they do now, to say this is not right and make a change. It was so well done and I am thankful for the people that do not let this history be forgotten.
After the museums, we decided to take a taxi to the Liverpool Cathedral. This cathedral is much newer than others we have visited, being built in the early 1900s. The cathedral and graveyard adjacent were a nice place to reflect after the heaviness of the day.
The morning we left, Alex lost yet another tooth! And on a few occasions over the course of the weekend, we enjoyed strolls along the Merseyside River and along the shop corridor beside it. Overall, it was a wonderful trip full of history and perspective. I look forward to returning again!