Legacies of Slavery

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You are invited to explore how the legacies of slavery continue to affect life today. The resources here include bible studies, films, books, papers, prayers and theology covering the topics including the history of slavery and colonisation, white privilege, restorative justice, and look at how we can begin to build more conscious, just and anti-racist communities.

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The United Reformed Church is determined to explore the Legacies of Slavery (see the Nov 2019 Mission Council report Healing: Hope in Action). The transatlantic slave trade was one of the largest forced migrations of human beings across the globe. Race-based chattel slavery, as practised in the Atlantic world, remains one of the ugliest forms of exploitation of other human beings ever invented. The legacy of that dismal history continues to impact enormously on people around the world today. (pic: Redleaf Lodi: Pixabay)

British Colonial slavery was abolished in 1833-8. British slave traders had by then transported more African people across the Atlantic than any other nation. The British government paid £16.5 billion (adjusted for inflation) to slave-owners as compensation for the loss of their "property". The enslaved received nothing. The loan raised by the British Government to make the compensation payments was finally paid off in 2015.

We are called by our God to act justly, walk humbly and to love mercy. But true grace is never cheap. The Council for World Mission (CWM) has acknowledged that its origins, as the London Missionary Society, lie in this vital period of colonisation and slavery. Its antecedent denominations and churches were deeply complicit in this injustice. The legacies of their actions remain with us today. CWM has therefore embarked on a Legacies of Slavery Project with its partner denominations, including the United Reformed Church.

Together, we are examining how the practice of slavery has continued to shape the realities of all people.

Our work has four main goals:

  • To assess our own story in and complicity with the systems of slavery (HISTORY)
  • To understand better the urgency of racial justice and the issues which intersect with it (WHITE PRIVILEGE)
  • To find ways of advocating and securing reparations locally and globally (APOLOGY & RESTORATIVE JUSTICE)
  • To discover and practise anti-Imperial models of Christian life and mission in today’s world (ANTI-RACIST LIVING)

Initially, these resources are provided for Black History Month 2020, but the collection will continue thereafter and will be updated periodically. They include the following: 

  • A reading list with brief paragraphs indicating why the books should be read
  • A selection of suitable YouTube videos designed for reflection & group discussions
  • A selection of seminal movies
  • Informative papers and stand-alone documents
  • Bible studies, with leaders notes and questions, covering History, White Privilege Apology & Restorative Justice and Anti-racist living

We expect to be able to add resources to this repository throughout the year(s). 

URC Legacies of (Transatlantic) Slavery Task Group launches Church-wide Consultation

During the latter part of 2021, the United Reformed Church (URC) Legacies of (Transatlantic) Slavery (LoS) task group will be very busy.  The task group, formed to help the URC consider its response to the Council for World Mission (CWM) Legacies of Slavery Project, will be launching a process of consultation with people across the breadth of the Church.  The consultation will start with presentations at the autumn Synod meetings before being broadened in the coming months to engage people in local churches and church groups.  Responses gathered will feed into the task group’s recommendations to the URC General Assembly in 2022.

Between 2017-2019, the CWM Legacies of Slavery Project held hearings in four locations of significance during transatlantic slavery – the UK, Ghana, Jamaica, and the US - to discover both the local histories and the continuing impacts of the transatlantic slave trade for communities today.  The URC’s task group was formed by the Mission Committee in 2019, to consider recommendations arising from the project under 3 headings:  

1.  Apology – should the URC make an apology for the role played by our antecedents in transatlantic slavery, and for our complicity in the systems which perpetuate racial injustice today?

2.  Reparations – should the URC offer some form of reparations/restorative justice, seeking practical ways to help put right the negative legacies which continue to mar lives and relationships in our church, society and around the world today?

3.  White Privilege – is there a need for the URC to engage with this issue, highlighted by the LoS report?  If so, what might that engagement look like? 

The task group completed its initial work in autumn 2019, producing the report Healing: Hope in Action.  It was then asked by Mission Council to do further work, including wider consultation, bringing recommendations to General Assembly 2021.  With COVID unavoidably delaying progress, the task group will now bring its recommendations to Assembly 2022, which seems very fitting as the URC celebrates its jubilee year, including reflection on the biblical understanding of jubilee.

Encouraging local churches to engage with the LoS consultation, Karen Campbell, the URC Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries, says:  

“Although consisting of only eight people, the task group was very diverse in terms of age, culture, gender, lay/ordained, and the degree of engagement with issues of racial justice and transatlantic slavery.  Together we concluded that yes, the URC should offer an apology and confession – recognising before God and world the role of our antecedents and our own failings today.  Yes, we should commit to some form of ‘repairing justice’ – practical actions to substantiate the words of any apology.  Such a commitment will demonstrate to everyone – including ourselves – that we are serious about this.  And yes, we should commit to a continued journey of engaging with the issue of White Privilege – helping people understand what it is, how it shapes our world, and how we might dismantle its effects in our church and in our communities.  All of these fit absolutely with our November 2020 commitment to becoming an actively anti-racist Church.”      

Karen continues: “We want people across the breadth of the URC to have a say, contributing to the recommendations being taken to our jubilee General Assembly.  We are are offering ourselves – and the URC’s racial Justice networks – as a resource to help facilitate local conversations, and to discover how people respond to the direction of travel so far.  The task group included widely differing perspectives, and conversations were not always easy, but they were open and honest.  That is what we want to encourage across the Church.  The important thing is not so much where anyone starts or finishes in the conversations, it is the willingness to be on the journey together.”

The task group has produced a short paper in preparation for the consultation, including the words of a draft apology called the LEGACIES OF SLAVERY TASK GROUP CONSULTATION OVERVIEW DOCUMENT by David Reynolds & Karen Campbell.

The LoS Tsk Group has created a video presentation, outlining the background and work of the task group called Legacies of Slavery in the United Reformed Church.  This might be a good introduction both for individuals and for local church groups.

Feedback on the apology, or the work of the task group in general, can be sent to global.intercultural@urc.org.uk

Requests for further information, and invitations for members of the task group/racial justice networks to facilitate local discussions, can also be sent to this address.          

Black History Monthly

We are delighted to offer this new initiative from the Legacies of Slavery task group. Contact veronica.daniel@urc.org.uk if you want joining information.

'Black History Monthly' will take place on the 3rd Monday of each month, 7.30-8.30pm via Zoom. Starting Monday 15th February, each session will have a different emphasis – sometimes focusing on and discussing an article or book, unpacking a film we have watched, taking a dive into poetry from Black writers, and maybe even sharing an eye-opening quiz – discovering some of the many achievements we may not have realised are attributable to Black people. We are confident there will be something of value, interest, and enjoyment for everyone. 

Please see the fliers giving further details about Black History Monthly (pdf), with topics and joining information for the first few months.

SESSION 9: The War on Woke?! Freedom and the Fine Print [Language and Empire]

Monday 15th November 7.30pm-8.30pm: What does the term 'woke' mean and how do oyu go to war on it? We keep in mind the power of the tongue (words) and the link between stereotype, language and empire. There is a lot to think about in our penultimate BHMonthly of the year. You are invited to come reflect and share! #Don’tMissOut

Documentary Film: Can you be ‘woke’ and be a Christian?

Click the link above to watch this 19 minute documentary by Tamala Caesar. 

There are various points of view – what do you think?

ZOOM Meeting ID: 990 6080 9545 Passcode: 264326

SESSION 8: "MUSIC - I've got a story to tell"

Join in with Black History Monthly on Monday 18th October from 7.30PM to discuss the invaluable impact black and minority ethnic people have had on the music we know today. Ranging all the way from jazz to techno, and everything in-between “Music: I’ve Got a Story to Tell” highlights just some of the music of a people who have survived, who will not and cannot be silenced...

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Resources you might find helpful but not essential to listen/view before the session:

MUSIC I've got a Story to Tell

Further Reading and Resources:


SESSION 7: The McPherson Report - 22 years on

22 years ago an extensive report following the death of Stephen Lawrence found that police forces in England and Wales were institutionally racist. Where are we 22 years on? The Commons Home Affairs Committee has released a new report on the matter. We'd like to discuss this report in the 7th session of Black History Monthly. The report itself is really long, so we suggest reading a useful summary in a Guardian Article by Vikram Dodd: MP's rebuke police for systemic failure to improve record on race.

Click picture for more information. If you'd like a Word copy of the article, please email Veronica.

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SESSION 6: The Case for Reprations continued


Join in on July 19th at 7.30PM. Last month's session sparked so many issues, so we continue the conversation on the URC General Assembly paper called Healing: Hope in Action. If you don't have the Zoom link, contact veronica.daniel@urc.org.uk 

BHM July






SESSION 5: The Case for Reparations

On 21 June at 7.30 pm... Join in on the discussion over what is, but ought not to be, a controversial topic: reparations. Payment as reparations for the legacies of slavery took a fresh turn with the publication of this Atlantic Journal article by Ta Nehisi Coates.

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SESSION 4: Black Voices Speak Out

On the 17th May at 7.30pm we will consider a selection of poems from Black writers from slavery times to the present day. A number of these are under copyright so cannot be posted here, but if you want to see them before the session, you can email veronica.daniel@urc.org.uk to recieve your copies, or you can simply turn up, listen, think and respond. 

Click the picture to download a poem to whet your appetite...

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Previous sessions of Black History Monthly can be browsed below...

 SESSION 1: Ava Duvernay Documentary

Watch the documentaty here on YouTube

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SESSION 2: The Kairos Document, South Africa

You may want to download and do some reading for the Back History Monthly session on 15th March 2021 at 07.30pm.

The South African Kairos Document Revised second edition 1986 and Summary of the South African and other Kairos Documents


Session 3: 19th April 7.30pm Elizabeth Heyrick's Classic, 1824, anti-slavery Pamphlet

You can download a helpful, one-page Elizabeth Heyrick anti-slavery pamphlet summary to read in preparation of the evening, as well as a copy of this amazing document prepared by The Legacies Task Group by clicking the picture...

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Spread the word and join us if you can.

Black History Monthly– because Black History is too important to leave until October!

Black History Month

  • Black Lives Matter/Legacies of Slavery – pre-recorded service (video)
    This Legacies of Slavery Service of Worship is lead by Stephen Ansa-Addo, with additional poetry and prayers by Karen Campbell. Feel free to use for your Black History Month Service, Legacies of Slavery Services, or Diversity Awareness Service etc.

A series of four Bible Studies addressing the Legacies of Slavery

A collection of poems for personal and/or corporate reflection

This resource (pdf) includes an annotated book list with recommendations for both children and adults; YouTube clips to prompt reflection and conversation; film recommendations; music links; and more!

  • In Our Own Words (pdf)
    In this resource we hear directly from BAME ministers serving in the URC who speak candidly about their at times deeply challenging experiences in the church.
  • Articles from The Atlantic (pdf)
    For the more serious researcher!  A compendium of articles featured in American publication The Atlantic since its inception in 1857, discussing arguing and analysing the history of America, its ideals and its realities. 

A series of Zoom conversations hosted during Summer 2020

  • Do Black Lives Matter in the URC?
    All denominations strive to walk the way of Jesus, but are inextricably intertwined with cultures and contexts... In the light of the global awakening to the Legacies of Slavery, white privilege and racial oppression, the URC"s Global and Intercultural Ministries explored this question more deeply in an online Zoom conversation. Guest speakers were Wale Hudson-Roberts of the Baptist Union of the Great Britain, and Patricia Akoli, and member of the United Reformed Church who has delivered diversity training for the denomination. Feel free to use this video to kick off a conversation.
  • Being white when Black Lives Matter
    What does it mean to be White? What is White privilege? Is the church structurally and theologically racist? The Council for World Mission's Revd Dr Peter Cruchley takes a deep dive into some of these questions. This resource comes to you from the United Reformed Church's Task Group on the Legacies of Slavery, and is introduced by Karen Campbell, Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries...
  • 'The Healer' – reflections on the Legacies of Slavery
    How does its art and iconography both reflect and uphold racism in the church? The Council for World Mission's Revd Dr Peter Cruchley takes a deeply personal journey through the assumptions and structures of White privilege that continue to blight the church's witness and ministry. This resource is offered to you by the United Reformed Church's Legacies of Slavery Task Group. We hear briefly from its convenor, Alan Yates.


Do Black Lives Matter in the URC?


Being white when Black Lives Matter


'The Healer' – reflections on the Legacies of Slavery


Black Lives Matter – pre-recorded intercessory prayer

White Privilege

A theological response to Black Lives Matter:
‘G-d is an abolitionist: a theological vision imagining a world without police’

Apology and Restorative Justice

The Case for Reparations
Professor Jason Hickel comes to a devastating realisation: were Britain to pay real, honest reparations for slavery and colonisation, there would simply be nothing left. It's not so much a fear of the prospect of paying, but that even thinking about what is owed reveals a hard truth: what is owed, is everything.

Elizabeth Gray-King reflects on the work of The Council for World Misison on Legacies

Anti-Racist Living

Righteous Anger: Blaming individuals for structural discrimination will only make it worse (pdf)
An article unpacking the challenges of tackling structural racism


Listen to this brilliant poem courtesy of The Council for World Mission


Tumble Down a poem by Revd Dr Karen Georgia Thompson

The URC's work regarding Legacies of Slavery was born out of a Council for World Mission (CWM) project with the same title. For more materials to stimulate your thoughts, you may find it helpful to visit the CWM web page.


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