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William Butterworth, an Account of a Slaver Ship

Human Rights

This section contains triggers around lived experience of racism, abuse and violence. When talking about contemporary issues with your class, be aware of their sensitivities and frame the information carefully. It may help to talk about discussion ground rules as a class.

Circular metal medal to commemorate 50 years since the abolition of slavery, with image of a standing man and a kneeling woman and child, arms raised in praise.
Medal Made to Commemorate 50 Years Since the Abolition of Slavery

The abolitionists helped with the moral and legal arguments against the institution of slavery and the slave trade, but the abolition of slavery didn’t end human rights abuses and exploitation.

We are still fighting for a just and equal global society.


Postcard with a picture of a black woman and the words 'Remember not that we were freed, but that we fought' written on it
International Slavery Museum Postcard

What are human rights?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death.

They apply regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live your life.

They are basic rights based on shared values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence.

They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted – for example if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security.

These values are defined and protected by law. In Britain our human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998.

In Britain, there are key pieces of legislation that grow into what we know as human rights. The Magna Carta (1215) sets out that everyone is equal before the law, even the monarch. The Habeas Corpus Act (1679) ensures that people detained by the law must be tried by a court, so people can’t be held indefinitely or without trial. The Bill of Rights (1689) limits the powers of the monarch and enshrines the rights of free speech and free elections, the basis of democracy. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) sets out a clear, global message of human rights across the 50 Member States of the United Nations.

When human rights are breached, contemporary campaigners fight against injustice, just like the abolitionists. Breaches may be large scale, such as genocide, religious hatred or poverty, or local issues, such as equality of access to healthcare provision or education. Global organisations such as Liberty and Amnesty International campaign for justice.

Postcard with a red handprint and the words 'Stop all hate crime' and 'Whatever they call you call us" written on it.
Amnesty International Refugee Week Poster

Leeds is trying to tackle inequalities such as family poverty, equality of opportunity, and discrimination due to gender, sexuality or race. This is encompassed in Leeds City Council’s desire to be a compassionate city, actioned through campaigns and strategies like Child Friendly City, and Thriving: tackling child poverty.