Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

This resource was created by Leeds Museums and Galleries | The Discovery Centre. 


With thanks and credit to Joe Williams, Heritage Corner and Leeds Black History Walks.


This learning story highlights some of the stories of abolitionists and former enslaved people living in, or connected to Leeds. Talking openly about postcolonial history, and how it affects the world today, will involve potentially difficult and challenging conversations. It may contain triggers around lived experience of racism, migration, abuse and violence.

Some of the language, terminology and ideas of the past, even those used by the abolitionists, are offensive today and need framing in terms of their historical context. Carefully using source material (letters, diaries, objects, images) as historical evidence is not a promotion of historical ideas, but a reminder of how easily humans can use propaganda and how language changes over time. To help with this framing, you may wish to talk about ground rules with the class, and look out for language around ‘otherness’ and difference.


Curriculum Links

  • KS2 History: a study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066
  • KS2 Citizenship: Developing good relationships and respecting the differences between people
  • KS2 PSHE: Living in the Wider World


Discussion Ideas

  • Show the animation about human rights. Discuss what this means for our daily lives.
    • Why is it important to uphold our human rights?
    • What happens when human rights are breached?
  • Use the abolitionist movement in Leeds to discuss the humanising effect of getting to know people as friends. Wilson Armistead, William Butterworth and Thomas Murray all got to know African, or West Indian, former enslaved people and this shaped their thinking and campaigning around abolition.
    • Discuss the dehumanising effect of the slave trade, propaganda and language on the racist perceptions of people today.
  • We think Rev Thomas Murray may have bought Betsy Sawyer before freeing her. In doing so, was he simply assisting the system he was trying to quash?
    • Do you feel this course of action is justified? Why?
    • Can you think of another way he could have helped her?
  • Once in Leeds, Betsy is working for the Murray family as a domestic servant. We assume she is being paid, but do you think she is truly free?
    • Who will have paid her transport to Britain?
    • What would happen if she left the service of the Murray family?
    • We don’t hear Betsy’s voice telling her story. How is this lack of Betsy’s voice problematic?


Activity Ideas

  • What would you campaign for or against? What do you believe in?
    • How would you go about campaigning and demonstrate your message?
    • What media would you use?
    • Create a campaign plan and action it!