From left to right: Ellen Craft, William Butterworth and Henry ‘Box’ Brown.

As part of our ongoing series True stories from the forests of Leeds, we’ve been looking back at some of the historical figures who helped to shape the city we live in. Today we’re looking at some of Leeds’ connections to the slave trade.

We talk about William Butterworth, an 18th Century engraver from Kirkgate who traveled from Leeds to Liverpool and finding work on a slave ship and wrote a first-hand account of life aboard, including an attempted slave revolt. Butterworth regretted leaving home, and when he returned home he wrote one of the few firsthand accounts of life aboard a slave ship as a warning to others.

We also find out about various Leeds people involved in the abolition movement, including former slaves who were invited to speak in Leeds such as Henry Box Brown, who escaped from slavery by sending himself through the mail, and Ellen Craft, who escaped from slavery by dressing as a man and pretending to be a slave owner in order to smuggle herself and her husband to the North.

If you would like to know more about Leeds Black History Joe Williams of Heritage Corner has a walk that starts on Parkinson steps outside Leeds University, see the website to find the next walk.

If you feel inspired to get involved in public action, Citizens UK can help you. Visit citizensuk.org or you might be interested in our

event coming up on 21st October when Leeds Citizens and Matthew Bolton will be launching his book, How To Resist. You can find out more at LCILeeds.org.

Slavery still exists in different forms today. Depending on how it is defined, there are up to 40 million people in the world today living in some form of slavery, and up to 13,000 in the UK. You can find out more about the modern antislavery society at antislavery.org.

Finally, you can read the stories of William Butterworth, Henry Box Brown and the Craft’s in their own words. Butterworth wrote his story in ‘Three years adventures of a minor, in England, Africa, the West Indies, South-Carolina and Georgia’, Henry Box Brown wrote

Butterworth wrote his story in ‘Three years adventures of a minor, in England, Africa, the West Indies, South-Carolina and Georgia’

Henry Box Brown wrote ‘Narrative of Henry Box Brown : who escaped from slavery enclosed in a box three feet long and two wide and two and a half high’

And William and Ellen Craft wrote ‘Running a thousand miles for freedom