At 5.30 am on the morning of 1 August 1834, Taunton’s nonconformist chapels were filled for special services of prayer and thanksgiving. It was midnight in the West Indies and the moment when the Slavery Abolition Act finally came into effect. Later that morning the bells of the town churches rang out to welcome the day that ‘the atrocious system of slavery ceased, and liberty commenced’.

Document header for the Slavery Abolition Act

Worldwide events during our Covid-19 summer have been a reminder that the arc of history is sometimes much longer than we ever imagine – for the struggles and contentions from two centuries ago have not ceased to echo down the generations. History is now.

Black History Month is an important opportunity to reflect on Somerset and Devon’s many links to Black history and for the South West Heritage Trust to express its continuing commitment to the long process of revealing history’s hidden voices and lost perspectives. Throughout the month we’ll be publishing blogs and hosting online talks illustrating stories that range from ancient DNA and what we can learn from it to the experiences of the Windrush generation. Those stories are only a fraction of what there is to discover as we continue the journey to acknowledge the past and understand it better.