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Get to know Glasgow through a Slavery Trade History Walking Tour

Here’s what to expect on the next Slavery Trade History Walking Tour With CRER

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glasgow city chambers

When it comes to getting to know the city, walking tours are arguably one of the very best ways. While some tours lead the way to the city’s most-loved attractions and best-kept secret spots, the Slavery Trade History Walking Tour With CRER walks you through Glasgow’s mercantile past and examines the city’s connections with tobacco, slavery, and the abolition movement.

Pictured: The Statue of David Livingstone in front of Glasgow Cathedral (Credit -Theerada Moonsiri)

Organised by the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights or CRER, a Scottish strategic anti-racist organisation, this 2-hour walking tour visits 8-9 stops in the eastern part and city centre of Glasgow. The tour started at Cathedral Square, where Nelson Cummins, our tour guide and CRER’s Communities and Campaigns Officer, made a friendly introduction and set expectations for all participants.

Cummins invited us to take closer looks at the statue of David Livingstone and the bronze reliefs on four sides of the pedestal depicting Livingstone’s work as a missionary, an explorer, and an anti-slavery campaigner. Here, Cummins told us Livingstone’s story has more to it than meets the eyes, then led the way to the inside of Glasgow Cathedral.

Inside Scotland’s oldest cathedral and Glasgow’s oldest building, we were again asked to examine the memorials to soldiers from the wars in countries or territories, providing evidence of enslavement through and across time.

glasgow cathedral
Pictured: Inside of Glasgow Cathedral (Credit: Theerada Moonsiri)

The tour then moved to Shuttle Street and Ramshorn Graveyard, where Cummins talked about the backstory of many families with a connection to enslavement, such as the Oswald, the Buchanan, and the Maxwell. Along the way, our tour guide also mentioned Scotland’s finest poet Robert Burns and the poet’s past involvement with a slave plantation.

The next stop is George Square, where many of us walk past almost every day but have no idea who or what historic statues are dedicated to. We discussed the importance of how statues have been displayed and viewed historically and whether they are still needed in the present day.

Indeed, the tour took us to several spots known as Glasgow’s “famous” or “tourist” attractions, and we inevitably realise that they are in one way or another tied to the slavery economy in the past. We asked Cummins whether the narrative given during the tour would paint a rather grim, negative picture of these places.

I think the tour challenges the idea that history has a positive and negative. History is quite often more complex; there’s a full picture to it. I believe that this tour, by picking out spots quite often held as positive and shining the light on history that can seem negative, is more to highlight that this is the history that we’re not taught.

Cummins also added,"actually, having a positive and negative together gives a full picture, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t take the enjoyment from those sites by knowing the full history. I think it helps you to understand them more and understand the city on a deeper level from doing that as well."

The tour ends just outside of Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) where Cummins himself recites the legendary Maya Angelou’s quote that says:

gallery of modern art ?Pictured: Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (Credit: Theerada Moonsiri)

The tour definitely opened our eyes to the different angles of Glasgow that have often been left unsaid and untold. It encourages us to ask more questions and learn more about what’s around us and beyond. Especially for students new to Glasgow, Cummins added that “if you’re going to live somewhere, understanding the city can really help ground you. It can be quite empowering to have that knowledge about the city itself.


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