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The Slave Trade at Dumfries Museum

Curated by Frances Wilkins, it coincides with the publication of her book on the subject. Both the exhibition and the book are the result of exhaustive research which has revealed a much greater involvement in the slave trade by the region’s 18th century merchants and sea captains than has hitherto been understood.

The exhibition explores how the region was involved, for example through the voyages from Dumfries and Kirkcudbright to Africa that delivered slaves to the North American states of Virginia and Maryland. Local man, John Graham, helped establish the town of Dumfries in Virginia as the second largest port in North America, exporting tobacco grown on plantations worked by slaves.  On this side of the Atlantic, Dumfries and Kirkcudbright were both ports through which tobacco was imported in the mid eighteenth century, and from where it was exported to Scandinavia, Holland or France. 

For the cause of abolition, William McMorrine, Minister at Caerlaverock Church, asked Dumfries synod to petition parliament to abolish the traffic in slaves in 1788, but Moffat born William Dickson was perhaps the most prominent campaigner from the region.  He had been secretary to the Governor of Barbados but in 1792, after his return to London, he travelled from Inverness to Kirkcudbright, handing out booklets about the slave trade.  He hoped that these would persuade local groups to petition parliament to reconsider abolishing the trade from Britain. 

In 1807 the “Kitty’s Amelia” was the last slave ship to sail legally from Britain.  It belonged to George and Robert Tod, by then merchants in Liverpool, but originally from Moffat.

Dumfries Museum is open from Monday – Saturday 10am to 5pm, and Sunday 2pm to 5pm. Admission is free.

The image shows beads, "used in barter in the slave trade on the west coast of Africa about 1780".