VOICES FOR FREEDOM
In February 2020, the Knights of Columbus Museum – now the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center – opened a display centered on two books written by the English abolitionist Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846). His writings were directed at ending the slave trade in the United Kingdom and encouraged other nations to do the same. The display included items from the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center and the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council Archives focusing on the period of segregation in the United States and the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century.
In addition to the display, the center has offered both in-person and the following online presentations, which are available for on demand viewing.
The display honors those who dedicated their lives to the cause of ending slavery, as well as those who fought – and continue to fight – to halt racial inequality. Their voices would not be silenced, and they demonstrated the perseverance and strength of the human spirit.
Clarkson was at the heart of the campaign to end slavery in the British Empire and its colonies. He heavily campaigned for abolition in other countries as well, including France and the United States.
Clarkson also wrote a series of letters to the French to demonstrate the horrors of slavery in the Caribbean French colonies. They included illustrations and maps of trade routes. The French abolished slavery in 1794, but it was rescinded by Napoleon in 1802. France would abolish slavery again in 1848.
History of the African Slave Trade was published in 1808, a year after the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire. The two-volume work documents the abolition movement throughout the British Empire from its beginnings to the U.K. Parliament’s passing of the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
The second volume includes images of the British slave ship Brookes, published by the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, of which Clarkson was a founding member, depicting how slaves were transported.
The Knights of Columbus Historical Commission published this book as part of its ethnic history series. W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) documents the extensive history of black American’s achievements and contributions that were made despite slavery and racial discrimination.
In 1895, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois became the first African-American to earn a doctorate (PhD) at Harvard University. An activist, scholar, and author of 17 books, Du Bois advocated that civil rights were prerequisites for economic independence. In 1909, he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with the aim to abolish segregation and increase educational opportunities for black students.
On June 17, 1963, President John F. Kennedy met with religious leaders from across the United States to discuss his administration’s efforts to confront and eliminate racial discrimination. These telegrams were the invitation to Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart to attend this meeting and his response.
Another meeting attendee was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The 35-year-old Baptist minister became a leader in the civil rights movement. Dr. King traveled more than 6 million miles and used nonviolent protest to advocate for an end to racial discrimination.