Founders and Funders: Slavery and the building of a University

Founders and Funders: Slavery and the building of a University

Exploring legacies of slavery at the University

20 September 2023 to 23 March 2024

About the exhibition

'Founders and Funders: Slavery and the building of a University' exhibition explores how profits from slave trading, ownership of enslaved people, and manufacturing with slave-grown cotton funded the cultural and educational development of Manchester.

New research from students at The University of Manchester has traced the wealth of five of the most significant founders and funders of the institution to transatlantic enslavement and underpins this new exhibition. Artefacts and objects from the University's collections tell the story of these connections. 

The exhibition invites visitors to examine these rediscovered histories and help us answer the emerging question for the city of Manchester and the University: 'What should we do next?'

Items on display

  • Explore business records from Manchester manufacturers Owen Owens & Son and McConnel & Kennedy to trace their fortunes back to plantations in the US where enslaved workers grew cotton.
  • Read early documents from Owens College and the Manchester Mechanics' Institute to learn which Manchester businessmen were at the heart of founding these institutions
  • See rare books that were purchased using wealth generated through the cotton industry.

Student researchers and curators:

  • Nancy Adams
  • Faiza Azam
  • Jaden Haynes
  • Katie Haynes
  • Courtney Jones
  • Jeevan Kaur Sanghera

Special thanks to members of the Race, Roots and Resistance Collective's Legacies of Slavery at The University of Manchester Network including:

  • Dr Elizabeth Booth Ortiz, Centre for the Study of International Slavery, University of Liverpool
  • Dr David Brown, University of Manchester
  • Dr Jesús F. Cháirez-Garza, University of Manchester
  • Dr Matthew Stallard, University College London
  • Dr Jack Webb, University of Manchester
  • Dr Natalie Zacek, University of Manchester