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Hannah-Rose Murray

Research Associate

Thesis Title

  • "The Low Growl of the Lion": Transatlantic Abolitionism and African American Resistance in Britain 1845-1895

I am a research associate with the Rights Lab's Usable Past project, working on heritage and public history. My PhD thesis analyses analyses the legacy of formerly enslaved African Americans on British society and the myriad ways they resisted British racism. Individuals such as Frederick Douglass, Moses Roper, William and Ellen Craft, Henry ‘Box’ Brown and Josiah Henson used a variety of different performative techniques to counter racial stereotypes that people of African descent were inferior. They exploited abolitionist networks and the emerging industrialism in British society to travel thousands of miles and give hundreds of lectures. 

African Americans engaged in a strategy I term ‘adaptive resistance’, a multi-pronged oppositional strategy enacted via a medium of performance, by which African Americans challenged racial and gender stereotypes and won support for abolition. This resistance strategy employed both assimilation and dissonance as African Americans worked to secure their political agenda. They incorporated mimicry, minstrelsy, anglophilia, and exhibitions of their scars into their performances to create an aspect of the familiar to appeal to British audiences. To do this, black activists used language, images and actions as their weapons.

Black activists also practiced deliberate dissent against typical Victorian norms, from rejecting racism and racial science, asserting black masculinity and refusing to downplay the violence of slavery. They could use both in the same lecture, walking a tense tightrope between the two, negotiating and pushing the boundaries of both to fight traditional racial stereotypes.




  • Article - A 'Negro Hercules': Frederick Douglass' Celebrity in Britain, (forthcoming) Journal of Celebrity Studies
  • Book review - John Earnest, Douglass in His Own Time, (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014), Journal of American History
  • Book review - Laurence Fenton, Frederick Douglass in Ireland: The Black O’Connell, (Cork: The Collins Press, 2014), online review for the Institute of Historical Research
  • Book review - Max van Balgooy, Interpreting African American History and Culture at Museums and Historic Sites: Interpreting History Series, (London: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Inc., 2015), online review for the Institute of Historical Research
  • Frederick Douglass in Britain, USSO,, 13 October 2014
  • Review of Celebrity Encounters Conference, USSO,, 15 August 2014
  • ‘Frederick Douglass’ Transatlantic Legacy’, Crossfire Magazine, December 2013


  • “The Real Uncle Tom”: Josiah Henson in Britain 1877, Postcolonial and Memory Symposium, University of Nottingham, 10 June 2016
  • “He Did Not Know Why They Called Him Tom”: The African American Fight Against British Racism 1830-1895, SASA, University of Stirling, 5 March 2016
  • “Slaves did OK Here” – Nostalgia and Protest Memory as Competing Uses of the Past”, Antislavery Usable Past Workshop, Hull, October 2015
  • “The Foul Spirit of Slavery” – Racism and the Ferguson in a Transatlantic Context”, American Studies Association, Toronto, 8-11 October 2015
  • “A Monstrous Perversion and a Lying Invention” – Descriptions of American Slavery and Violence in the British Press” Loughborough University, 22-24 July 2015
  • “A British Bow to American Prejudice”: Frederick Douglass and the Crafts in Britain”, Centre for African American Research, Liverpool, June 2015
  • “Eloquence, Intelligence, and Nobility: Former Enslaved African Americans in Britain and the British Press”, Black Atlantic Symposium, 30 April-1st May 2015, University of Central Lancashire
  • “The Low Growl of the Lion”: Former Enslaved African Americans as Celebrities 1845-1895, BAAS Conference, Northumbria University, 9-12 April 2015
  • “Celebrity Symposium”, Leeds University, 6-7th January 2015
  • ‘The Legacy of Frederick Douglass in Britain’, as part of the 20th anniversary of the Frederick Douglass Institute, West Chester University, Philadelphia, Wednesday 15th October 2014
  • ‘A Negro Hercules: Frederick Douglass in Britain’, Celebrity Encounters Conference, University of Portsmouth, 4th-5th 2014"A Wall of Anti-slavery Fire" Frederick Douglass in Britain 1845-7", BASA Seminar at Senate House, 15 January 2013.

Public Engagement Activities

  1. British Library Labs Competition Finalist, 2016
  2. Lecture on African Americans in Britain, American Museum in Bath, March 2016. I am working with the volunteering coordinator to teach volunteers about nineteenth century American history, with a particular focus on slavery and abolition. After this initial lecture, they were very keen to have me back again to teach other seminars/provide lectures on other aspects of American history.
  3. Black Lives Matter Course, Nottingham, March 2016. Along with my supervisor Professor Zoe Trodd, I led a session on the role of white allies in the history of black civil rights movements, and the lessons we can learn from history about white involvement in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. I focused on Douglass and the paternalism of white abolitionists in Britain
  4. ‘London Spy: Screening and Q&A with Tom Rob Smith’, Broadway Cinema, Sunday 28 February (LGBT History Month)
  5. ‘Mojisola Adebayo: A Retrospective Performance’, Nottingham Writers Studio, Friday 19 February (LGBT History Month)
  6. ‘Hate Crime Event’, Five Leaves Bookshop, Thursday 18 February (LGBT History Month)
  7. ‘LGBT Rights are Human Rights’, University of Nottingham, Thursday 11 February (LGBT History Month)
  8. LGBT Film Festival, Nottingham Contemporary, Saturday 6February (LGBT History Month
  9. Co-organiser of the ‘October Dialogues’, the first conference in the UK dedicated to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This led to the creation of a Nottingham #BlackLivesMatter chapter.
  10. Screening of Fruitvale Station and post-film discussion, Wednesday 14 October 2015, Hallward Library Screening Room, University of Nottingham. I covered this event in a blog post for the University -


  • Adam Matthew Digital Essay Prize, March 2016 
  • Sir John Plumb Charitable Trust Award, 2016
  • Royal Historical Society Travel Grant, 2015
  • Graduate School Travel Prize, University of Nottingham 2015
  • Department of American and Canadian Studies Travel Prize, University of Nottingham, 2015

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