School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Image of Hannah-Rose Murray

Hannah-Rose Murray

PhD in American Studies and History, Faculty of Arts


Research Summary

Current Status

PhD (Full-time)

Research Title

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

Research Summary

I will analyse the influence of African Americans in British society in the mid nineteenth century, how they resisted British racism and impacted abolitionist reform networks. Black men and women enacted a resistance strategy via the medium of performance, which exhibited not the scarred black body of abolitionist rhetoric, but the black desire for, and ownership of, self-mastery, identity and their independence. This resistance strategy is unique because of the African American desire for shock tactics, and the decision to use their celebrity and subsequent controversy to champion support for abolition. I will build on Daphne Brooks' concept of resistance in which she describes how African Americans used 'Afro-alienation acts' as a performance strategy. African Americans used their horrifying experiences of slavery to inform their performance and systematically break down traditional racial and gender narratives. For example, Henry 'Box' Brown designed his own form of resistance that Brooks terms "escape artistry." I want to build on Brooks' argument and suggest the concepts of flexibility and celebrity are also central to a resistance strategy which I call personified insurgence. My work will also contribute to the study of Africans in Britain and for the first time I have confirmed that not only were Africans present at Douglass' meetings but they also used his antislavery platform to make political statements about their social condition.

My project will build on work I began during my Public History MA at Royal Holloway University, such as the creation of a digital resource about Douglass in Britain (

Research Interests

Transatlantic abolitionism; African American fugitive slaves and Africans in Britain; racial attitudes towards Africans in the c19th; American slavery and abolition; celebrity culture and performance in the nineteenth century;

Research Supervisors

Professor Zoe Trodd Professor Celeste-Marie Bernier

Previous Qualifications

BA History from UCL (2008-2011) MA Public History from Royal Holloway (2011-2012)

Conferences and Lectures

"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

October 2014, 'Frederick Douglass Conference', West Chester University, Pennsylvania. "The Legacy of Frederick Douglass in Britain."

July 2014, 'Celebrity Encounters Conference' at the University of Portsmouth. "A Negro Hercules: Frederick Douglass in Britain."

February 2013, Short speech at the dedication of a heritage plaque to Douglass in London

January 2013, 'A Wall of Antislavery Fire', BASA Lecture at Senate House

I have an article on Frederick Douglass' celebrity in Britain due for publication in the Journal of Celebrity Studies.

I have published numerous blog posts and articles on Douglass in Britain including the Black Presence website, Historical Honey; Black Atlantic; Public History Commons; and Crossfire, a Civil War Magazine.

I have worked in and volunteered for numerous heritage sites, including the British Museum, the Museum of London, SeaCity Museum in Southampton, and Hinton Ampner Historic House (under the National Trust). The majority of this work included helping school and community groups and providing tours for people of all ages.

I am the LGBT history month director for the Department of American and Canadian Studies in February 2016.

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