Remembering Slavery

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James Field Stanfield

James Field Stanfield: an abolitionist, a poet, a theatrical manager and a philanthropist

James Field Stanfield (1749-1824) was the first ordinary seaman involved in the slave trade to write about its horrors. He became a supporter of the campaign to abolish the slave trade after his experience on a slave ship which he described as "a floating dungeon".


Read more information about James' experiences on a slaveship

In 1788 Stanfield wrote Observations on a Guinea Voyage, vividly describing his experiences on the voyage from Liverpool to Benin in West Africa. It was published as a series of letters addressed to Stanfield's friend and a leading anti-slavery campaigner, the Reverend Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson added this to the evidence collected for the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, of which he was a founding member.

Take a look

  • Anti-slavery handbill signed by James Field Stanfield.
  • James Field Stanfield (1749-1824). During his time living in Sunderland, James Field Stanfield was a principal founder of the town's Subscription Library in 1795 which was to also house the Sunderland Subscription Museum from 1810.

Read more information about James' later life

James Field Stanfield enjoyed a colourful career. After his experiences at sea, he became an actor and joined the Scarborough-Sunderland theatre circuit in 1789 and set up his own theatre company in 1799. Between 1793 and 1796 he temporarily gave up acting and became a brandy merchant in Sunderland, where he spent the next twenty years. His son, Clarkson Stanfield, was born in Sunderland and became a famous painter. Clarkson was named after the famous abolitionist Thomas Clarkson.

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