The Workers Party has marked the anniversary of the death of Henry Joy McCracken to highlight the links between today’s Black Lives Matter campaign and the anti-slavery movement in Belfast in the late 1700’s.
Party members handed out leaflets in Belfast’s Cornmarket this afternoon drawing the parallels between the local opposition to the slave trade then, and the struggle to overcome the systematic targeting of black people for discrimination and oppression today. A poem recalling Henry Joy’s life and death, written by veteran Party member Marian Donnelly, was also recited.
The ‘United Irishmen’ of McCracken, Jemmy Hope , Thomas Russell and others were appalled by the practice of slavery. They attacked it in their publications. They applauded the liberation of slaves by French troops. They expressed their solidarity with the uprising in Barbados in 1795. They organised campaigns against the consumption of tea, rum and sugar as the products of slave labour.
Mary Ann McCracken, led by example. She refused to eat sugar and even in her later years she could be seen handing out leaflets at Belfast Docks highlighting the evils of slavery and demanding its abolition.
These were radical thinkers and activists who were unquestionably ahead of their time. They recognised the link between social and economic inequality and the demand for political change and,of course for the unity of Catholic Protestant and Dissenter. Today that struggle continues as we strive for a socialist, secular and anti- sectarian society