Cotton, Slavery and Freedom - Manchester's Sacrifice

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States. Photography © Adrian McGarry 2016

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States. Photography © Adrian McGarry 2016

In a small square, a few yards away from the expanse of Manchester's Albert Square, stands a statue of the 16th President of the United States. You could be forgiven for asking why Abraham Lincoln's likeness is positioned in a Manchester square that also takes his name? The answer traces back over 150 years to the American Civil War.

During the Industrial Revolution, Manchester became a powerful hub for the manufacture and commerce of textiles. The import of raw cotton was central to an industry that was creating vast wealth. The uncomfortable truth behind this proud city's growth was that the very product that built Manchester up from humble town into global powerhouse was picked by the hands of American slaves on the plantations of the US Southern States .

The statue commemorates protests by Manchester mill workers who supported President Lincoln's blockade of Confederate State ports during the American Civil War. This "heroic decision" to support the stand against slavery led to the closure of factories and caused great hardship for the workers.

This sacrifice by the "working men of Manchester" was recognised in a letter that Lincoln sent to them on January 19th 1863. The President praised the workers for their selfless act of "sublime Christian heroism, which has not been surpassed in any age or in any country." In January 1865, just months before Lincoln's assignation by John Wilkes Booth, Congress abolished slavery throughout the United States.

This statue was created by American sculptor George Gray Barnard and was originally intended for London but was rejected for aesthetic reasons. It was erected in Plattfields in 1919 then later moved to its current position when Lincoln Square was created in 1986.

Lincoln Square can be found on Brazennose Street, a pedestrian walkway that links Albert Square to Deansgate.