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Stories rediscovered by young history lovers

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By Nicole

David Oluwale, victim of police harassment remembered by blue plaque in Leeds.

A somber new exhibition in Leeds tells the tragic tale of a man who drowned in the River Aire after experiencing racial harassment. David Oluwale is one of the intriguing historical characters whose lives have gone unwritten or are underrepresented in the exhibition Overlooked, which debuts at Leeds City Museum. David Oluwale was an apprentice tailor who immigrated to the UK from Nigeria in the 1940s. He went to Leeds, where he was regrettably singled out for discrimination due to his mental health, homelessness, and race.

After being bullied by Leeds City Police officers for years, he drowned in the River Aire on April 18, 1969. A variety of books, plays, and a recently built bridge bearing his name have all been inspired by the city’s tragic legacy left by the circumstances of his death. Additionally, a blue plaque honoring his life was put on Leeds Bridge last year; however, it was vandalized. But Leeds Civic Trust took its place as a result of the city’s very positive response.

Large selection of records and photographs will be on exhibit.

Some duplicates of David’s plaque with the words written by author and dramatist Caryl Phillips reading “The river tried to carry you away, but you stay with us in Leeds,” will be one of the items on exhibit as part of Overlooked. A selection of records from the National Archives, including court records and photographs, about David’s life and the police inquiry into his death will also be on exhibit. They consist of Gary Galvin’s original scrapbook, which he put together after reporting David’s abuse to West Yorkshire Police.

The Preservative Party, a group of history enthusiasts who range in age from 14 to 24, has been formed. For more than ten years, they have planned and curated exhibitions and displays for Leeds Museums and Galleries. The history of Leeds has been shaped by numerous intriguing people, each of whom has contributed in their own unique way to the city we know and love today, according to Jordan Keighley, curator of youth engagement at Leeds City Museum.

Two enslaved African Americans who fled slavery are featured in Overlooked.

Ellen and William Craft, two enslaved African Americans who fled slavery, are among the other stories featured as part of Overlooked. While traveling throughout the US, William pretended to be an enslaved person who belonged to Ellen, who was pretending to be a white guy. They ultimately left the US and arrived in Leeds, where they spoke and organized campaigns to rescue everyone who was still held captive. Lena Cromack, who worked alongside hundreds of other Leeds women at the Barnbow munitions plant during the First World War to help create between 300,000 and 400,000 ammunition rounds every week, is also on display.

There will be a lock of her hair on exhibit at the museum that she chopped off so she could work securely at Barnbow. In order to assist individuals in telling their own tales through the show, the Preservative Party also collaborated with nearby community organizations. This has included a collaboration with the Deaf Arts Forum, a small focus group that will be sharing their personal reflections and experiences in the exhibition through a series of short films and interviews covering subjects like deaf awareness, identity, culture, and community, as well as technology.

Modern Leeds is now proudly built on diversity.

Additionally, Overlooked includes a number of audio and video recordings of Leeds Older Peoples Forum participants and individuals with neurodivergence. The proud foundation of contemporary Leeds is based on inclusivity, diversity, and the celebration of people who contribute significantly to the city’s character as a whole. However, it hasn’t always been like that; there are people whose contributions have gone unappreciated and whose tales clearly need to be heard. It’s inspiring to see this team of enthusiastic young people working so hard to tell their stories to guests of all ages.

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