LIVERPOOL, England - Eric Lynch started walking the streets of Liverpool in search of his past, a story he now shares with visitors who want to probe the city's involvement in the slave trade.
"The problem in Liverpool, it's what I call a hidden history. Nobody wants to talk about it," said Lynch, a black Liverpudlian who launched his walking tours in 1970.
He points out the frieze around the top of the Town Hall, where images of African spears, barrels of rum, sugar and cotton recall how ships from Liverpool carried slaves from Africa to the New World and brought back cargoes from the plantations.
Liverpool, which became the greatest slave-trading port in Europe in the 18th century, has been in the spotlight this year as Britain marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in its territories.
On Aug. 23, the city will open an International Slavery Museum, greatly expanding the current exhibition in the Merseyside Maritime Museum on the Albert Dock.
Lynch said people who join his tours sometimes become upset by what they learn, but he said that isn't his objective. "I don't do it in a vindictive way. I tell people, you didn't do it, I didn't do it, but you have a right to this knowledge."
Information on Lynch's tours can be found at www.slavery
Other things to see this year in England related to the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade:
_ The Museum of London's "Hands Up for Freedom" exhibition, running through May 7, was developed by Anti-Slavery International to highlight contemporary forms of slavery; Museum of London, www.museumoflondon.
_ "Uncomfortable Truths," an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum through June 17, explores slavery through art collections, including objects from Ghana, representations of black people in 18th-century England and relations between Britain and the West Indies; www.vam.ac.uk/
_ London was the first English city to become involved in slave trading, and in October the Museum of Docklands will open a permanent gallery titled "London, Sugar and Slavery" to explore that history; www.museum
_ The city of Hull, 200 miles north of London, was the hometown of William Wilberforce, who led the campaign in Parliament to abolish the slave trade. The Wilberforce House Museum has been refurbished for the bicentenary and has new exhibitions; www.hull.ac.uk/wise/.
Hull's Wilberforce 2007 program is a busy year of events examining the history and legacy of slavery; www.wilberforce
_ The port city of Bristol, 120 miles southwest of London, was a major slave-trading port. The Museum of Bristol is developing new exhibitions on the city's involvement in the trade.
_ The Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery plans an exhibition from Sept. 29 to Jan. 13 on the life of Olaudah Equiano, a former slave who was a prominent campaigner against slavery in 18th century England.
U.S. travelers can get more information from Visit Britain, the tourism office, at 800-462-2748. *