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Waking the Jane Austen Museum

By Lori Perkins


A lot of historical homes and museums are trying to re-examine their history and collections with an eye to the unspoken history of the houses and/or history of the extended families. This revisiting has come to the Jane Austen House Museum in England, and some museum go-ers and Austin fans are having a hard time adjusting to the fact that Austen’s family is tied to the slave trade in England.


The Museum has included information that Austen’s father was a trustee of an Antigua sugar plantation that used slaved labor, and this information is now presented in tours. The museum notes, “Austen lived during the era of slavery and the abolition by Britain of the Atlantic slave trade in 1807. We are increasingly asked questions about this by our visitors and it is therefore appropriate that we share the information and research that exists on her connections to slavery and its mention in her novels. This information is widely accessible in the public domain.”


The museum is in the English village of Chawton, where Austen lived from 1809 until shortly before her death in 1817 at age 41.


The more conservative English papers such as The Express have called this “woke madness while The Daily Mail said it was “a revisionist attack” and a “BLM-inspired interrogation.”