Aug. 23, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

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UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization instituted the observance 20 years ago on July 29, 1998, to recall the crucial importance of the transmission of history in order to shed light on the fight against all forms of oppression and racism today.

The day marks the anniversary of the 1791 uprising of enslaved men and women in the western part of the island of Santo Domingo, then a French colony, which on proclaiming its independence reverted to its original name, Haiti.

The revolt triggered a shockwave that has set the course of peoples’ liberation struggles and of human and civil rights movements for over 200 years. It crystallized the issues, concepts and principles with which it is essential to be familiar in the present fight against modern slavery and human trafficking.

Aug. 23, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Lessons of history

UNESCO counts on the teaching of this history to place tomorrow’s citizens on the path to peace and dignity.

The international observance “also helps to guard against racial prejudices that have been developed to justify slavery and continue to fuel everyday racism and discrimination against people of African descent,” said UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, in a message for Thursday’s observance.

Since 2001, trafficking and slavery have been recognized by the international community as crimes against humanity, but Azoulay observed that “these scourges resurface at regular intervals in different ways and in different places.” “That is why,” she said, “a better knowledge of the history of the slave trade and slavery is essential for a better understanding of the emergence of new forms of slavery, in order to prevent them.”

The Slave Route Project

To serve this purpose the UNESCO launched the ‘The Slave Route Project’ in 1994, which has made it possible to identify the ethical, cultural and socio-political issues of this painful history. The UNESCO chief said that by developing a multidisciplinary approach, which links historical, memorial, creative, educational and heritage dimensions, this project has contributed to enriching our knowledge of the slave trade and spreading a culture of peace.

Azoulay said that on this year’s International Day, UNESCO invites everyone, including public authorities, civil society, historians, researchers and ordinary citizens, to mobilize in order to raise awareness about this history that we share and to oppose all forms of modern slavery.