Cayenne, 10 June 2022 (TDI): Every 10 June, French Guiana observes Abolition Day as a public holiday. It is also known as Emancipation Day in some circles.

The region’s government recognized the day as a holiday in 2012. Although the historical event dates back to the abolition of slavery in the colony in 1848.

French Guiana is a French overseas region/department in South America bordering Suriname and Brazil. The region is fully integrated into the French Republic and is a part of the European Union.

Celebrations include traditional regional music and the drums to “remember and forever banish slavery in all its forms.”

The region’s government officials and people paid tribute at the foot of the Statue of the Maroons of Liberty. 

Background

In the late 1700s, the French colonized what is now French Guiana. They lost it to Portugal in 1809 but reclaimed it in 1814.

The French soon brought Black African slaves to the colony to work on the sugar and spice plantations.

France, like the other major European countries at the time, was eager to expand its reach into the new world. It created colonies on the American continent and also seized control of several Caribbean islands.

These new settlements needed a plentiful supply of workers to drive labor-intensive activities with high mortality rates such as sugar cane plantations.

The French, like other nearby empires, turned to slaves from Africa. By 1778, the French had imported 13,000 Africans for enslavement in the French West Indies.

Louis X of France outlawed slavery in the Kingdom of France in 1315, but the rule never applied to the colonies, despite an attempt in the 16th century to extend it to all areas of the Kingdom.

Abolition

The French government abolished slavery in France and all of its overseas holdings on April 27, 1848. Under the Second French Republic, the Schleper decree-law abolished slavery in all French colonies, with general and unconditional emancipation.

However, the news did not reach the region until June 10 due to the distance. As a result, the date of this holiday is commemorated on June 10.

The abolition of slavery had a significant impact on life in French Guiana. Presently, People of African descent are the largest ethnic group in the region.

Moreover, Abolition Day also serves to emphasize the importance of freedom to all residents of French Guiana and to motivate individuals to take constructive efforts to eliminate other social injustices or to strive for social change.

Other countries of the Americas also celebrate abolition day on their respective days of the end of slavery.

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