Global, 23 August 2023 (TDI): The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, observed annually on August 23, commemorates the pivotal events of August 22-23, 1791, in Saint Domingue (now Haiti).

These events marked the beginning of significant uprisings that ultimately played a crucial role in ending the transatlantic slave trade.

Monument of Slaves in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania-TDI
Monument of Slaves in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania-TDI

The transatlantic slave trade involved the shipment of over four million slaves to Brazil from the African coast during the 16th century and beyond.

Abolitionists successfully ended this practice in 1888. However, today, descendants in the Danda community, a quilombo, are fighting for their right to land that their ancestors once inhabited and worked for generations.

Also Read: UNICEF Report on Modern Slavery

Driven by racist ideologies, the transatlantic slave trade enslaved over 13 million Africans, leading to the separation of families and countless lives lost.

Despite enduring severe human rights violations and intergenerational trauma, enslaved people displayed resilience, courage, and defiance against the conditions of enslavement.

In order to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to establish a Permanent Memorial on the grounds of the United Nations in New York City in 2007.

In 2011, together with UNESCO, the Permanent Memorial Committee launched a design competition. The Ark of Return by Haitian-American architect, Rodney Leon, was chosen among 310 entries from 83 countries.

The Permanent Memorial was unveiled on March 25, 2015, marking the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

It is located on the United Nations Visitors Plaza in New York, inviting people to contemplate the legacy of the slave trade and to fight against racism and prejudice today.

The Ark of Return – The Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade at the United Nations

The racist legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade persists today in harmful prejudices and beliefs affecting people of African descent worldwide.

As such, transformative education is vital in teaching and learning about slavery to combat racism and build inclusive societies based on human rights for all.

Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, emphasizes the urgent need to eradicate human exploitation entirely and recognize the inherent dignity of every individual.

She calls for the remembrance of both the victims and the champions of freedom from the past, hoping their legacy will inspire future generations to build equitable societies.

Similarly, the United Nations Secretary-General stresses the importance of paying tribute to the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, a crime that lasted over 400 years.

Millions of Africans were forcibly trafficked across the Atlantic, and stripped from their families and homelands. Slavery’s history reflects humanity at its worst and its best, exemplified by the resilience of enslaved people and the efforts of abolitionists.

Furthermore, the President of the United Nations General Assembly emphasizes the horrific nature of the crime, which spanned over 400 years, involved over 15 million people, and was supported by laws of the time.

He highlights the need to acknowledge the responsibility of entities and individuals who profited from slavery.

The Day of Remembrance provides a space to reflect on this dark chapter in history, honouring the victims and expressing gratitude to those who stood against it.

This year’s theme, “Fighting slavery’s legacy of racism through transformative education,” underscores the importance of preserving historical understanding to combat racism.

Ultimately, the global community has a duty to remember and acknowledge this history as it strives to build more equitable societies.