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International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition

Slavery hands

Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

In the night of 22 to 23 August 1791, men and women, torn from Africa and sold into slavery, revolted against the slave system to obtain freedom and independence for Haiti, gained in 1804. The uprising was a turning point in human history, greatly impacting the establishment of universal human rights, for which we are all indebted.

  All of humanity is part of this story, in its transgressions and good deeds.     

Irina Bokova
UNESCO Director-General

The courage of these men and women has created obligations for us. UNESCO is marking International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition to pay tribute to all those who fought for freedom, and, in their name, to continue teaching about their story and the values therein. The success of this rebellion, led by the slaves themselves, is a deep source of inspiration today for the fight against all forms of servitude, racism, prejudice, racial discrimination and social injustice that are a legacy of slavery.

The history of the slave trade and slavery created a storm of rage, cruelty and bitterness that has not yet abated. It is also a story of courage, freedom and pride in newfound freedom. All of humanity is part of this story, in its transgressions and good deeds. It would be a mistake and a crime to cover it up and forget. Through its project The Slave Route, UNESCO intends to find in this collective memory the strength to build a better world and to show the historical and moral connections that unite different peoples.

In this same frame of mind, the United Nations proclaimed the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). UNESCO is contributing to it through its educational, cultural and scientific programs so as to promote the contribution of people of African descent to building modern societies and ensuring dignity and equality for all human beings, without distinction.

UNESCO Member States organize events every year on that date, inviting participation from young people, educators, artists and intellectuals. As part of the goals of the intercultural UNESCO project, The Slave Route,it is an opportunity for collective recognition and focus on the "historic causes, the methods and the consequences" of slavery. Additionally, it sets the stage for analysis and dialogue of the interactions which gave rise to the transatlantic trade in human beings between AfricaEuropethe Americas and the Caribbean.

The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was first celebrated in a number of countries, in particular in Haiti on August 23, 1998 and Senegal  on August 23, 1999. A number of cultural events and debates were organized.


In 2001 the Museum of Printed Textiles (Musée de l'impression sur étoffes) in MulhouseFrance, conducted a fabric workshop entitled "Indiennes de Traite" (a type of calico) used as currency in trade for Africans.

United Kingdom, Liverpool

National Museums Liverpool and the black community in Liverpool have held events to commemorate Slavery Remembrance Day since 1999.  The Liverpool Slavery Remembrance Initiative - a partnership between National Museums Liverpool, individuals from the Liverpool Black community, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool Culture Company and The Mersey Partnership - was founded in 2006 to lead the organization of the event. The International Slavery Museum  in Liverpool opened its doors on August 23, 2007. The Walk of Remembrance through the city began in 2011, which has been led by Dr. Gee Walker since 2013.  The route passes the site of Old Dock  where slave ships were moored and repaired, and finishes at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Building where it is closed by a Libation  ceremony at Albert Dock.   


The inaugural Slavery Remembrance National Memorial Service was held on August 21, 2016 in Trafalgar Square.  The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich hosts an annual commemoration event on August 23rd which closes with a silent ceremony on the banks of the river Thames.      

(Source:  Wikipedia,

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