On August 23rd, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade & its Abolition is set aside to pause and remember the tragedy of the slave trade.
The transatlantic slave trade existed from the 16th through 19th centuries. Most of the slaves came from central and western Africa. Over 400 years, nearly 13 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to become slaves. Each passage across the ocean had a high death rate. About 2.4 million Africans died while being transported. Besides dying of disease and starvation, many slaves experienced other atrocities such as sexual abuse, being chained together, and enduring intense heat. Some of them were thrown overboard in the hopes of stopping the disease from spreading.
It wasn’t until the night of August 22-23, 1791 that the first uprising against the slave trade happened. The event occurred in Santo Domingo (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Black revolutionaries rebelled against slave owners. In 1804, these revolutionaries crushed Napoleon’s army. Along with defeating the French troops, the revolutionaries defeated the Spanish and British armies. These victories set the stage to abolish the entire transatlantic slave trade.
In 1808, importing slaves to the United States became illegal. Britain followed suit in 1833. It wasn’t until 1850 that Brazil outlawed the slave trade.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Each year individuals and organizations around the world organize events to commemorate the observance. The goal of these events is to educate the public about the negative consequences of the slave trade. Some choose to do this through artistic expression, while others give lectures.
Some ways for you to observe this day include:
Learn the history of the slave trade
Think about how history has changed as a result of the abolition of the slave trade
Watch Roots, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or other movies that tackle slavery
Visit a museum or historic site that educates the public on the slave trade (if you don’t have one in your community, you can find one online)
UNESCO adopted August 23rd as the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition in 1997. In 1998, several countries organized cultural events and debates to celebrate the day. Through the years, the UN has invited people all over the world to express their resistance against slavery.