International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is a United Nations international observance designated in 2007 to be marked on 25 March every year…
2019 Theme: “Remember Slavery: The Power of the Arts for Justice”
The day honours and remembers those who suffered and died as a consequence of the transatlantic slave trade, which has been called “the worst violation of human rights in history”, in which over 400 years more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims
Since the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the arts have been used to confront slavery, empower enslaved communities and honour those who made freedom possible. They have also been vital tools in commemorating past struggles, highlighting ongoing injustices and celebrating the achievements of people of African descent. The 2019 theme therefore draws attention to the many examples of artistic expression – including memorials, music, dance and architecture – that have helped us to remember the history and consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the tragic transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history.
Every year on 25 March, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade offers the opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system. The International Day also aims to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.
In order to more permanently honour the victims, a memorial has been erected at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The unveiling took place on 25 March 2015. The winning design for the memorial, The Ark of Return Video by Rodney Leon, an American architect of Haitian descent, was selected through an international competition and announced in September 2013.
What Do People Do?
Each year the UN invites people all over the world, including educators, students, and artists, to organize events that center on the theme of this day. Theatre companies, cultural organizations, musicians, and artists take part on this day by expressing their resistance against slavery through performances that involve music, dance, and drama.
Educators promote the day by informing people about the historical events associated with slave trade, the consequences of slave trade, and to promote tolerance and human rights. Many organizations, including youth associations, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations, actively take part in the event to educate society about the negative consequences of slave trade.
The UN’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is a United Nations observance worldwide but it is not a public holiday.
In late August 1791, an uprising began in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) that would have a major effect on abolishing the transatlantic slave trade. The slave rebellion in the area weakened the Caribbean colonial system, sparking an uprising that led to abolishing slavery and giving the island its independence. It marked the beginning of the destruction of the slavery system, the slave trade and colonialism.
International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was first celebrated in many countries, in particular in Haiti, on August 23, 1998, and in Senegal on August 23, 1999. Each year the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reminds the international community about the importance of commemorating this day. This date also pays tribute to those who worked hard to abolish slave trade and slavery throughout the world. This commitment and the actions used to fight against the system of slavery had an impact on the human rights movement.
UNESCO’s logo features a drawing of a temple with the “UNESCO” acronym under the roof of the temple and on top of the temple’s foundation. Underneath the temple are the words “United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization”. This logo is often used in promotional material for the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.
Message of the United Nations Secretary-General for 2019
The transatlantic slave trade was one of history’s most appalling manifestations of human barbarity.
We must never forget the crimes and impacts, in Africa and beyond, across the centuries.
The United Nations Remember Slavery Programme helps to ensure that the lessons are learned and heeded today.
Enslaved people struggled against a legal system they knew was wrong.
On many occasions, they sacrificed their lives in the hope of freedom.
We need to tell the stories of those who stood up against their oppressors, and recognize their righteous resistance.
On this International Day of Remembrance, we pay homage to the millions of African men, women and children who were denied their humanity and forced to endure such abominable cruelty.
We honour them by standing up against ongoing forms of slavery, by raising awareness of the dangers of racism in our time, and by ensuring justice and equal opportunities for all people of African descent today.