International Day for Remebrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition

 As a reminder to the world of the tragedy of the transatlantic slave trade and to give the people a chance to think about the historic causes, the method, and consequences of the slave trade, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is observed on August 23 each year.

The event falls on the day in August 23, 1791, when an uprising broke out in Sto. Domingo, today known as the two countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic that saw the beginning of the end of the transatlantic slave trade.

Slavery has existed since ancient times. Many societies made provisions for it within their structures. The expansion of slavery was often a by-product of empire building, as a dominant power turned its prisoners of war into slaves.

The most extensive was the transatlantic slave trade. Expanding European empires in the New World lacked one major resource – a work force. In most cases indigenous peoples had proved unreliable, most of them dying from diseases brought over from Europe, and Europeans were unsuited to the climate and suffered under tropical diseases.

The Africans on the other hand, were excellent workers and they often had experience in agriculture and caring for cattle, they were used to a tropical climate, resistant to tropical diseases, and they could endure working in plantations or in mines.

The transatlantic slave trade began around the mid-fifteenth century when Portuguese interests in Africa moved away from the fabled deposits of gold to a much more readily available commodity – slaves. By the 17th century, the trade was in full swing, reaching a peak towards the end of the eighteenth century.

Approximately 17 million African men, women, and children – excluding those who died aboard the ships and in the course of wars and raids connected to the trade – were traded on this route.  Twenty-five to 30 million were sold as slaves in the combined slave trading systems.

Although slavery was officially abolished in the Americas in the 19th century, slavery and related forms of coerced labor still exist today in many countries of the world. Millions of people are living in bondage – they labor in fields and factories under ruthless employment who threaten them with violence if they try to escape.

They work in homes for families that keep them virtually imprisoned. They are forced to work as prostitutes or beg in the street, fearful of the consequence if they fail to earn their daily quota.

As we observe the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition we are reminded to understand and reconstruct the threads of sometimes conflicting narratives that fill the silences of the past and to reaffirm our commitment to the basic values and fundamental beliefs that all people deserve to live and work in safety and dignified atmosphere.

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