An International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Human Wrongs Watch

23 August 2014 — The night of 22 to 23 August 1791, in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) saw the beginning of the uprising that would play a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.


Photo from UNESCO

International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is intended to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples. In accordance with the goals of the intercultural project “The Slave Route“, it should offer an opportunity for collective consideration of the historic causes, the methods and the consequences of this tragedy, and for an analysis of the interactions to which it has given rise between Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.*

The Director-General of UNESCO invites the Ministers of Culture of all Member States to organize events every year on that date, involving the entire population of their country and in particular young people, educators, artists and intellectuals.

Photo from UNESCO

Photo from UNESCO

International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was first celebrated in a number of countries, in particular in Haiti (23 August 1998) and Goree in Senegal (23 August 1999).

Cultural events and debates too were organized. The year 2001 saw the participation of the Mulhouse Textile Museum in France in the form of a workshop for fabrics called “Indiennes de Traite” (a type of calico) which served as currency for the exchange of slaves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


In 2014, UNESCO celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the Slave Route Project, launched in 1994 in Ouidah (Benin) to promote the achievements and prospects of this project, which are more relevant than ever to UNESCO’s mandate.

The main objectives of the project are to ‘break the silence’ on the slave trade, slavery and their consequences, to highlight the resulting global transformations and to promote intercultural dialogue and the shared heritage born of this human tragedy.

Photo from UNESCO

Photo from UNESCO

Through a holistic and reconciliatory approach and its multisectoral and interdisciplinary activities, the project has actively contributed to the ongoing debate regarding the appropriate recognition of these events and the management of this common heritage in modern societies.

The project has had a significant impact and contributed to the recognition of the slave trade and slavery as a crime against humanity by the international community in 2001.

Through scientific research on little-known or unexplored topics , the publication of books and reference materials and educational materials as well as the inventorying of sites and places of memory, the project has actively participated in enhancing awareness of this slavery and its consequences.

Resolution 37 C/Res1.VI adopted at the 37th session of UNESCO’s General Conference requests the Director-General “to develop and implement a programme of activities to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the project in different regions of the world” and to ensure the success of this celebration.

For this purpose, UNESCO, members of the Scientific Committee and the project partners are planning to organize, throughout 2014, activities and events in different regions of the world.

This celebration is also part of the 50th anniversary of the General History of Africa project, which had also contributed to a better understanding of this tragedy. In addition, it prefigures the launch in January 2015, of the Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) in which UNESCO intends to participate actively through its various programs and particularly the Slave Route Project.

– See more at:

*Source: UNESCO Release.

Read also:

2014 Human Wrongs Watch

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