23 August: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave trade and of its Abolition
The night of 22 to 23 August 1791, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (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.
Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, 23 August 2013
Through their struggles, their desire for dignity and freedom, slaves contributed to the universality of human rights. We must teach the names of the heroes of this story, because they are the heroes of all humankind.
In paying tribute, on 23 August each year, to the women and men who fought this oppression, UNESCO wishes to foster reflection and debate on a tragedy that has left its mark on the world as it is today.
Under the Slave Route Project, UNESCO aims to reveal the extent and consequences of this human tragedy and to portray the wealth of the cultural traditions that African peoples have forged in the face of adversity – in art, music, dance and culture in its broader sense. This year, on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the Slave Route Project, I designated as a UNESCO Artist for Peace Mr Marcus Miller, who will undertake the mission of promoting the UNESCO Slave Route Project and conveying its message of respect through music. These endeavours will contribute to efforts for the Decade for People of African Descent (2013-2022), proclaimed by the United Nations in 2012.
The slave trade is not merely a thing of the past: it is our history and it has shaped the face of many modern societies, creating indissoluble ties between peoples and continents, and irreversibly transforming the destiny, economy and culture of nations. Studying this history is tantamount to paying tribute to freedom fighters and to acknowledging their unique contributions to the affirmation of universal human rights. They have set an example for us to continue the struggle for freedom, against racial prejudice inherited from the past and against new forms of slavery that subsist to this day and affect some 21 million people.
Today, I invite all governments, civil society organizations and public and private partners to redouble their efforts to transmit this history. May it be a source of respect and a universal call for freedom for future generations.
On this Day of Commemoration, UNESCO invites people around the world to remember, to reflect on the consequences of the past on our present, on the new requirements of living together in our multicultural societies and on the fight against contemporary forms of slavery of which millions of human beings are still victims.
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.
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.
Circular CL/3494 of 29 July 1998 from the Director-General to Ministers of Culture invites all the Member States to organize events to mark 23 August each year.
Decision 8.2 of the 150th session of the UNESCO Executive Board
The Executive Board,
1. Bearing in mind 20 C/Resolution 4/1.2/7 in which the General Conference invited the Director-General to provide moral and material assistance towards the organization, each year, of a Black Peoples’ Day,
2. Recalling 27 C/Resolution 3.13 in which the General Conference approved the implementation of the intercultural and interregional project entitled "The Slave Route",
3. Recalling also 28 C/Resolution 5.11 on the slave route and the proposal for the establishment at international level of remembrance of the slave-trade,
4. Further recalling that 23 August 1791 was the day on which the slaves of Saint-Domingue and Haiti rose up in rebellion, thus taking the first step towards the abolition of the slave-trade,
5. Noting with interest the support expressed for the UNESCO Slave Route project by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) at its twenty-eighth summit at Dakar in June 1992,
6. Endorses the general approach and conception proposed by the Director-General in document 150 EX/32 concerning the objectives and the programme for the establishment of the remembrance; Recommends that the General Conference:
(a) proclaim 23 August of every year 'International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition'; and
(b) submit to the United Nations General Assembly a request that all United Nations Member States
take part in this remembrance