Building peace in the minds of men and women

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

23 August

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.

It is against this background that the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is commemorated on 23 August each year.

This International Day 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.

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.

The UNESCO Executive Board adopted Resolution 29 C/40 at its 29th session.

MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL

"This  23  August,  we  honour  the  memory  of  the  men  and  women  who,  in  Saint-Domingue  in  1791,  revolted  and  paved  the  way  for  the  end  of  slavery  and  dehumanization. We honour their memory and that of all the other victims of slavery, for whom they stand. (...) To  draw  lessons  from  this  history,  we  must  lay  this  system  bare,  deconstruct  the  rhetorical  and  pseudoscientific  mechanisms  used  to  justify  it;  we  must  refuse  to  accept  any  concession  or  apologia  which  itself  constitutes  a  compromising  of  principles.  Such  lucidity  is  the  fundamental  requirement  for  the  reconciliation  of  memory and the fight against all present-day forms of enslavement, which continue to affect millions of people, particularly women and children."

— Audrey Azoulay, Director General, Message on the occasion of the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

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