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

Marking an inhuman era of human history

Can you believe there was an era in world history when another could own a human being? Though it would be a rare case in the contemporary society that is highly attentive to all possible ways to secure human rights, there has been a horrific era of slavery that has doubted the existence of humanity within the so-called humans.

The enslaved person was not considered a living being but a species of property which could be either a movable property like a cattle or an immovable property like real estate. They always had fewer rights than their master whereas, in some societies they had none. The slave was a “socially dead person” with no kith and kin as he/she was completely cut off from his/her natal descent. Adhering to all the social marginalization the slaves had to bear the pain and suffering in a cruel, lonely world.

Yet, the colonial masters could not trample slaves forever. It was in the night of 22-23 August in 1791 that saw the beginning of an uprising in Santo Domingo, in modern-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic against French colonial rulers which inspired the Haitian Revolution. The revolution continued fiercely influencing the colonizers and as a result, the British government passed an Act that abolished the slave trade throughout the British Empire in 1807. Yet, slavery persisted in the colonies until it was finally abolished in 1838. Likewise, the Haitian uprising played a major role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Thus, the 23rd of August is annually observed as the “International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition” starting from 1998 and the day is marked to “inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples” (UNESCO).

Every year the UNESCO Executive Board adopts a resolution to invite all member states to organize events to mark this day. The artists from theatre companies, orchestras, choirs and cultural organizations etc., participate on this day through performances expressing their resistance against slavery in artistic ways. The educators carry out awareness programs while informing historical events associated with the slave trade. Moreover, the active participation of youth associations and non-governmental organizations is another notable fact regarding this day.

Likewise, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition reminds humankind of their duty of securing and treating others with humanitarian qualities to make our earth a much better place to live.

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