Today is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. Way back in 1791, on the night of August 22 into the morning of August 23, an uprising took place that shook the foundations of the system of slavery, and played a crucial role in the eventual abolishment of the transatlantic slave trade. The United Nations has chosen August 23 to commemorate that uprising, and to bring attention to slavery, which it calls "a tragedy of the past that questions our present."
So what happened that night in 1791? On the island of Santo Domingo (now shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic), a group of slaves attacked northern settlements controlled by white French settlers. The slaves were eventually forced to withdraw, and suffered an estimated 10,000 casualties in the fighting, but "the slave rebellion at Cap Francais set in motion events that culminated in the Haitian Revolution," according to the website Latin American Studies.
The UN's International Day of Remembrance was first celebrated in Haiti, where the 1791 uprising took place, in 1998. Since then, it has become a worldwide event, and this year a four-day seminar is taking place at the Fundação Cultural Palmares in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The subject is "Heritage, Identity and Culture: Management of sites and places of memory linked to the slave trade and slavery."
Alongside today's event, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been working on the Slave Route project since 1994. It's an attempt to examine the causes and history of slavery through dialogue, research and cultural promotion. Irina Bokova, head of UNESCO, said in a statement that "the history of the slave trade and its abolition has shaped the world in which we live. We are all heirs to this past, which has transformed the world's map, its laws, cultures and social relations."
For a look at what UNESCO calls "the diverse histories and heritages stemming from "the global tragedy of the slave trade and slavery," check out this video, 'Slave Routes: A Global Vision':
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