Today is March 25, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It is the occasion to remember those who fell victim to the brutal slavery system defined by the ruthless Transatlantic slave trade for over four centuries.
The slave trade had abused 17 million Africans and deprived them of human rights and dignity. This day is observed to spread awareness about the menace of racism and prejudice, forced labour and human trafficking in the current times.
A memorial has been put up at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York to pay tribute to the victims of slavery. The memorial called the Ark of Return made by Haitian-American architect Rodney Leon was selected in September 2013 through an open competition. It was unveiled on March 25, 2015.
The General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 62/122 of December 17, 2007, announced March 25 as the international day to remember the victims of slavery and the Transatlantic slave trade and that it would be observed every year. It also asked to make the future generations aware about the Transatlantic slave trade - its causes, consequences and lessons.
What was the notorious Transatlantic slave trade?
The Transatlantic slave trade is often seen as the earliest system of globalisation which existed from the 16th to the 19th century. It constituted one of the greatest tragedies in the history of mankind whereby millions of Africans were uprooted from their homes and deported to the American continent and sold and bought as slaves. The human trade was a major determining factor in the world economy of those days.
The Transatlantic slave trade had three major characteristics that made it unique. First, it lasted approximately four centuries which is a big time frame; it victimised black African men, women and children and a legitimisation of the practice and the development of an anti-black ideology and a legal organisation - the Code noir which defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire since the late 17th century.
Transatlantic slave trade also a triangular trade
The Transatlantic slave trade was also known as the triangular trade for it linked the economies of three continents, namely, the Americas, Europe and Africa. The Transatlantic slave trade alone had seen deportation of 17 million people and this figure excluded those who either died in transition or in wars.
The trade pattern was also unique. The ships first left western Europe for Africa with goods that were to be exchanged for captive slaves. These commodities included, besides weapons, textiles, pearls, drinks, etc.
Therafter, these slaves were taken to the Americas across the Atlantic for sale. In the concluding step, the slave traders brought back from the Americas agricultural goods produced by the slaves. Sixteenth century English trader Sir John Hawkins is considered the pioneer of the triangular trade and he had made immense profits through this notorious transaction of human beings.
Besides England, countries like Spain, Portugal, France and the Netherlands had indulged in the triangular trade which lasted about 18 months. They only cared to transport the maximum number of slaves to reap the maximum benefit and this had made the lives of the slaves no better than abused animals, especially in transit.
Remembering Uncle Tom's Cabin
It was during this dark phase of slavery that Harriet Beecher Stowe had penned her acclaimed novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. The anti-slavery novel which had moved each of its reader, was published in 1852 and according to many, it had laid the foundation of the American civil war in the mid-19th century in which the anti-slavery northern states led by Abraham Lincoln had eventually prevailed over the pro-slavery south to hasten the downfall of the inhuman practice. Though not confirmed, it is said that Lincoln himself had credited Stowe, a teacher by profession, for starting the great war.