Slave Trade Abolition Commemorated

Slaves on the run in the Sudan - CSI.

Slaves on the run in the Sudan - CSI.

Tomorrow, Saturday August 23rd, is the United Nations’ annual International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition. Moreover, this year the annual commemoration coincides with the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade by the United States of America in 1808. As UNESCO’s Director General explains, “although this historic piece of legislation and similar abolition acts proclaimed in the early nineteenth century did not end the institution of slavery, they greatly contributed to dismantling the most long-lasting and widespread system of domination and oppression in human history.” (Incidentally, earlier this year the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights declared a separate first annual International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade on March 25th, in accord with a UN General Assembly passed in December of this last year. One wonders at the wisdom of two such commemorations in the course of each year.)

For those who are interested in understanding more about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Hugh Thomas has written an excellent, voluminous and comprehensive history, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440-1870. For an excellent work on the institution of slavery in America, there is still no better work than Kenneth M. Stampp’s forty-two year old classic, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South. (The library also has a copy of Mannix and Cowley’s Black Cargoes: A History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, which I have not yet read.)

For an introduction to the controversial question of continuing slavery in the Sudan, see the BBC’s brief May 2003 report on Thousands of Slaves in the Sudan, and Christian Solidarity International’s most recent CSI Field Trip Report January 2007. CSI also offers a Petition to establish a Slavery Commission in the Sudan to monitor the eradication of slavery.

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