Abolition to be remembered in future years

Published 13 December 2007

The Government today confirmed that the 23 August - UNESCO's day for the International Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition - will be adopted as the focal date for national commemorations in the years to come.

The message of this Bicentenary has been 'reflecting on the past looking to the future' and over the past 12 months the nation has done just that as the bicentenary end of year booklet published today demonstrates. All across the country people have taken the opportunity to better understand this important and inescapable part of our history, recognise the achievements of the abolition movement and ensure that the history and impact of the slave trade is not forgotten.

A strong theme to come out this year was the need to remember abolition in future years. In addition to the August date for national commemorations the history and impact of the slave trade will become a compulsory element in schools from next September.

The Government has renewed its commitment to tackling the legacy of slavery: the challenges facing modern Africa and addressing modern slavery in all its forms. In March the Home Secretary signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings which has strengthened our efforts to prosecute traffickers and give victims greater support. We doubled our aid to Africa by 2010 and under the £8.5bn 'Education for Every Child' programme made a commitment to provide enough school places for 15 million children over the next ten years.

Speaking at the new permanent gallery - 'London, Sugar and Slavery' - in the Museum in Docklands, Communities Minister Parmjit Dhanda thanked the 2007 Bicentenary Advisory Group an independent group of key stakeholders who have provided advice on the Governments Bicentenary activity throughout the year. He said:

"I am delighted to confirm that we will adopt 23 August - UNESCO day - as the focal date for future abolition commemorations.

"This Bicentenary year has seen a remarkable coming together of communities, voluntary groups, and Government at all levels to mark abolition. People across the country have been reminded of the suffering of millions who were enslaved; celebrated the courage of those who struggled for emancipation; and recommitted this country to the struggle against the unacceptable forms of slavery which sadly still persist.

"This year we have also rightly had an opportunity to celebrate the enormous contribution Black African and Black Caribbean communities make in Britain. However, we need to take targeted action to deal with the legacy of inequality in relation to education, employment and race still faced by some parts of those communities. In response to recent REACH report we announced a package of measures aimed at countering a culture of low aspirations and low attainment amongst some Black boys and young Black men and help ensure they reach their full potential."

Also speaking at the Museum in Docklands about the wide range of cultural activity that has taken place over the past year, Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said:

"Understanding the slave trade and its legacy is vital to broadening our history and recognition of the challenges we still face as a society today. There have been moving events in museums, galleries, schools, libraries and town halls up and down the country this year. We now have a permanent cultural legacy in our museums such as in the inspiring Museum here in the Docklands and the International Slavery Museum Liverpool."

"With the 23 August set to be a national day of commemoration in years to come, I hope that cultural sector across the country will continue to mark the day and inspire and move people just as they did this past year with a range of commemorative events - from displays, lectures, to religious services and plays."

In the coming years groups looking to mark the 23 August will be able to apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund for support. They will also be able to apply to the Big Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

Notes to editors

1. UNESCO's General Conference in 1997 decided that 23 August should be designated "International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition". The night of 22 to 23 August 1791, in Santo Domingo (now 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. UNESCO chose this date as a reminder that enslaved Africans were the main agents of their own liberation.

2. The Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) have called for a UN resolution to designate 25 March as an annual International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, beginning in 2008, as a complement to the existing UNESCO International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its abolition.

3. London, Sugar and Slavery the new permanent gallery in the Museum in Docklands opened top the public for the first time on 10 November Set in a former sugar warehouse built to store produce from the Caribbean plantations, the Museum is tangible evidence of London's connections with slavery

4. The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded over £13 million to more than 145 bicentenary projects over the year. Much of this money has gone to small, community groups, who can focus specifically on local stories. Museums, libraries and galleries form a crucial part of local communities. They reflect the history of that community and pass on its history from generation to generation.

5. The Way Forward, the bicentenary end of year booklet is available at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/wayforward. The magazine, Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807 - 2007 is available to download from: www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1508984. Paper copies can be ordered free of charge by phoning 0870 122 6236 and quoting product code 06 REU 04476.

6. March 2007 saw the UK Sign, on the abolitonists table, the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings reinforcing our work to confront modern forms of slavery and prosecute traffickers.

7. Education is a fundamental tool to empower people to escape poverty and exploitation of contemporary forms of slavery. The Government's 'Education for Every Child' initiative announced by Gordon Brown has pledged £8.5 billion that will benefit ten million children. With funding of £7.5 million over three years DfID's Global School Partnership builds links between schools in the UK and Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

8. The new Key Stage 3 curriculum - pupils will continue to learn about the importance and impact of events in the last century, such as the World Wars and the Holocaust. The history and impact of slavery will be added to the curriculum with explicit references about the role of reformers such as William Wilberforce.

9. A National Service of Commemoration was held at Westminster Abbey on 27 March 2007. In addition the Royal Mint and Royal Mail have produced special commemorative stamps and coins to mark the bicentenary.


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