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History of the slave trade can help to combat injustice - UN

Remembering the universal demand for freedom that led to the 1791 insurrection by slaves in what is now Haiti, the head of the United Nations cultural and educational agency today marked the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition by underscoring the importance of teaching this history to young people.

“We are counting on the teaching of this history to place tomorrow's citizens on the path to peace and dignity,” said Irina Bokova, in a message to mark the Day, which is observed annually on 23 August.

Ms. Bokova is the Director-General of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which has played a leading role within the UN system in fostering understanding and recognition of the slave trade.

[ testimonial author="Irina Bokova" title="Director General of UNESCO" avatar="../images/2017/bokovasm.png" icon="icon" ] “Everyone must know the scale of the crime of the slave trade, the millions of lives broken and the impact on the fate of continents up to this very day. Everyone must be fully informed of the struggle that led to its abolition, so that together we can build societies that are fairer, and thus freer,” [ /testimonial ]

She pointed to modern slavery and human trafficking, as well as ongoing social injustices, racism and racial discrimination, and said the legacy of the 1791 insurrection offer hope to eradicating those scourges.

To honour the history of the slave trade and its abolition, UNESCO earlier this year added to its World Heritage List the Mbanza Kongo, Vestiges of the Capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo (Angola) and the Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site (Brazil), as an acknowledgement of their “outstanding universal value.”

The Slave Route project, established in 1994, consists of creating opportunities to promote mutual understanding and international reconciliation and stability through consultation and discussion. It also raises awareness, promotes debate and helps build consensus on approaches to be taken on addressing the issue of the slave trade and slavery.

This year, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is also part of the International Decade for People of African Descent, which began in 2015, and seeks to help boost political commitments in favour of people of African descent.

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Jamaica, New York and Liberia schools connect to remember the victims of the slave trade

12 May 2017 - The United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) partnered with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) and Links, Inc. to organize its ninth annual Remember Slavery Global Student Videoconference on 12 May.  At  9:30 a.m. the event will linked high school students at United Nations Headquarters in New York to their counterparts in Kingston, Jamaica, and Monrovia, Liberia.  The 2017 theme is “Remember Slavery:  Recognizing the Legacy and Contributions of People of African Descent”.

Students had the opportunity to learn about the specific consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, in particular the ways in which enslaved Africans and their descendants influenced and continue to shape societies around the world, including in the areas of technology and culture.  They also discussed the persistent spirit and innovation of the people in communities affected by the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Richard Benjamin, Head of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, United Kingdom gave a expert presentation on Black achievement which was followed by presentations from students on their research on Black achievers leading up to the conference. Soré Agbaje, a graduate of Urban Word NYC, an organization that provides free literary arts education and youth development programmes to teenagers across New York City delivered a spoken word performance. Special guest speakers included José Luis Fialho Rocha, Permanent Representative of Cabo Verde to the United Nations, and Pennelope Althea Beckles, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago.

The conference participants also learned about The Ark of Return, which is  the Permanent Memorial at United Nations Headquarters to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

  
The Remember Slavery Programme is managed by the Education Outreach Section of the Department of Public Information. It was established by the General Assembly in 2007 to further remembrance of and learning about the causes, consequences, lessons and legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and slavery.  It also aims to raise awareness of the dangers of racism and prejudice today, through activities held around the world by the global network of United Nations information centres and educational materials produced throughout the year.

To learn more about the United Nations Remember Slavery programme, please visit rememberslavery.un.org.

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US removal of textbook with ‘distorted’ depiction of slavery from classrooms applauded by UN experts

5 January 2017 – A team of United Nations human rights experts is supporting a recent decision by a United States school district in Connecticut to remove offensive and inaccurate historical information about slavery from its classrooms.

The information was part of a textbook, The Connecticut Adventure, and stated that slaves in the state of Connecticut were often treated like family members, “taught to be Christian,” and sometimes to read and write. It was taught to students aged nine to 10 until district officials removed it because its depiction of slavery was inaccurate, simplistic, and offensive.

“The chapter discussing the history of slavery in Connecticut is a distortion of the true nature of enslavement,” announced Ricardo Sunga, a human rights expert who is the leader of an expert panel set up by the UN Human Rights Council to study racial discrimination around the world.

“Enslaved people in Connecticut, like those in the American South before the Civil War, were trafficked against their will, had their fundamental right to life, liberty, and property taken away from them, faced similar levels of exploitation, and were subjected to the most dehumanizing treatment imaginable,” said Mr. Sunga.

He added that students need to know that enslaved people were never treated as “family.”

Following the decision by the Norwalk, Connecticut school district, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent has urged that other districts throughout the US – and other countries around the world – follow the example of promoting historical accuracy.

The Working Group is also urging the US Department of Education and other school districts in the US and other countries to review textbooks and educational materials in order to determine whether they accurately depict slavery. Where appropriate, they urge officials to remove inaccurate or distorted information from classrooms.

“These deeply offensive texts should be replaced with accurate depictions of history which convey the message of the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings,” Mr. Sunga emphasized.

“Educators and publishers have a responsibility to ensure that textbooks and other educational materials accurately reflect historical facts on tragedies and atrocities – in particular, slavery, the transatlantic trade in African people, and colonialism.

“This will avoid stereotypes and the distortion or falsification of these historical facts, which may lead to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia, and related intolerance,” he added.

Independent experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. They work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work and are independent from any government or organization, and serve in their individual capacity.

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