Share this page

About The Slave Route

The Slave Route, Slave Route The Slave Route On 4 September 2015, UNESCO’s Slave Route project, in association with the Galerie Vallois, the cultural organization Fait à Cuba and the French National Committee for the memory and history of slavery (CNMHE), has organized an important event at UNESCO headquarters in order to explore the interactions between arts and the memory of slavery. More Ignorance or concealment of major historical events constitutes an obstacle to mutual understanding, reconciliation and cooperation among peoples. UNESCO has thus decided to break the silence surrounding the slave trade and slavery that have affected all continents and have caused the great upheavals that have shaped our modern societies. The Slave Route Project, launched in Ouidah, Benin, in 1994, has three objectives, namely to: Contribute to a better understanding of the causes, forms of operation, issues and consequences of slavery in the world (Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, Middle East and Asia); Highlight the global transformations and cultural interactions that have resulted from this history; and Contribute to a culture of peace by promoting reflection on cultural pluralism, intercultural dialogue and the construction of new identities and citizenships. The project has played a significant role in securing recognition by the United Nations, at the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban in 2001, of the slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity. General History of Africa © Sulaiman Ishola "African Faces", acrylic painting on Canvas UNESCO HQ (Paris) 16-19 June 2014 Meeting of the Scientific Committee for the Drafting of Volume IX In 1964, UNESCO launched the elaboration of the General History of Africa with a view to remedy the general ignorance on Africa’s history. The challenge consisted of reconstructing Africa’s history, freeing it from racial prejudices ensuing from slave trade and colonization, and promoting an African perspective. UNESCO therefore called upon the then utmost African and non African experts. These experts’ work represented 35 years of cooperation between more than 230 historians and other specialists, and was overseen by an International Scientific Committee which comprised two-thirds of Africans. The result was the elaboration of the General History of Africa into eight volumes (Phase I of the project). This huge task, completed in 1999, had a great impact in Africa and, beyond, within the scientific and academic circles and is considered as a major contribution to the knowledge of Africa’s history and historiography. Given its importance for humanity, the General History of Africa was translated into thirteen languages including English, French, Arabic, but also into three African languages. In pursuing its efforts for Africa, UNESCO has just launched the second phase of the project which is entitled “The Pedagogical Use of the General History of Africa”. The International Scientific Committee Meeting of the International Scientific Committee, Dec. 2004 © Christian Ndombi 18-20 November 2013 Rio de Janeiro (Brazil): Meeting of the International Scientific Committe (ISC) of the Slave Route Project The International Scientific Committee for the Slave Route Project was established in September 1994 by UNESCO (27 C/Resolution 3.13 of the General Conference). The role of this advisory body is to advise UNESCO on the implementation of the project, in particular with regard to the development of educational material and programmes, research into various aspects of the slave trade and slavery and the formation of new partnerships to promote its objectives. Initially composed of some 40 members, the Committee was restructured in 2005 following the recommendations of an external evaluation. New Statutes were drafted to make it more operational. It now has 20 members appointed by the Director-General. They represent not only the various disciplines (such as history, anthropology, archaeology, sociology and law) but also the various regions of the world (Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, the Indian Ocean, the Arab States and Asia). Transatlantic Slave Trade © UNESCO The transatlantic slave trade is unique within the universal history of slavery for three main reasons: its duration - approximately four centuries those vicitimized: black African men, women and children the intellectual legitimization attempted on its behalf - the development of an anti-black ideology and its legal organization, the notorious Code noir. As a commercial and economic enterprise, the slave trade provides a dramatic example of the consequences resulting from particular intersections of history and geography. It involved several regions and continents: Africa, America, the Caribbean, Europe and the Indian Ocean. The transatlantic slave trade is often regarded as the first system of globalization. According to French historian Jean-Michel Deveau the slave trade and consequently slavery, which lasted from the 16th to the 19th century, constitute one of "the greatest tragedies in the history of humanity in terms of scale and duration". The transatlantic slave trade was the biggest deportation in history and a determining factor in the world economy of the 18th century. Millions of Africans were torn from their homes, deported to the American continent and sold as slaves. Triangular Trade The transatlantic slave trade, often known as the triangular trade, connected the economies of three continents. It is estimated that between 25 to 30 million people, men, women and children, were deported from their homes and sold as slaves in the different slave trading systems. In the transatlantic slave trade alone the estimate of those deported is believed to be approximately 17 million. These figures exclude those who died aboard the ships and in the course of wars and raids connected to the trade. The trade proceeded in three steps. The ships left Western Europe for Africa loaded with goods which were to be exchanged for slaves. Upon their arrival in Africa the captains traded their merchandise for captive slaves. Weapons and gun powder were the most important commodities but textiles, pearls and other manufactured goods, as well as rum, were also in high demand. The exchange could last from one week to several months. The second step was the crossing of the Atlantic. Africans were transported to America to be sold throughout the continent. The third step connected America to Europe. The slave traders brought back mostly agricultural products, produced by the slaves. The main product was sugar, followed by cotton, coffee, tobacco and rice. The circuit lasted approximately eighteen months. In order to be able to transport the maximum number of slaves, the ship’s steerage was frequently removed. Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, England and France, were the main triangular trading countries. Trade in the Indian Ocean ©UNESCO The societies of the Indian Ocean, including Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, came into being at different times through ancient slave trades and the migrations of populations from Africa, Asia and Europe. The system of slavery had existed in the islands of the Indian Ocean since before colonization, particularly in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, where slaves were brought by Swahili traders from the east coast of Africa. The arrival of Europeans to the Indian Ocean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries heralded the start of a revitalized slave trade, which led to the population and exploitation of the Mascarene Islands. Thus, the system of slavery severed millions of people from their roots and ultimately gave rise to a new society. For example, new oral traditions developed throughout the period of slavery as slaves were forbidden to read and write up to the time of the abolitions. Furthermore, the suppression of slavery did not propagate the end of social discrimination as servility persisted through alternative forms of servitude such as recruiting, day-labouring and share-cropping. The Oral Tradition UNESCO’s research program to identify and register the oral memory of the islands of the south-western Indian Ocean, working from within the framework of the Slave Route Project, has brought to the fore the need to safeguard the oral heritage of the islands that have experienced the slave trade and slavery. Additionally, UNESCO’s programme to trace oral memory has generated growing interest in the preservation of memory among populations effected by the trade. As such, the University of Mauritius, the Nelson Mandela Centre, the Seychelles National Institute of Education, the Abro in Rodrigues and the CNDRS in the Comoros each launched documentary programmes in 2001 and 2002. These programmes are continuing with both inventory and field training activities. Documents have been digitalized and stored in the national institutions of the islands and may be accessed by the general public. An Inventory of Sites of Memory in the Indian Ocean Region The programme to identify and catalogue the oral heritage, developed over three years in collaboration with UNESCO, has achieved significant results in the Indian Ocean region (Reunion, the Comoros Islands, Mauritius and Rodrigues, the Seychelles Islands and Madagascar). It is now possible to envision the drafting of an exhaustive list of all sites linked to the memory of the slave trade. The programme must take into account the specificity of the slave trade in the region such as its development over a thousand years, and its continuation after the legal abolition of slavery under the guise of recruiting. It involved not only the African continent but also the Indian sub-continent and Asia, as well as the places relative to marooning. In this respect, the data collected on the oral heritage should provide information to help carry out the listing of the sites and places of memory. Some of the islands of the Indian Ocean, such as Reunion, Mauritius, and the Seychelles, have already registered some of the sites linked to the slave trade. The project, which will be implemented during the 2006-2007 biennium, will begin by listing sites in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, as they have not yet established an exhaustive list of their sites and places of memory. The project will be coordinated by the UNESCO Chair after a regional scientific committee has been established. The committee is to be supported by local authorities as well as regional scientific institutions and academia Underwater archaeology The project entitled l'Utile...1761, Esclaves oubliés (Forgotten slaves) includes a component for underwater archaeological research on a slave ship that sank off the coast of Tromelin Island, abandoning its cargo of slaves from Madagascar on the island. Resistances and abolitions Uprising aboard© UNESCO The first fighters for the abolition of slavery were the captives and slaves themselves, who adopted various methods of resistance throughout their enslavement, from their capture in Africa to their sale and exploitation on plantations in the Americas and the Caribbean. Rebellion and suicide were often used as main forms of resistance. The American colonies were frequently disrupted by slave revolts, or the threat of revolt. The administrators of the British and French colonies in the 1730’s observed that a "wind of freedom" was blowing in the Caribbean, thereby indicating the existence of a veritable resistance to slavery. This was to materialize some 50 years later with the slave rebellion in Santo-Domingo. As early as the late seventeenth century, individuals, as well as the various abolitionist societies that had been established, began condemning slavery and the slave trade. This impetus essentially originated from the English-speaking countries. Up until the end of the nineteenth century British, French and North American abolitionists devised a set of moral, religious and occasionally economic arguments as a means of combating the slave trade and slavery (PDF). An irreversible process The destruction of the slavery system began in the French colony of Santo Domingo towards the end of the eighteenth century. This long-running process (PDF) lasted until 1886 in Cuba and 1888 in Brazil. The slave rebellion on Santo Domingo in August 1791 profoundly weakened the Caribbean colonial system, sparking a general insurrection that lead to the abolition of slavery and the independence of the island. It marked the beginning of a triple process of destruction of the slavery system, the slave trade and colonialism. Two outstanding decrees for abolition were produced during the nineteenth century: the Abolition Bill passed by the British Parliament in August 1833 and the French decree signed by the Provisional Government in April 1848. In the United States, the Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, extended the abolition of slavery to the whole Union in the wake of the Civil War in 1865. The abolition of slavery – which at the time concerned approximately 4 million people - became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Biographies of some important abolitionists: Toussaint-Louverture Harriet Tubman Frederick Douglass Victor Schoelcher William Wilberforce Trade in the Arabo-Muslim world Slaves' caravan © UNESCO The international seminar on "Cultural interactions generated by the slave trade and slavery in the Arab-Muslim World" has been organized by UNESCO (17-19 May 2007, Rabat and Marrakech, Morocco) in the framework of the Slave Route Project, in cooperation with the Moroccan National Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO Office Rabat. This international encounter aimed to reinforce the activities of the project in lesser-studied regions, in particular the Arab–Muslim World. The Colloquium brought together experts from sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb and the Middle East, selected on the basis of their expertise and experience in issues related to the slave trade and slavery in this part of the world. Please find bellow the final report of this meeting a some of the interventions presented during the Conference: Programme Watch a video summary of the Conference (in French) Final Report (in French) Esclavage, système et acteurs dans l’Orient musulman médiéval, by Salah Trabelsi, (in French). L’incidence du rapport servile sur le regard intersubjectif entre Arabes et Noirs Africains, by Bakary Sambe (in French) Black Liberators: The Role of Africans & Arabs sailors in the Royal Navy within the Indian Ocean 1841-1941 by Clifford Pereira Sudanese Trade in Black Ivory: Opening Old Wounds by Abdel Ghaffar M. Ahmed Ahfad. African Migrants as cultural brokers in South Asia by Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya Disputed Freedom, Fugitive Slaves, Asylum and Manumission in Iran (1851-1913) by Niambi Cacchioli Emancipation and its Legacy in Iran: an Overview by Behnaz A. Mirzai, Les interactions culturelles issues de l’esclavage et de la traite, négrière au Maroc by Abdelhafid Chlyeh (in French) Musique et danse chez les Haratin de Mauritanie : Conscience identitaire et/ou dissidence culturelle ? by Abderrahmane N’GAIDE (in French) Modern forms of slavery Human trafficking can be defined as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation." (UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons) While the means through which modern and traditional forms of slavery have operated differ greatly, the violation of human rights and human dignity are central issues in both practices, such as proclaimed in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), millions of people, primarily women and children, are subjected to this tragic fate, thus underscoring the imperative of all countries to address and prevent the trafficking of persons. In the context of the "Project to Fight Human Trafficking in Africa", UNESCO aims to promote effective and culturally appropriate policy-making to combat the trafficking of women and children in Western and Southern Africa. The project conducts policy-oriented research on factors related to the trafficking in pilot countries, collects best practices in fighting trafficking at its roots, and organizes training workshops for policymakers, NGOs, community leaders and the media. In addition, the Trafficking and HIV/AIDS Project based at the UNESCO Bangkok Office tackles the linked triad of problems-HIV/AIDS, trafficking, and non-traditional drug use-in the Greater Mekong Subregion, by researching, developing, and implementing programmes which crosscut these issues to address the needs of at-risk and vulnerable populations. This project builds on UNESCO’s regional pillar of "extending international protection to endangered, vulnerable and minority cultures and cultural expressions". For more information: Project to fight human trafficking in Africa UNESCO Bangkok Trafficking and HIV/AIDS Project Standards and Fundamental principles and rights at work (International Labour Organisation) Child Labour (United Nations Children's Fund) Human Rights Committee (United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) Human Rights (UNESCO Sector for Social and Human Sciences) Today various international conventions define slavery and human trafficking as a "crime against humanity" punishable by international law. See legal instruments. Educational Initiatives © UNESCO Under the Slave Route project, particular importance is ascribed to the development of educational materials that help to improve the teaching about the slave trade and its consequences. Continuing the work initiated under the ASPnet Transatlantic Slave Trade (TST) Education Project, The Slave route Project has contributed to several initiatives to develop educational/teaching materials on the slave trade and slavery for use by pupils, teachers and the general public. It has thus contributed to the development of content for primary and secondary school textbooks, in particular in France, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean and several African countries. It has also contributed to the publication of two books for young people on the subject: Tell me about… the Slave Trade and L’esclavage raconté à nos enfants (Telling our Children about Slavery). In cooperation with the UNESCO Office in San José (Costa Rica), work on a series of four educational works and a didactic guide entitled Del olvido a la memoria [From Oblivion to Memory], designed for Central American countries, has begun under the project in order to improve knowledge of the particular features of slavery in that subregion and of the various contributions of people of African descent. The four works have just been published and a popularization drive is under way so that they may be used officially in some Central American countries. The project is cooperating with the National Maritime Museum in London to produce and disseminate education and information kits on the slave trade and on slavery, for use by students and teachers. The purpose of this programme is to facilitate the teaching of the subject through interesting and documented material.
Share this page



website security
Diaspora Social Network, african diaspora, diasporaengager