UN Secretary-General António Guterres Monday stated that education is critical to combating racism and other vices bred by decades of slavery. Guterres’ comments occurred at a UN General Assembly session to observe the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Guterres commented, “We must learn and teach the horrific history of slavery, and we must learn and teach the history of Africa and the African diaspora, whose people have enriched societies wherever they went, and excelled in every field of human endeavour.”
The International Day of Remembrance of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade memorializes one of history’s most heinous events, which resulted in the forced movement of at least 15 million men, women and children. For well over 400 years, states legalized and institutionalized slavery, with Brazil being the last country to criminalize it. Since the majority of slaves were sourced from Africa, the slave trade effectively halted the continent’s prosperity and development.
Guterres emphasized the long-term consequences of slavery, which include stark disparities in wealth and income distribution, education and access to opportunities. He also mentioned transgenerational trauma, marginalization and white supremacy as side effects of slavery. Guterres urged governments around the world to incorporate the history of slavery into school curriculums, including icons of resistance such as Queen Ana Nzinga of Angola and Toussaint Louverture, also known as the “Father of Haiti.” According to Guterres, learning about and discussing these issues can restore honor to communities that have lost it, as well as protect against humanity’s most abhorrent urges.
President of the General Assembly Csaba Krösi stated that the underpinnings of slavery, including racism, have yet to be eradicated. Krösi acknowledged that educating people about slavery is critical to preventing it from happening again in the future.
The United Nations has established a number of mechanisms to commemorate victims of the transatlantic slave trade. The organization will hold a panel discussion on Thursday to discuss efforts made by museums to include the voices of African people. The UN Department of Global Communications Outreach Programme on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery will moderate the discussion. Furthermore, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Slave Route Project aims promote the African voice by addressing social, economic and political issues brought about by slavery.