UN Secretary-General’s message on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon

The transatlantic slave trade inflicted immense suffering on millions of innocent victims for four centuries, making it among the longest, most widespread tragedies in human history.  While legalized slavery has long been abolished, slavery-like practices are very much with us — from debt bondage and domestic servitude to forced or early marriages, the sale of wives and trafficking in children.

Extensive scholarship has documented these horrors, including through various efforts of UNESCO.  Yet there remains much more to learn about the millions of Africans who were uprooted and abused, about the misery visited on their descendants, and about the impact that is felt, even today.  That is why the theme of this year’s observance of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, is “the living legacy of 30 million untold stories”.

By studying slavery, we help to guard against humanity’s most vile impulses.  By examining the prevailing assumptions and beliefs that allowed the practice to flourish, we raise awareness about the continued dangers of racism and hatred.  And by honouring slavery’s victims — as we do with this International Day, with a permanent memorial that will be established at the UN Headquarters complex in New York, and with the observance of 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent — we restore some measure of dignity to those who had been so mercilessly stripped of it.

This observance forces us to confront human beings at their worst.  But in those who opposed slavery then and now, we also celebrate people at their best: the brave slaves who rose up despite mortal risk; the abolitionists who challenged the status quo; the activists today who fight intolerance and injustice.  Whether renowned or unsung, these heroes show that the pursuit of human dignity is the most powerful force of all.

On this Day, let us draw inspiration from that truth.  Let us remember all the victims of the transatlantic slave trade and of contemporary forms of slavery. And let us commit ourselves to eradicate such practices once and for all.

Editor’s note: On December 17, 2007 the United Nations declared 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be observed annually.

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  1. Wow
    March 26, 2011

    Compensation will never come because no other race respects the black race…not until we become educated as a people and have financial influence will they take us seriously.. And to achieve that goal we must insist on educating our children..the reason why they continue to take advantage of us is because too many of us think we are too cool for school..

    March 26, 2011

    Some of us are still dreaming of the day we of African descent will be compensated by the white man. Time we woke up and realised that day will never come, besides no amount of monies could ever compensate for what happened to our ancestors.

    We as a Black race cannot agree to anything, how are we going to agree on how this compensation to distributed. The ancestors of the field slaves will argue that they should get more than the ancestors of the house slaves.

    We must also be honest and admit that WE in these modern times are using some of the antics of the slave masters. We compare skin shade, hair texture, we favour those of so called established families (certain surnames are so important to us). We even comment on the shape of someones nose (flat/wide). Some of us still have the slavery mentality. Always waiting for someone to tell us what to do, always looking for someone to provide for us.

    We must NEVER forget, but we must not continue to be bitter. Instead we must educate ourselves and our children. Remember that the slaves masters didn’t want us to learn to read, and one reason for that is because they knew that education is power.

  3. Be2
    March 25, 2011

    Rather hyptocritical considering the U.N. was set up with enslaving the people of the world in mind. How easily most people are deceived and the people behind the U.N. are masters of deception and human psychology.

    Study and see through the bottom line of history and you will discover the truth.

  4. Stop It
    March 25, 2011

    I have read all the comments about compensation to descendents of african slaves etc. I am a Dominican..a black one at that. But I do not believe sitting back and waiting on compensation is what we as a black people need to do right now. We need to learn from the past and use the opportunities that we now have to ensure that we never again become victims to the slave trade in which ever form. Black bros and sisters, make use of the education opportunity to rise academically, make use of the political freedoms to ensure a safe society, make use of our knowledge of the past to never repeat it. Remuneration is the least of our worries right now…STOP BEG and ACT.

    • Homeboy
      March 25, 2011

      No one is begging you idiot!!! The compensation that was paid to he Jewish people was because they demanded what was owed to them. No one is asking anyone to sit on their ” laurels”, it is about principle. We were raped, body parts decapitated, men, women and children made to lie in their feces while they were on that sailing coffin. Education is what they usE to brainwash us. Know your history, demand what is rightfully yours and seek out knowledge.

      • Stop It
        March 25, 2011

        I’m sorry if i offended you by asking you to move on… Ok homeboy, our forefathers were mistreated..poorly so. Spend your time shouting the call for compensation instead of making a move to prevent this from happening again..By the time u are finished looking for $ you and your kids would have just gone through another phase of slavery..the mental one where u sit and wait for $ handouts instead of work for it. And by the way, u r speaking to a student of world history …LAZY.

  5. Krawl
    March 25, 2011

    I know Amb. Gregoire played a key role in this event at the UN, so I say hats off and thank you!!

  6. Homeboy
    March 25, 2011

    Mr Ban Ki Moon could bot have said it any better “Yet there remains much more to learn about the millions of Africans who were uprooted and abused, about the misery visited on their descendants, and about the impact that is felt, even today.”

    It is time that “We” as a people recognize that we are different but all originally from Africa an strive to our own guardians and our brothers and sisters keeper. It is time that those Corporations and financial institutions that benefitted from the Slave trade pay Remunerations to those of African descent.

  7. Always Concerned
    March 25, 2011


    You and I know that compensation is not forthcoming. Not now, not not 50 years from now, not ever. Let’s understand the past, learn from it, and shape the minds of our kids such that those tragedies never repeat themselves.

    Besides, if Afro-Western people have to be compensated, the Chinese will have to do it. The US has no money. You think the Chinese will pay us?

    • . Slave 10 th. Grandson
      March 25, 2011

      Man the chinese just get in the game.and see how fast they buying young morden day slave traders l

      • Humanist
        March 25, 2011

        The Chinese have been slaves (or, at best, “indentured servants/laborers”) themselves. Throughout history, few races have been completely absent from slavery. While the worst slavery was without question the transatlantic trade, it is nonetheless worth remembering that slavery occurred among many African nations prior to the Europeans’ beginning the translatantic trade, and many Africans participated in the trade by offering slaves to the Europeans–though many of those Africans were themselves kidnapped, as in the tragic (albeit fictional) story of Oroonoko. The Caribs stole women from the Arawaks. The bible itself refers to slavery a number of times, as in the story of Ham’s curse.

        Bottom line: reparation would end up going to almost every nation for crimes against humanity committed at some point in time. Until that money is more feasibly available, we should instead work on promoting education. Many people know so little about the slave trade and slavery outside of the trade, and many people–even some who do know about those things–are racist even in this day and age. It is not about money–it is about education and love and respect for fellow human beings. Slavery must never be allowed to occur again, but with the racism some people express–even in parts of Dominica–I have to wonder what the future holds.

  8. negre Mawon
    March 25, 2011

    Way to Go Mr. General Secretary with all your mumbo Jumbo about the Declaration of International
    Day of Remembrance for victims of slavery and the Slave trade.
    I want you to address the unpaid “renumeration and reparation owed to us by the Europeans
    who benefited from this heinous act.They owe we the decendants of the victims of this holocust
    and they must pay.Take that message to your General assembly and begin the discussion
    for reperation

  9. Always Concerned
    March 25, 2011

    Observance of 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent – I did not know this before today. I like that.

    DNO, thanks for sharing this.

  10. Muslim_Always
    March 25, 2011

    I almost cried reading this. Well now is time for compensation and justice. The West gave a bunch of white fake jews lands illegically in Palestine creating the world’s most supported apartheid regime.

    Now it is time for Afro-western people be compensated as well.

    • Frankly
      March 25, 2011

      Will the descendants of the chiefs on the west coast of Africa, who like modern day Drug Dons messed up their own people for bling, be made to pay compensation as well?

      You see its not as easy and cut and dry as all that…where does the buck stop?

      • Homeboy
        March 25, 2011

        You see that is the mentality that we have that makes it diificult for us to receive compensation. Compensation is not going to trickle down to e ery Tom dick and Harry. The villages and towns that suffered losses as a result of this act need to be compensated. Irrespective of the chief involuntary selecting people for the trade. You think Jewish people have that problem! They act collectively unlike us!!!

    • Homeboy
      March 25, 2011

      That is the most sensible comment I have ever heard from you

    • Humanist
      March 25, 2011

      Glad to see there’s nothing but love in your heart for your fellow human beings, Muslim_Always.

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