By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, March 27, 2023
UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has urged Africans to fight slavery’s legacy of racism through education, noting that the history of slavery is one of suffering and barbarity that shows humanity at its worst.
Guterres said this at an event on Monday in New York to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade globally marked on March 25.
It is marked to honour the lives of those who died as a result of slavery or experienced the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, and it is also an occasion to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice.
According to him, honouring the millions of Africans sold into slavery helps to restore dignity to people.
Guterres said the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade haunts us to this day, noting that we can draw a straight line from the era of colonial exploitation to the social and economic inequalities of today.
The UN chief said the scars of slavery were still visible in persistent disparities in wealth, income, health, education and opportunity.
“And we can recognise the racist tropes popularised to rationalise the inhumanity of the slave trade in the white supremacist hate that is resurgent today.
“The long shadow of slavery still looms over the lives of people of African descent who carry with them the transgenerational trauma and who continue to confront marginalisation, exclusion and bigotry.
“It is incumbent on us to fight slavery’s legacy of racism. The most powerful weapon in our arsenal is education – the theme of this year’s commemoration.
“Governments everywhere should introduce lessons into school curricula on the causes, manifestations and far-reaching consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” he said.
Guterres said the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme and UNESCO’s Slave Route Project could help Member States to teach slavery in schools.
“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.
“And we must learn and teach the histories of righteous resistance, resilience, and defiance,” he said.
The UN chief said the evil enterprise of enslavement lasted for over 400 years, adding that it was the largest legally sanctioned forced migration in human history.
“Millions of African children, women, and men were kidnapped and trafficked across the Atlantic, ripped from their families and homelands – their communities torn apart, their bodies commodified, their humanity denied.
“The history of racialised chattel slavery is a history of suffering, crime, violence and exploitation.
“It is a history of colossal injustice. Just as the slave trade underwrote the wealth and prosperity of the colonisers, it devastated the African continent, thwarting its development for centuries.
“It is a history of cruelty and barbarity. From the slavers, ship captains and plantation owners to the banks, insurers and corporations that financed it – slavery shows humanity at its worst.
“But it is also a history of awe-inspiring courage that shows human beings at their best – starting with enslaved people who rose up against impossible odds and extending to the abolitionists who spoke out against this atrocious crime,” he said.