“They will remember that we were sold, but not that we were strong. They will remember that we were bought, but not that we were brave.” –William Prescott, former slave
From 1501 to 1830, over 10 million Africans were forcibly transported to the Americas, with some estimates as high 12.5 million. Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, one in four Africans crossed the Atlantic for every on European, thus making this era a larger extension of the African diaspora than a European diaspora.
On the 17th of December, 2007, UN Resolution 62/122 declared March 25th to be the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and Transatlantic Slave Trade. This holiday welcomes members from all communities to erect a permanent memorial within the halls of the United Nations as an acknowledgement of the tragedy of the slave trade and also to consider its legacy. Every year focuses around a theme, with past themes being “Remember Slavery: Celebrating the Heritage and Culture of the African Diaspora and its Roots” in 2016 and “Women and Slavery” in 2015. This year’s theme is “Remember Slavery: Recognizing the Legacy and Contributions of People of African Descent.” 2017 will focus on the specific consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, for example, how Africans and their descendants influenced and continue to shape societies and culture around the world.
Resolution 62/122 also calls for the establishment of an outreach program to educate future generations about “causes, consequences and lessons of the transatlantic slave trade, and to communicate the dangers of racism and prejudice.” Those consequences and lessons of the slave trade last well into today, and in 2009 United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon said “countries that prospered from the slave trade must examine the origins of present-day social inequality and work to unravel mistrust between communities.” This UN holiday serves not only as a reminder of a tragic period in history but also as an educational experience that bridges the gap between diverse countries and cultures. Additionally, this day works to bring awareness to and end contemporary forms of slavery. The CNN Freedom Project estimates there to be 30 million individuals enslaved today.
The United States’ Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons defines human trafficking as “an umbrella term used to describe the activities involved when someone obtains or holds a person in compelled service.” Most often that service is sexual in nature. According to the Polaris Project, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received reports of 22,191 sex trafficking cases inside the United States since 2007. And every year, the Super Bowl serves as the world’s largest human trafficking venue. A massive gathering of disproportionately male and wealthy fans, the Super Bowl provides the optimal scene for pimps and traffickers to boost their profits. Experts among the FBI say that due to the influx of men looking to pay for sex substantially increases demand, and pimps and victims essentially go unnoticed among the massive crowds. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Forbes, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl, and Dallas saw 133 underage arrests during the 2011 Super Bowl. From January 18th to February 5th (Super Bowl Sunday), 2017, the National Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Sting led to the arrests of more than 700 alleged sex buyers and 29 alleged sex traffickers across the United States.
Ten years after its creation, International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and Transatlantic Slave Trade celebrates more than one special anniversary. 2017 marks 225 years since France’s General Emancipation decree liberated all slaves in present-day Haiti; 185 years since the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 ended slavery in Canada, the British West Indies and the Cape of Good Hope; and 175 years ago when the Indian Slavery Act of 1843 was signed. Slavery was abolished 170 years ago in France, 165 years ago in Argentina, 155 years ago in the Dutch colonies, and 130 years ago in Brazil. 2017 also marks the 155th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States. As President Lincoln so famously stated on January 1st, 1863, “all persons held as slaves within any States, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”