Marking International Day, Secretary-General Honours Victims of Transatlantic Slave Trade, Urges Everyone to Stand United against Racism

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, observed on 25 March:

Today, we pay tribute to the victims of the transatlantic slave trade.  The evil enterprise of enslavement lasted for over 400 years.  Millions of African children, women and men were trafficked across the Atlantic, ripped from their families and homelands — their communities torn apart, their bodies commodified, their humanity denied.

The history of slavery is a history of suffering and barbarity that 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.

And yet, the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade haunts us to this day.  We can draw a straight line from the centuries of colonial exploitation to the social and economic inequalities of today.  And we can recognize the racist tropes popularized to rationalize the inhumanity of the slave trade in the white supremacist hate that is resurgent today.

It is incumbent on us all to fight slavery’s legacy of racism.  The most powerful weapon in our arsenal is education — the theme of this year’s commemoration.  By teaching the history of slavery, we help to guard against humanity’s most vicious impulses.

By studying the assumptions and beliefs that allowed the practice to flourish for centuries, we unmask the racism of our own time.  And by honouring the victims of slavery, we restore some measure of dignity to those who were so mercilessly stripped of it.

Today and every day, let us stand united against racism and together build a world in which everyone, everywhere can live lives of liberty, dignity and human rights.

For information media. Not an official record.