The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the tragic transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history.
Every year on 25 March, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade offers the opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system. The International Day also aims to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.
In order to more permanently honour the victims, a memorial has been erected at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The unveiling took place on 25 March 2015. The winning design for the memorial, The Ark of Return by Rodney Leon, an American architect of Haitian descent, was selected through an international competition and announced in September 2013.
In December 2007, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade and welcomed the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union (AU) proposal to erect a Permanent Memorial at the United Nations Headquarters that is easily accessible to delegates, United Nations staff and visitors. This Memorial acknowledges one of the most horrific tragedies of modern history and serves as a reminder of the legacy of slave.
The tragedy refers back to a period of roughly 400 years (15th–19th centuries) when more than 15 million
African men, women and children were enslaved and brought in slave ships under extremely harsh conditions to the colonies in North, South and Central America and the Caribbean. Many slaves died during their transport across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Three Elements
The Ark of Return invites people to contemplate the legacy of the slave trade and to fight against racism and prejudice today. Visitors can walk through this Permanent Memorial to experience three primary elements.
The First Element: Acknowledge the Tragedy is a three dimensional map inscribed on the interior of the memorial. This map highlights the African continent at the centre of the slave trade and illustrates the global scale, complexity and impact of the triangular slave trade.
The Second Element: Consider the Legacy features a full-scale human replica carved out of black Zimbabwean granite. This element illustrates the extreme conditions under which millions of African people were transported during the Middle Passage. The sculpture represents the spirit of the men, women and children who lost their lives in the transatlantic slave trade.
The Third Element: Lest we forget is a triangular reflecting pool where visitors can honour the memory of the millions of souls that were lost.
Unveiling the Permanent Memorial
Designed by Rodney Leon, an American architect of Haitian descent, the Permanent Memorial titled The Ark of Return was unveiled on 25 March 2015. This design was selected through an international competition organized in partnership with UNESCO and announced in 2013. It will stand as a constant reminder of the courage of slaves, abolitionists and unsung heroes who helped end the oppression of slavery. It will also promote greater recognition of the contributions that slaves and their descendants have made in their societies.