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Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition - 2023

Authored by Niamh Franklin
Published on 23rd August, 2023 2 min read

Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Frontispiece from the book Saint-Domingue, ou Histoire de Ses Révolutions. circa 1815. The illustration shows people running from burning buildings.

Today (23/08/23) is the Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. Established by UNESCO, it memorialises the victims of the slave trade and seeks to amplify the voices of the more than fifteen million men, women, and children who were enslaved. Today’s date has been chosen as it marks the anniversary of the Haitian Revolution. This began on the night of 22 August 1791 and continued into the early hours of the following morning. The Haitian Revolution remains an important event: twelve years of fighting culminated in the establishment of the first republic to be led by formerly enslaved people. The uprising in Haiti was a key factor in precipitating France’s decision to outlaw slavery throughout its colonies in 1794. Naturally, the revolution was a source of inspiration for other enslaved people and subsequent campaigning led to France’s complete abolition of slavery in 1848. Traditional narratives, such as those that place Britain and figures such as William Wilberforce at the epicentre of the abolition movement, are augmented and even challenged on the Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. Black, enslaved voices such as that of Toussaint Louverture, an eminent figure within the Haitian Revolution, are emphasised as having been equally consequential in terms of bringing about the abolition of slavery. In choosing the anniversary of the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution for the Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, UNESCO also challenges depictions of enslaved people as helpless. By commemorating this revolution, enslaved people are remembered for their agency and for the fundamental role they played in abolishing slavery.

The Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was first celebrated in Haiti in 1998 and then in Senegal in 1999. Today, in the UK, the city of Liverpool has scheduled a Walk of Remembrance as part of its commemoration of the abolition of the slave trade. First walked in 2011, the route includes the city’s docks where former slave ships have been restored.

The Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition emphasises the significance of marginalised voices and encourages appreciation of inspirational histories, such as the Haitian Revolution. Indeed, it celebrates every act of resistance by enslaved people. It aims to protect the virtues of freedom and equality and to encourage conversation and action with regard to contemporary injustice.


Authored by Niamh Franklin

Niamh Franklin

Niamh Franklin is a History graduate from the University of Bristol.


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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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