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International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

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Authored by British Online Archives
Published on 25th March, 2024 2 min read

International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Today (25/03/2024) marks the seventeenth annual International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The day was designated by the United Nations in 2007 to honour and remember the lives of those who suffered and died as a result of the transatlantic slave trade.

The transatlantic slave trade was a triangular system that stretched between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Ships would leave Europe with finished goods, which they would trade for enslaved people in West Africa. The ships then embarked on the “Middle Passage”, transporting enslaved people across the Atlantic. In order to complete the triangle, the ships returned to Europe with goods purchased using the proceeds from selling enslaved people, often purchasing items derived from forced labour, such as sugar and coffee.

The transatlantic slave trade can be traced back to 1526 when Portuguese merchants purchased enslaved people from West Africa and transported them across the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil. Over the next 400 years millions of Africans were enslaved and forced to migrate across the Atlantic. It is estimated that between 1.2 and 2.4 million enslaved people died during the journey across the Atlantic, which would have taken around seven weeks.

Conditions on transportation ships were abhorrent, with disease, overcrowding, poor hygiene, and poor ventilation being the norm. Those who made it across the Middle Passage (the route between Africa and the Americas) were then sold to work on plantations, rice fields, and in mines. Enslaved people were forced into backbreaking work and if they defied their enslavers or did not work fast enough, they were punished by being beaten, raped, tortured, and mutilated.

Despite the suffering that it generated, the transatlantic slave trade, and the economies that it sustained, proved incredibly profitable for European countries, with British slave merchants making, in modern terms, billions in profit. This capital was invested in British industry and its colonies, meaning much of Britain’s wealth today can be traced back to the slave trade. The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 formally freed 800,000 Africans from British owners of enslaved people (although, in practice, slavery continued far beyond this date). Included in this Act was compensation for the owners of enslaved people for the loss of their “property”, totalling £20 million and 40% of the government’s budget that year. Today that amount translates to around £17 billion.

It is important that we take the time to remember the people who suffered at the hands of slavery and take note of the repercussions the transatlantic slave trade still has today, manifesting itself in prejudice and institutionalised racism.


Authored by British Online Archives

British Online Archives

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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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