25th March is observed as an anti slavery day. This day the world remembers the victims of slavery that was practiced 400 years ago by the Europeans in transporting helpless Africans to Americas. The trade in human beings from Africa to Americas is called as “Transatlantic slave trade”.
Brief History of Slavery and trading human beings
Trading in slaves began in the medieval ages. Africans were taken into bondage from the northern part of Africa by the affluent and the aristocrats of the Islamic nations of Saud, Persia and the neighboring nations. Many traders used slaves in their businesses and in their estates. Slaves could buy their freedom after working for certain number of years.
People became slaves for various reasons; people who committed crimes were sentenced to slavery, indebted people were sentenced to be slaves of the creditors, people captured in wars were made slaves, children of slaves were made slaves by birth and when local kings of Africa sold their people to the buyers to make money.
Slavery in the pre renaissance times took shape when the Europeans ventured out of Europe in search of new lands to find trading routes, trading nations of the west and the east. The Portuguese, Dutch, Spaniards started off initially, followed the English, French and the Germans.
The Europeans adventurers found the new world, the Americas, the vast expanses, suitable warm climate for growing crops, they captured most from the local population by killing them. They also found the west coast of Africa of Ghana, Ivory Coast ideal trading in minerals. They made friends with the local kings of Africa to trade in precious metals and local agricultural produce.
The need for labor in the New world
Soon they found the Americas to be vast, and they needed more labor to work for them and they would work for themselves. Britain started sending prisoners to the Americas to work in the Sugar cane plantations and coffee plantations of America. This became inadequate.
Transatlantic slave trade
They me upon a very sinister plan and this became the most undignified trade in the human history. Wine, garments, arms and fine manufactured articles were sent to Africa. This was used to buy slaves from African Kings. These fine articles enticed the local kings to be more greedy and they captured more of their people and handed them over to the Europeans. Arms made the continent very volatile. Wars were fought and people captured and those innocent people were put into the hands of the Europeans. The Europeans already built their slave trading ports fortified with soldiers and cannons to protect themselves against the other Europeans raiders from taking over. These weapons also instilled fear amongst the slaves and prevented them from any uprising.
The slaves were cramped into large ships and transported to Americas and west Indies to be sold to the plantations owners to work in sugar and coffee plantations. Slaves were used to build the roads houses ports of the colonizing powers of Europeans. The sugar and coffee were exported to Europe for a price.
Anti slavery movement
This is the undignified trade triangle that lasted for at least 400 years, till anti slavery movement took over in the Europe and America. It all started with the Quakers Movement. A group of kind hearted English Christians who vociferous preached the equality of all men. In 1657 AD they called for the abolition of slavery. This was not possible as there was lot of money involved and business lobbies protested.
Social Reformers joining the pitch
Many other reformers in England, America, and France voiced their concern. John Wesley, an English preacher once visited America, then British colony. When he saw the plight of the enslaved people he was shocked and started preaching about anti slavery from his pulpit. He was abused and mobbed but he never gave up. William Wilberforce, an English politician was another prominent opponent of anti slavery. He worked for the liberation of enslaved people. John Newton, an English slave trader influence by the Christian beliefs gave up the trade. He wrote songs and preached about Christ. He was so much into Christianity that he bought back the people he sold into slavery with his wealth and set them free.
Abolition of slavery, Step by Step
After the renaissance, the Christianity was liberated from the stranglehold of the narrow minded elitist thinking. Equality of man was the theme of the new post renaissance. There were outcries in public against the shameful trade of humans. The nations had to act. Slowly, one by one major slavery practicing nations started abolishing slaverly. Britain abolished slavery in 1833 AD, France in 1848 AD, and America in 1865 AD.
Adoption of 25th March as the Anti-Slavery day by the United Nations
The United Nations general assembly enacted resolution 61/19 on 28th November 2006, to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of abolition of transatlantic slavery. It was decided later that 25th March every year will observed in remembrance of more than 15 million victims of the transatlantic trade. So 25th March 2008 was the first anti slavery day observed by United Nations as per resolution taken at the Durban conference on Racism, Xenophobia and any form discrimination and religious intolerance.
Theme 2019 “Remember Slavery: the power of the Arts for Justice.”
The theme is there to remember the victims of the inhuman slave trade. As the Africans were the victims of the inhuman trade, this day is utilized to spread awareness among the people about the achievements of the African people and their contribution to the society at large. Art is the most powerful instrument in creating impression in the minds. Various art forms like paintings, sculptures, drama, movies are used to spread the awareness of equality of humans such no future generation will ever conceive the idea of enslaving a fellow human for profit.