The Ark of Return – The Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery
and the Transatlantic Slave Trade at the United Nations



The Permanent Memorial was unveiled on 25 March 2015, which marks the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The memorial, located on the United Nations Visitors Plaza in New York, will invite people everywhere to contemplate the legacy of the slave trade and to fight against racism and prejudice today.

Visitors can pass through the Ark of Return to intimately experience three primary elements. The first element, Acknowledge the Tragedy, is a three-dimensional map that depicts the global scale of the triangular slave trade.

The second element, Consider the Legacy, is a full scale human figure lying in front of a wall inscribed with images of the interior of a slave ship. This element illustrates the extreme conditions under which millions of African people were transported during the Middle Passage.

The third element, Lest We Forget, is a triangular reflecting pool where visitors can honour the memory of the millions of souls who were lost.

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to establish a Permanent Memorial in the grounds of the United Nations in New York City to honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

In 2011, together with UNESCO the Permanent Memorial Committee launched a design competition. The Ark of Return by Haitian-American architect Rodney Leon was chosen among 310 entries from 83 countries.

The project is funded through generous voluntary contributions from Member States, complemented by funding from foundations and private individuals.



Mission Statement

Over four centuries, more than 18 million people were forcefully removed from Africa to the Americas (including the Caribbean) and Europe.

For those who survived the horrific middle passage, thousands of them would later perish as a result of the cruel and inhumane treatment meted out to them and from the appalling conditions in which they had to exist on the plantations.

The Permanent Memorial will serve as a reminder of the legacy of the slave trade. It will provide future generations an understanding of the history and consequences of slavery and serves as an educational tool to raise awareness about the current dangers of racism, prejudice and the lingering consequences that continue to impact the descendants of the victims today.

The Permanent Memorial acknowledges one of the most horrific tragedies of modern history. It is a reminder of the heroic actions of the slaves, abolitionists and unsung heroes who acted in the face of grave danger and adversity.

The Memorial's placement at United Nations Headquarters is a significant symbol of what the world body represents: the promotion and preservation of the dignity and worth of all human beings - principles that are central to its Charter.



The Unveiling of the Permanent Memorial "The Ark of Return"

25 March 2015 - The Permanent Memorial "The Ark of Return" honours the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.


Ark of Return, Unveiling of Permanent Memorial: Save the date

Rodney Leon, Architect and designer of the Permanent Memorial in honour of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade explains his design.


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