2022 Remembrance Programme
2022 Theme: “Stories of Courage: Resistance to Slavery and Unity against Racism”
The transatlantic slave trade is often studied and discussed at the macro level. It was a phenomenon characterized by unprecedented mass human trafficking, degrading economic transactions and unspeakable human rights violations. But examining the transatlantic slave trade at the micro level reveals its true brutality. Behind the facts and figures are millions of human stories. The stories of those who were ripped from their homelands and families. The stories of those who fought against their oppressors. The stories of those who triumphed against all odds to win their freedom. Those stories continue today as people across the globe keep struggling together against the transatlantic slave trade’s most enduring legacy – racism.
Message of the United Nations Secretary-General | Message of the President of General Assembly | Calendar of Events
Message of the United Nations Secretary-General
There is much that we know about the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans, and today is a day we remember: the crime against humanity; the unprecedented mass human trafficking; the degrading economic transactions and unspeakable human rights violations.
But there is also much that we do not know, and today is a day we learn. Behind the facts and figures are millions of human stories. Stories of untold suffering and pain. Stories of families and communities ripped apart. But also stories of awe-inspiring courage and defiance against the cruelty of oppressors.
We will never know every act of resistance – great or small – that slowly but surely triumphed over injustice, repression and enslavement. But these accounts are crucial to our understanding of a past whose most pernicious and persistent legacy continues to blight our present: racism.
The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is a time to learn about and reflect on such stories. To pay tribute to the millions of Africans who were torn from their homelands and communities. And to stand up in solidarity against racism everywhere.
Today, people of African descent continue to confront racial discrimination, marginalization and exclusion. The political, economic and structural power imbalances rooted in colonial rule, enslavement and exploitation, still deny equality of opportunity and justice.
On this International Day, let us stand united against racism and together build societies based on dignity, equality and solidarity.
Message of the President of the General Assembly
The Ark of Return is a powerful reminder of the tragic legacy of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.
An initiative of the Caribbean Community and the African Union, it serves as an opportunity for reflection on the more than 18 million men, women and children that were enslaved and transported in harsh conditions to the Americas.
Years ago, I visited Goree Island in Senegal, which was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast from the 15th to the 19th century.
I saw the small spaces, imagining the crowded rooms where the enslaved persons were packed.
I will never forget the feeling of sorrow and distress thinking on those who went through that very small door overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A point of no return.
The Ark of Return, as Goree Island, seeks to remind us of the brutality of slavery and the slave trade.
Slavery was not only a dreadful individual ordeal, but a cultural trauma whereby a group of people were subjected to such inhuman pain and torture that it dehumanized their existence, their group identity, values, feelings, and their cultural worldview.
The theme of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade this year is “Stories of Courage: Resistance to Slavery and Unity against Racism”.
It is important to learn from history and listen to the stories of those who were stolen from their homeland, children who were snatched away from their families, daughters who were raped, sons who were sold, fathers who were emasculated and mothers who were tortured till they dropped dead.
We must discuss the legacy of slavery, especially in the marginalization of persons of African descent, who are still denied justice and equality. We must stand in solidarity, united against these inequalities. This dark chapter of our history should never be whitewashed.
Let us raise our voices as we continue to fight against racism and prejudice around the world.
Calendar of Events
16 February 2022
An exhibit entitled "Us and Them: From Prejudice to Racism" was re-displayed in the Visitors Lobby at United Nations Headquarters from 16 February until 5 April. Organized in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, France, the exhibit examines the science behind “race”; how racism flourished during the transatlantic slave trade; and how slavery's legacy of racism can be fought at multiple levels.
17 March 2022
General Assembly President visits Ark of Return
25 March 2022
“Rhythms of Resistance” cultural event highlights history and legacies of transatlantic slave trade
The Department of Global Communications, which manages the United Nations Outreach Programme on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery and communications around the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) – together with UNESCO and UNFPA –held an online cultural event to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Called “Rhythms of Resistance,” the online event highlighted the history of the transatlantic slave trade, as well as its ongoing legacy of racism. Through showcasing rhythmic performances in multiple countries, it also demonstrated how African cultures have shaped societies throughout the Americas.Watch the event. View the programme.
29 March 2022
General Assembly marks International Day of Remembrance in New York
The United Nations General Assembly held an in-person meeting in the General Assembly Hall to commemorate the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Speakers included the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, Member States and keynote speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of The New York Times’ groundbreaking 1619 Project.
Watch on UN WebTV.
Remarks by the Secretary-General
Remarks by the President of the General Assembly
Remarks by keynote speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones
Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, addresses the General Assembly
and visits The Ark of Return. 29 March 2022.
Photos: Left: DGC/Xiaoyu Yang; Upper Right:UN Photo/Manuel Elías; Lower Right: DGC/Brenden Varma
29 March 2022
New film shown at UN re-imagines experience of enslaved child
To mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the Office of the President of the General Assembly in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations organized a screening of Equiano.Stories at United Nations Headquarters. Based on the historic story, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, the Instagram film reimagines the childhood of Equiano, a writer and abolitionist who was kidnapped as a child from the Eboe region of the Kingdom of Benin. The film asks the question: “What if an African child in 1756 had a cell phone when he was enslaved?” Speakers included Mr. Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City; H.E. Mr. Gilad Menashe Erdan, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations; H.E. Mr. Brian Christopher Manley Wallace, Permanent Representatives of Jamaica to the United Nations; H.E. Mr. Cheikh Niang, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Senegal to the United Nations; and H.E. Ms. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations; H.E. Ms. Fatima Kyari Mohammed, the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations; and Ms. Catherine Pollard, Chair of the Task Force on Addressing Racism and Promoting Dignity for All in the United Nations Secretariat. Producer Mati Kochavi introduced the film. Watch the event.
16 June 2022
Online discussion highlights links between hate speech and legacies of the transatlantic slave trade
The United Nations Outreach Programme on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery, together with partners, organized an online discussion entitled “Fighting Hate Speech: Global Perspectives”. Part of the ongoing series “Beyond the Long Shadow: Engaging with Difficult Histories”, the event took place on Thursday, 16 June 2022 at 9:00 a.m. EDT. Speakers included Dr. Apryl A. Williams, Assistant Professor of Communication and Media and affiliate of the Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan and Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She highlighted the links between hate speech and legacies of the transatlantic slave trade, including anti-Black racism and attacks on critical race theory.