United Nations Unveils at New York Headquarters Permanent Memorial to Victims of Transatlantic Slave Trade

Note No. 6438
23 March 2015

United Nations Unveils at New York Headquarters Permanent Memorial to Victims of Transatlantic Slave Trade

On the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, a permanent memorial to honour these victims will be unveiled at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 25 March.

The Permanent Memorial to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade at the United Nations, The Ark of Return, was designed by Rodney Leon, an American architect of Haitian descent.  Visitors who pass through The Ark of Return will intimately experience this history that calls upon them to acknowledge the tragedy, consider its legacy and never forget.

The Permanent Memorial acknowledges one of the most horrific tragedies of modern history and pays tribute to the courage of slaves, abolitionists and unsung heroes who helped end the oppression of slavery.  It promotes greater recognition of the contributions that slaves and their descendants have made in their societies.

As a constant reminder of the legacy of the slave trade, The Ark of Return aims to spark interest in its history and repercussions.  Its purpose is to serve 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 Department of Public Information’s Remember Slavery Programme will develop educational activities around the memorial and these important lessons.

“It is absolutely vital that the dangers inherent in racism are made crystal clear to all,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  “The Ark of Return will bring home to people around the world the terrible legacy of the slave trade.  It will help us to heal as we remember the past and honour the victims.”

The Memorial's placement on United Nations grounds is a significant symbol of what the world body represents:  the promotion and preservation of human dignity, a central principle of the United Nations Charter.  By proclaiming 2015 to 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent, the General Assembly took an important step in promoting the rights of all people of African Descent.

The Permanent Memorial Committee was established in 2009 to oversee the project.  It is composed of Member States from geographical regions around the world, as well as representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Office for Partnerships, representatives from the United Nations Secretariat and civil society.  The Caribbean Community and the African Union played a primary role in guiding the Committee’s work.

An international competition was carried out to select a design for the Permanent Memorial.  The winning design, The Ark of Return, was chosen in 2013 out of 310 entries from 83 countries.  Rodney Leon is also the architect and designer of the African Burial Ground National Monument in Manhattan.

The construction of the Permanent Memorial is funded through voluntary contributions by Member States, private entities and people around the world.

For further information please contact:  Laurence Gerard, Remember Slavery Programme, Education Outreach Section, Department of Public information, at tel.:  +1 212 963 0629, or e-mail:  gerardl@un.org.

To help commemorate the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade on 25 March, please follow the Programme on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rememberslavery, on Twitter @rememberslavery and visit http://rememberslavery.un.org.

For media accreditation, please register at www.un.org/en/media/accreditation.

For information media. Not an official record.