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France will finally acknowledge parts of its unsavoury historical legacy
Last week, the French government took the decision to place the future National Memorial to the Victims of Slavery in the Trocadero Gardens, near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The decision for the location comes five years after President Emmanuel Macron promised to have such a memorial created.
The decision for the location was taken together by a council formed by the City of Paris and the Ministry for Overseas Territories.
Their official statement reasons the decision like this: “The symbolic significance is strong since it is a site where the Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed and signed in 1948 and where the Museum of Man is located.”
Honouring the memory of 4 million enslaved people
The design of the future memorial is yet to be decided, however, it’s already been mentioned that it should “highlight nearly 200,000 names of slaves freed in 1848 in Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Reunion and Martinique.”
These islands were the main consumers of forced labour since their economies were focused on sugar production.
Slavery in France and its colonies was definitively abolished 175 years ago, however, a large-scale national reckoning with that legacy has been brushed under the carpet.
The memorial also promises to be a site where the memory of an estimated 4 million slaves in the French colonies will be honoured, as well as the memory of the other millions of victims of trafficking and slavery around the world throughout history.
A competitive bidding procedure will be launched by the State, in collaboration with the City of Paris, in order to award the site to artists and landscapers. The project design will also have a digital dimension so that people not living in mainland France can join in its creation.
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