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OPINION: Lessons must be learnt from transatlantic slave trade

PUBLISHED: 08:00 11 August 2018

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On August 1 I marked Emancipation Day, a commemorative celebration of the emancipation of enslaved people of African descent.

The transatlantic slave trade was a horrific abomination.

It is estimated about 12.5million people were transported and enslaved from Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean, the trade reaching its height between the 16th century and 1807.

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 eventually came into force on August 1, 1834, abolishing slavery throughout most of the British Empire. But in practical terms only slaves below age six were actually freed, with those older being reclassified as part of the “apprenticeship” system. Those who enslaved people were shockingly “compensated” to a cost of £20m – the modern equivalent of £17bn.

Labour has pledged to introduce an Emancipation Educational Trust to address this historic injustice of the slave trade. It will aim to provide school programmes and visits for young people to ensure it’s never forgotten.

It will highlight positive stories often hidden from history, including the immense strength, sacrifice and resilience of those enslaved, and acknowledge the special wealth and beauty of Africa and the Caribbean. The trust will consult banks and businesses with historic links to the slave trade to establish bursaries for education and training for black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

We must redouble our efforts to learn from this human tragedy and fight against all forms of modern slavery. I look forward to getting the trust up and running under the next Labour government.

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