Remarks at the UN General Assembly Agenda Item 118: “Follow-up to the Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade”

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Ms. Cassandra Q. Butts
Senior Advisor
New York City
November 4, 2015

Mr. President,

I am honored to represent the United States today on this important occasion to recognize the commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the trans-atlantic slave trade.

Two hundred and seven years ago on January 1, 1808, in New York City, a young Peter Williams, Jr, a self-described descendant of Africa who would become a leading pastor and noted abolitionist, chose to recognize the effective date of legislation abolishing the transatlantic slave trade in a speech entitled “An Oration on the Abolition of the Slave Trade.” He exulted in the moment:

“Rejoice, Oh, ye descendants of Africans! No longer shall the United States of America, nor the extensive colonies of Great-Britain, admit the degrading commerce, of the human species: no longer shall they swell the tide of African misery, by the importation of slaves. Rejoice, my brethren, that the channels are obstructed through which slavery, and its direful concomitants, have been entailed on the African race.”

Today we too rejoice in the United Nations’ recognition of the bitter history of the transatlantic slave trade through the permanent memorial “The Ark of the Return,” unveiled this past March. The United States is pleased to join more than 90 Member States that have made contributions in support of the permanent memorial, designed by an American architect of Haitian descent, Rodney Leon, that now stands on the UN Headquarters grounds as a public tribute to all of slavery’s victims.

The U.S. contribution supports this crucial project, in partnership with so many others who come together to fight injustice with the particular leadership of the Mission of Jamaica, Member States of the Caribbean Community and the African Union.

As a multicultural society, the United States strongly believes in spreading awareness of the struggle of all who fell victim to slavery. While we take pride in the tremendous progress we have made in our great nation, led by such historic women leaders as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Ella Baker, we also recognize that the scars of the past still linger. As such, we are dedicated to educating future generations of this tragic past as a means of combating racism and prejudice. The United States continues to press forward on eliminating discrimination within our own country as well as joining the global community in creating a world of freedom and equality for all.

In that vein, the United States is proud to be a co-sponsor of this resolution and to support the ongoing efforts of the UN to fight racial injustice and intolerance. Also, we are proud that more than 120 U.S. mayors have joined the International Coalition of Cities against Racism — an initiative launched by UNESCO. The U.S. network has been the fastest growing part of the global coalition.

Every day, UN delegates and government officials, along with tour groups of visitors and school children will experience “The Ark of the Return.” The memorial stands as a reminder not only of the horrific injustices of the past, but also of our shared responsibility to fully realize the aspirations outlined in the UN Charter. We must continue to study the history and legacy of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. We must never forget the terrible human tragedy, and the moral courage of those who worked to end it.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Source: U.S Department of State


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