No one is free until we all are free – let us continue the fight to end slavery and oppression
Late last month, and with little fanfare in the international press, Nantes officials opened the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, which the organizers claim is unique in Europe. The site of the memorial, the Quai de la Fosse, is a history-steeped wharf where the slave ships moored before they departed for Africa. The installation comprises a sloping wall of opaque glass that cuts through the wharf’s promenade, while a total of 1,710 panels laid into the sidewalk feature the names of slave ships.
On a lower level, a dimly lit passageway where the water from the river washes over the ground, a wooden boardwalk leads along the sloping transparent wall. It features the word “freedom” in 40 languages as well as poems, documents and other fragments which testify to the struggle against slavery and oppression which lasted over 200 years. A “memory trail” leads from the monument to the city’s history museum, where the slave trade is described with moving documents.
The slave trade once made the people of Nantes rich, but the French city covered up its dark history for decades. It recently erected a memorial to the victims in a project believed to be the first of its kind in Europe. But the effort to shed light on the Continent’s role in the 18th century slave trade with Africa and the New World has not been popular with some residents.