Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Britain grapples with past on slavery

"Charge of the Buffalo Soldiers, 1863
In 1863, the Union Army began using emancipated slaves and other free black men as soldiers. This was a very controversial move, and one that did not enjoy much support in the North, or among the white troops. Thomas Nast, a visionary of his day, saw beyond the biases of the day, and saw that integration of blacks into the Union Army was a good thing. He created the illustration to your right to show that Negro Buffalo Soldiers could fight bravely alongside white troops. The image appeared in an 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly. "

Britain grapples with past on slavery anniversary
Source: Agence France Presse 03/23/2007
LONDON, March 23, 2007 (AFP) -

Britain marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery this weekend with the government proposing an annual commemoration day -- but still refusing to make a full apology.
In contrast the Anglican church has made an unreserved mea culpa, and on Saturday Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will lead hundreds of people on a "Walk of Witness" marking the bicentenary.

"Some have said they see no need for the apology made last year by the General Synod for the role the Church played in the slave trade," said Williams.

"But when we acknowledge historic injustices inflicted in the name of the Church, this is a vital part of our life as members of the body of Christ," he wrote in a foreword to the programme for the walk.
The walk includes the culmination of the March of the Abolitionists -- a group of walkers who have worn yokes and chains during a 250-mile journey beginning in the northeastern city of Hull.
British merchants are believed to have transported nearly three million black Africans across the Atlantic between 1700 and the early 19th century.

Overall, some 21 million black Africans were transported by Europeans in the Atlantic slave trade from 1450 until 1850, according to historians. British merchants were the biggest participants, followed by the French and Dutch.

The 1833 Slavery Abolition Act outlawed slavery itself throughout the British Empire. However, slaves did not gain their final freedom until 1838.
But despite voicing its regret, the British government has never made a full, formal apology for its role in the trade.

Earlier this month British Prime Minister Tony Blair reiterated that he was sorry for Britain's role in the slave trade Wednesday, labelling it "entirely unacceptable."
On the eve of the anniversary, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said Britain is to hold an annual commemoration day to remember its role in the slave trade, as well as the fight to end it.
He told The Guardian daily that he expected the day would be sometime in June and said it could provide an opportunity for the country to consider how it could help modern day Africa.
Events are being planned to mark the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act here. It was passed on March 25, 1807, imposing a 100-pound fine for every slave found aboard a British ship.
"Like the Holocaust, we are learning to talk about the slave trade more openly and more honestly," Prescott told the daily.

"There is a sense of shock and horror at what went on in our history, and the sheer brutality of it ... We need to get the proper history told, including the good, the bad and the dreadful ...
"The legacy of this 200th anniversary should be a permanent date when we ask whether there is more we could do, so that every year, like (the) Holocaust, we remind people of the horrors."

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