In December 2007, the UK Government announced that a national Slavery Memorial Day will take place on 23 August, a date linked to the Haitian rebellion. Black campaign groups have welcomed the news.
Campaign groups, along with trade unions and some officials in cities such as Liverpool and London, had fought for years to get an annual day to remember the horror of slavery. They also wanted school children to be taught about the atrocity, called the African holocaust by black campaigners.
Making the announcement, the Communities and Local Government office said: “A strong theme to come out this year (the 200th Anniversary of the Act to Abolish the Transatlantic Slave Trade) was the need to remember abolition in future years. In addition to the August date for national commemorations, the history and impact of the slave trade will become a compulsory element in schools from next September.”
Kofi Klu, joint coordinator at Rendezvous of Victory, a grassroots organisation which had campaigned for both a Memorial Day and slavery as a compulsory school subject, said:
“It signals that the Government has been listening to the voices of the grass roots and have taken that into account. It augurs well for the future, although much has to be done.”
August 23 is also the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, observed throughout the world.
A Communities and Local Government spokesperson said that the Government, which has so far refused to apologise for slavery despite the fact that Britain benefited from the atrocity, had not set aside a specific budget to mark the annual slavery memorial day.
Instead, he said groups looking to mark August 23 can apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Big Lottery Fund, and Arts Council England for support.
The Heritage Fund and Big Lottery, which is already short of cash after being raided to pay for the 2012 Olympics, will be inviting bids but there are fears that many black groups do no have the expertise to submit large funding applications.