Committee to Begin Consultation on Erection of Slave Monument

According to officials in charge of the project, the monument is also being established as a symbol to remember the abolition of slavery and the slave trade.

The project is being spearheaded by the St. Kitts-Nevis National Commission for UNESCO, within the Ministry of Education and Information, in association with the National Scientific Slave Route Committee.

The group has organized a special function for Tuesday 19th July, 2011, to officially launch, what is being called the St. Kitts & Nevis UNESCO Slave Route Project. It will also launch a campaign of consultation that is expected to be hosted throughout the Federation, to allow residents the opportunity to discuss the issues and provide their own recommendations on the project.

The event is being held under the theme, “Towards the Erection of a Monument in Remembrance of our Ancestors, the Abolition of Slavery and the Slave Trade.

The Committee is headed by Dr. Ken Ballantyne and the launch event has been planned for the University of the West Indies Campus, the Gardens Basseterre, at 7:00pm.

St. Kitts has had the unfortunate experience of being the first island in the Caribbean that was exploited both by the French and English who began arriving here back in 1624/1625 and eventually brutally killing and eliminating the first inhabitants of the islands, the Caribs.

Following the genocide of the Carib Indians these European nations proceeded to experiment with various agricultural crops, especially sugar and cotton; and to provide the required labour for the plantations, the white Europeans imported black Africans.

These Africans in their hundreds of thousands, (for St. Kitts and Nevis but millions across the Caribbean), were captured, kidnapped and transported from Africa to the Caribbean, and forced into a life of bondage that ripped families apart and robbed a people, from their culture, heritage and human rights.

Instead of being compensated for the misery of slavery, when it was abolished in 1834, it was the planters, who received millions in pay backs for what their governments considered “losses”.

 

Abolition of the Slave Trade Act was passed by the British Parliament on 25th March 1807. It outlawed the slave trade within the British Empire. 

 

A passionate speech by Lord Greenville stated that the slave trade was “contrary to the principles of justice, humanity and sound policy” and admonished his fellow parliamentarians for “not having abolished the trade long ago”.

The Act was carried in the House of Lords by 41 votes to 20 and the House of Commons by 114 to 15.
 
Any British captain who was caught transporting slaves was fined £100 for every slave found on board ship. However, this law did not stop the British slave trade. If slave-ships were in danger of being captured by the British navy, captains often reduced the fines they had to pay by ordering the slaves to be thrown into the sea.

 

The Slavery Abolition Act was passed by the British Parliament on 24th August 1833. 

 

The Act did not become law until 1st August 1834 when all slaves in the British colonies were to become emancipated, and slavery was to be abolished throughout the British possessions abroad.

Two measures were brought in to soften the economic blow to the Plantation Owners:

The first was the 4 year apprenticeship system, (up to 1838).

 

The second was that the British government paid compensation to the slave owners. The amount involved depended on the number of slaves held. One example was the Bishop of Exeter’s 665 slaves resulted in him receiving £12,700.

 

Now, today, the descendants of these slaves, who now live and control these islands, are making an attempt to construct a monument that would serve as a symbol of remembrance and reflection. However, it should also provide a glimpse back into the past and a time that witnessed the worse set of “crimes against humanity”. It was also a time when the world witnessed its first genocide.

It would be a travesty and betrayal of the highest order, if the work of this committee is in any way thwarted especially by those who have not benefitted from learning their own history and the significance of such a monument.

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