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TMGRRP | 27.07.2004 17:23 | Anti-racism | Repression | Liverpool

Millions of victims of the slave trade are to be commemorated at a special public event being held in Plymouth this Sunday, to mark the 10th annual African Remembrance Day.

Press & Media Release
For immediate publication
Issued 26th July 2004


Millions of victims of the slave trade are to be commemorated at a special public event being held in Plymouth this Sunday, to mark the 10th annual African Remembrance Day.

The event, which is being jointly organised by The Monitoring Group (TMG), Devon African Refugee Community Association (DARCA) and the National Civil Rights Movement (NCRM), will pay homage to the millions of men, women and children who perished during the slave trade, or in what the organisers describe as ‘the African Holocaust’. The organisers will also highlight Plymouth’s central role in introducing the slave trade in England and will make a united call for the city to publicly acknowledge its place in history by following Bristol and Liverpool, in erecting lasting monuments to the victims and survivors of the African Holocaust.

This is the tenth year that African Remembrance Day has been commemorated in the UK. The event is held on August 1st each year, to mark the anniversary of the introduction of the Slavery Abolition Act, which became law in the UK and in all the British Colonies 170 years ago, on 1st August 1834.

According to Imtiaz Amin, of the National Civil Rights Movement, “This is an event of commemoration, to pay homage to the tens of millions of African people who perished in the Middle Passage. We honour those who survived and resisted in their every day lives, and we will salute those who struggled for freedom and justice and paid the ultimate price. We believe that it is morally wrong that millions should have suffered or died in such a horrific manner and are forgotten.”

The event will highlight that the English chapter in the history of African slavery began in Plymouth with John Hawkins. A memorial plaque erected in the city describes Hawkins as “England’s first slave trader.”

In 1562 Hawkins sailed from the Plymouth Barbican with three ships and violently kidnapped about four hundred Africans in an area now known as Guinea and traded them in the West Indies. Between 1562 and 1569 Hawkins and his cousin, another more famous son of Plymouth, Francis Drake, made five voyages to Guinea and Sierra Leone and enslaved around 3000 Africans. According to slavers’ accounts of the time this would probably have involved killing at least three times the number of people captured. Hawkins’ personal profit from selling African slaves was so huge that Queen Elizabeth I granted him a special coat of arms in recognition of his achievements – which has a bound slave at the crest. Following this he became the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, was appointed as the Treasurer for the Navy in 1577 and then knighted by Elizabeth I in 1588.

Jon McKenzie, from The Monitoring Group points out that: In Plymouth there are numerous public ‘monuments’ to the man that founded the slave trade in England, including the public place called ‘Sir John Hawkins Square’. Plymouth appears to be very proud to remember John Hawkins as ‘England’s first slave trader’, but there are no public ‘monuments’ to the thousands of Africans killed and enslaved by Hawkins and Drake nor the millions who perished in the brutal period that followed. Plymouth was built from huge profits gained as the result of massive human suffering, and we believe the time has come for the city to acknowledge this publicly by erecting a lasting monument to those who perished. As we have seen in places like Bristol and Liverpool, the slave trade history of a city cannot be buried – it must openly and publicly acknowledged by making appropriate reparations for the past. Given that the slave trade began in Plymouth, this city should be the location for England’s national monument to the millions that suffered during the African Holocaust ”

Plymouth, under its’ city motto “The Spirit of Discovery” is no stranger to embracing its place in history. As Ratna Lachman of The Monitoring Group points out: “This city makes considerable investment in promoting the international significance of its maritime and trans-Atlantic heritage. For example, Plymouth’s long-standing relationship with America dates back to the sailing of The Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers. Every year, American Thanksgiving Day is a major public event in Plymouth’s cultural calender, which receives huge support from the city council and the Chamber of Commerce. We believe that Plymouth should now also publicly acknowledge its historical relationship with Africa and its people. Plymouth is the birthplace of the slave trade in England, this is an undeniable aspect of the city’s maritime and trans-Atlantic heritage, but it continues to be ignored and the topic is still treated as being ‘the big unspeakable’.

The event will also mark the 2004 United Nations International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and its Abolition. On January 10th 2004, at a ceremony held in the Ghanaian port of Cape Coast, a one time a major slave trading centre where captured Africans boarded ships for their passage to the western world, UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura launched the “United Nations International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and its Abolition”.

Overall 2004 is intended to be a year-long commemoration to mark not only the centuries-old struggle against slavery, but also the 200th anniversary of the Haitian revolution. According to UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura: “the year is meant to spark rededication to the ongoing struggle against all forms of racism, discrimination, xenophobia, intolerance and injustice.”

The event begins at 1.00pm on Sunday 1st August, with a public assembly at Sir John Hawkins Square, next to the city Magistrates Court in St Andrew Street. At 1.30pm the assembly will form a walking procession through The Barbican, which will end at The Mayflower Steps. A special commemoration will be held from 2.00pm, which includes prayers, African music and dance, followed by three minutes silence at 3.00pm and an address by the Lord Mayor of Plymouth. The event will close at 5.00pm after a period of music, poetry and dance. Organisers are keen to point out that this is an open public event and all are welcome.

For further information and donations, please contact The Monitoring Group on 01752 664501 or Devon African Refugees Community Association on 01752 568745.

Notes for Editors:

Contacts for Press and Media:

Ratna Lachman – (Mobile) 07940 115972 and (Office) 01752 664501
Jon McKenzie – Mobile 07940 115827 and (Office) 01752 665505

Weblinks: (Background Material)

African Remembrance Day Committee:

The Monitoring Group (TMG)

BBC Devon:

United Nations International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and its Abolition:

Afrikan Holocaust:

The English Business of Slavery (in 16 Chapters):

- e-mail:


Display the following 19 comments

  1. Person is Place — shri abdullah
  2. recognition — - -
  3. Liverpool? — Chris
  4. Forgotten Hero - Edward Rushton! — Iraq Solidarity Campaign (UK)
  5. I wonder — Cynic
  6. public sculpture — - -
  7. Nice — Sam
  8. Not so nice — Chris
  9. Surprise surprise — +
  10. more surprises — the surprise meister
  11. Yawn — Yawning
  12. Bollocks! — Sista Souljah
  13. Sista Souljah - Not right — Yawn
  14. Shu the hell up freaks — Bored senseless
  15. YAWN, YAWN, YAWN — bored
  16. Always hurts — Yawn
  17. slave trade — - -
  18. Yawn, but the truth doesn't Yawn with you — awake
  19. Slavery is an evil, whoever committed it... — Timbo