The Haitian Uprising of 1791, in Saint Domingue, played a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. In memory, 23 August marks the UN’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, providing a focus for collective remembrance and consideration of the legacy of the atrocity and how it impacts today’s world.
This past year city representatives including myself and Mayor Marvin Rees have been working hard to support the dialogue and learning from Bristol’s role in the trans-atlantic slave trade, including through the Bristol History Commission, the Legacy Steering Group, and publishing Project Truth to help inform how the city responds and moves forward.
Alongside this and to help inform both our own learning and that of two of our twin cities, Bordeaux and Hannover, with whom we mark our 75th twinning anniversary this year, I have been privileged to visit both and pay respect to the victims of slavery and remember our cities’ roles in the trans-atlantic slave trade.
In May, a small delegation from Bristol, including myself, Professor Olivette Otele, a historian of slavery and memory of enslavement; Sado Jirde, Director of Black South West Network; Dr Mena Fombo, a Bristol International Ambassador, entrepreneur, film director and global speaker on diversity and inclusion; and Dr Emmanuel Adukwu, Deputy Head of the Department of Applied Sciences at the University of the West of England, were invited to take part in Bordeaux Slavery Memory Week.
As a fellow port city, also actively involved in the slave trade, they have embedded learning about the city’s slave history in a way Bristol can actively learn from. All Bordeaux school children join a targeted education programme outlining history of enslavement, as well as a memorial garden, trail, and permanent museum exhibition.
Last week I was invited to Hannover to take part in a wide programme of events to mark our 75th twinning anniversary, including a signing of a shared Memorandum of Agreement for future collaboration and panel discussions including one as part of the recent opening of the jointly Hannover/Bristol curated ‘About Golden Carriages and colonial past – Hannover, England and Slavery’ at their Historical Museum.
It was an opportunity to share more about the work of the History Commission and Legacy Steering group as they also explore their own role in the colonial past and how we can jointly work together on this and other shared priorities to achieve a better and more informed future for all our citizens.
I was also honoured to be able to see the culmination of Bristol’s Youth RISE Dance group’s collaboration project with FZH Linden Hannover with a performance representing human rights at the ceremony marking our 75th twinning anniversary at Hannover City Hall which was powerful and moving.
We would like to give our thanks to both Hannover and Bordeaux City Councils, City Partners, our Twinning Associations, the French Foreign Ministry for facilitating these special visits, and all those who we met and engaged with as part of the programme. It was a chance to share experiences, find solutions to common problems and support each other in achieving our goals.
Events to commemorate the 75th twinning anniversary with Bordeaux, as well as Hannover, are taking place throughout the year. More information about the events can be found on the Visit West website.