France commemoration

Macron lays wreath in honour of victims of French slave trade

Emmanuel Macron honours victims of slave trade.
Emmanuel Macron honours victims of slave trade. AP - Ian Langsdon

French president Emmanuel Macron laid a wreath in Paris on Monday at the annual ceremony to honour victims of the slave trade.

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Monday’s ceremony took place 20 years after France became the first country in the world to recognize the slave trade as a crime against humanity.

The declaration was part of the text of a law passed in 2001, named after Christiane Taubira, who later became France’s first black Justice minister.

The Taubira law also stipulated that greater prominence should be given in the French school curriculum to the study of the slave trade and slavery.

'Pain and blood'

Monday’s ceremony took place in the Jardin du Luxembourg, in front of the monument commemorating the abolition of the slave trade, while youngsters from the French overseas island of Guadeloupe sang a song entitled “The long combat of pain and blood”.

Macron made no speech at the sombre ceremony but at an event last week to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Napoleon, he described Napoleon’s decision in 1802, to re establish slavery in France’s colonies, as a “betrayal of the spirit of the enlightenment.”

Almost four million men and women lived as slaves in the French colonies until the abolition of the slave trade in 1848.

Among other projects likely to be considered is a new statue to Thomas Alexandre Dumas, a former slave who went on to became a French General, and was the father of the writer Alexandre Dumas.

An earlier statue honouring Thomas Alexandre Dumas was melted down by the Nazis during the second world war.

Defaced statue

Meanwhile, Monday also saw the opening of proceedings in Paris to judge the case of an activist who scrawled graffiti on the statue of the influential 17th century French statesman Jean-Baptiste Colbert for his role in organizing the slave trade in France’s colonies.

The statue dominates the space in front to the French parliament.

Franco Lollia said of his decision to deface the statue “I wanted to tell the French state that if it accepts that Colbert continues to preside over the front of the National Assembly building, then it means that France is still viscerally anti-black”.

The prosecution is calling for him to be given a fine of 800E, while his lawyers argue that his action was morally justifiable.

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