Today, 23 August, is the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.  Pointing out that the campaign to abolish chattel slavery was driven by formerly enslaved persons such as Oloudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass, who inspired activists from Belfast to Cork to create one of the first civil society campaigns in Ireland, Unite today said that the same determination and organisation are needed today to counter messages of hate and division.

Commenting, Unite Regional Equalities Officer Taryn Trainor said: “Today commemorates the start of the insurrection in Saint-Domingue by self-liberated slaves – an event which played a crucial role in the eventual abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and reminds us that abolition was driven and eventually won by enslaved and formerly enslaved persons.

“Earlier this year, we welcomed the unveiling of a statue to former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, funded by Belfast City Council.  Douglass, like Oloudah Equiano in the previous century, travelled throughout Ireland, and was supported by a network of determined anti-slavery activists, women and men, from Cork to Belfast.  They knew that, as Frederick Douglass pointed out, there can be no progress without struggle. 

“As trade unionists, the fight for abolition reminds us that struggle must always be informed and directed by those most directly affected.

 “The impact of chattel slavery continues to resonate today – not just in monuments and the names of public buildings and spaces, but also in the ongoing discrimination faced by people of African descent.

“As attempts are made by far-right actors to stir up hatred, fear and anger against migrants and refugees, many fleeing war and oppression, trade unions must draw inspiration from the movement to end slavery and work side-by-side with those being targeted by these messages of hate to build an inclusive society”, Ms Trainor concluded.