Remarks on the Transatlantic Slave Trade by The Honorable Kendrick Meek, Public Delegate to the United States Mission to the UN, at the General Assembly, December 12, 2011

The Honorable Kendrick Meek, Public Delegate to the United States Mission to the UN
New York, NY
December 12, 2011


Thank you Madame President, Members of the General Assembly.

The United States has commemorated the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade by paying tribute to the millions who were stripped of their human rights and dignity during their enslavement and fight for freedom. Our tribute encompasses continual efforts to chronicle the untold stories of those who suffered and memorialize those who fought for the abolishment of this cruel industry. We also are supporting efforts to end modern forms of slavery. We must never forget the full extent of the human suffering involved in this trade. We must remain vigilant in our efforts to combat any attempt to deprive people of their freedom and human dignity.

The United States remains committed to supporting outreach and educational efforts about the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This shameful trade and the struggle for freedom are part of our hemisphere’s history. It is our duty to raise awareness of the trade and its consequences as we work to eradicate racism and reduce inequality wherever it occurs.

We continue to connect American voices to the global conversation about the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its untold stories. The United States has supported UNESCO’s Transatlantic Slave Trade Education Project, “Breaking the Silence.” As part of that effort, we engage both governments and civil society organizations on programs that raise awareness about the history of the slave trade, and also highlight the invaluable contributions made by people of African descent in a range of fields.

We also supported the adoption of 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent at the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Secretary Clinton praised this initiative as “an opportunity for all of us around the globe to celebrate the diversity of our societies and to honor the contributions that our fellow citizens of African descent make every day to the economic, social, and political fabrics of our communities.”

In the United States we celebrate National African-American History Month every February, in recognition of African-American leaders who—by word and deed—have enriched our nation by leading reforms and advocating the founding principles we value so highly—freedom, justice, and equality. This year we focused our outreach on the stories of brave African-Americans who fought for liberty during the Civil War.

A more apt theme could not have been chosen for the design competition for the United Nations Permanent Memorial in remembrance of victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade: “Acknowledging the Tragedy; Considering the Legacy: Lest We Forget.” The Permanent Memorial will serve as a reminder of the tragedy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the need to combat persisting forms of prejudice and inequality that affect descendants of the victims today. The memorial will also pay tribute to the courage and determination of all of those who fought for abolition, and those who fight for freedom and justice today.

The selection of United Nations Headquarters as the site of the Permanent Memorial further symbolizes the principles enshrined in the body’s charter and the Universal Declaration, that all human beings deserve dignity and the protection of their inalienable human rights. In this spirit, the United States looks forward to expanding our efforts and deepening our partnerships to commemorate the victims of slavery and to combat its lingering consequences and modern forms. The U.S. is honored to be a co-sponsor of theis resolution today.

Thank you, Madame President.


PRN: 2011/304