PublicHistoryPreCirculatedMultiSession Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space, Part 5: Public Memory of Slavery in Britain and France

AHA Session 185
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jane G. Landers, Vanderbilt University
Making Slavery Visible? The Electronic Memory of the Slave Trade and Slavery in Post-1998 France
Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec, Université de Sherbrooke; Léon Robichaud, Université de Sherbrooke
Lorelle D. Semley, Wesleyan University

Session Abstract

The panel discusses how slavery and the Atlantic slave trade are taught, remembered and commemorated in France and Britain. Since the 1990s,  the slave past of both European countries started receiving attention and became the object of official policies. The new interest on slavery became visible not only in the public debates, but also in museums, monuments, memorials, publications, conferences, exhibitions, documentaries, textbooks and on school curricula. By passing the Taubira Law in 2001, France became the first country to recognize slavery and the slave trade as crimes against humanity. Some years later, in 2005, the Committee for the Memory of Slavery was also created in France. The Committee ended by proposing May 10, the date of passage of the Taubira Law, to be the official national day of commemoration of the abolition of slavery in Metropolitan France. In Britain, slavery and the slave trade started becoming visible in the public space since the 1990s. This public recognition of Britain slave past became visible in former slave ports such as Bristol and Liverpool. Since then, the visitors who came to Bristol were able to identify in the city the tangible traces (buildings, monuments) of British involvement in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1994, Liverpool's Merseyside Maritime Museum opened its Transatlantic Slavery Gallery, which success led to the creation of the International Slavery Museum, opened in 2007. In 2007, this unique initiative marked a series of international events commemorating the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade. Through a comparative approach, the various papers in this panel aim to discuss and evaluate the repercussions of these several projects in Britain and France. Walvin's paper discusses the present repercussions of recent British commemoration activities. Smith's paper analyzes the interviews undertaken with hundreds of visitors during 2007 exhibitions commemorating the bicentenary of British abolition of the slave trade. Schmidt's paper examines the evolution of the public memory and the teaching of slavery in France, while  Le Glaunec's and Robichaud's paper focuses on how these initiatives were visible on the cyberspace.