New York, N.Y. – The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2015 to 2024 to be the International Decade for People of African Descent and this year the UN established the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade in New York. The UN selected Haitian-American architect Rodney Leon’s design, The Ark of Return, for the memorial. It was unveiled on United Nations Visitors Plaza on March 25, 2015, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
As visitors pass through The Ark of Return, three main elements define it. “Acknowledge the Tragedy” is a three-dimensional world map illustrating the scale of transatlantic slave trade. “Consider the Legacy” is a human figure lying inside the ship-like form of the memorial beneath a wall inscribed with a depiction a slave ship’s interior. “Lest We Forget” is a triangular reflecting pool for remembering the victims.
Over 18 million people were taken from Africa to the Americas and Europe across four centuries. Many did not survive the journey. Many died due to the cruel treatment and horrible living conditions on the plantations where they were sent. The memorial raises awareness about the history of slavery, honors those who fought against it, and serves as a reminder of the dangers of racism today.
The memorial has been in the works since 2007, when the United Nations General Assembly agreed to establish it. The Permanent Memorial Committee was formed in 2009, an international design competition was launched in collaboration with UNESCO in 2011, and the winner was chosen out of 310 entries from 83 countries in 2013.
A free 20-minute briefing on the memorial and the history of the transatlantic slave trade takes place at the memorial on Wednesdays at 10:30 AM. You can read more about the memorial and find related resources here.