The Netherlands commemorates the abolition of slavery

The Netherlands commemorates the abolition of slavery

Today was the Netherlands’ national day to commemorate the history of slavery, and a ceremony was hosted in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam. It was a day to look back on the role the Netherlands played, and to look forward towards the future.

Celebrating the abolition of slavery

The commemoration takes place at the national monument to the history of slavery in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam every year. The Netherlands was one of the last European countries to abolish slavery, with 2020 marking 147 years since it was officially abolished. 

Several people spoke at the ceremony earlier today, including Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema and chairman of the NiNsee knowledge centre Linda Nooitmeer.

The Minister for education, culture, and science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, also spoke at the ceremony. In her speech, she recognised that the Dutch government is still not always successful when it comes to recognising and preventing unequal treatment of minorities. She said, “As long as one Dutchman discriminates against another, based on his or her skin colour, we are still witnessing a terrible past every day."

The ceremony this year coincides with Black Lives Matter protests which are being held across the world. Linda Nooitmeer referenced these protests in her speech, saying that centuries of slavery resulted in contemporary institutionalised racism and that the protests are an extension of this history. 

Calls for an apology

Political parties D66, GroenLinks, and ChristenUnie have called for the government to apologise for the role the Netherlands played in slavery. 

Leader of D66 Rob Jetten said: “Expressions of regret, repentance and shame are appropriate. But we do not yet take historical responsibility for our history. That is only possible if we acknowledge the suffering of many people and apologise for our own actions."

D66 and GroenLinks have also proposed that 2023, the year that will mark 150 years since the abolition of slavery, becomes a commemorative year. The year would be full of exhibitions, performances, and debates, with a focus on this history in education and the media. 

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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