Slavery has existed since the most primitive of human societies. Back in the 1st century, farmers in Africa used slaves as workers. The first Europeans to expand this practice and transform it into an international and extensive trade (in terms of volume) were the Portuguese in the 16th century. This was the beginning of what is called the Atlantic slave trade. In the 17th century, slaves, or black gold, even replaced gold as the most important and valuable export merchandise.
It has been estimated that from 1451 to 1870 between 10 to 12 million slaves were exported from Africa. The major sources were warfare, market supply, pawning, raids and kidnapping and tribute while the minor sources were gifts, convicts and personal transactions. Huge profits were made by Africans, Europeans and Americans thereby introducing elements of brutality, a state of insecurity and fear, incessant warfare. Slave trade, undoubtedly, slowed political and economic development in Africa.
Benin and Haiti were the first countries to propose the Slave Route project in 1991 and the resolution establishing the project was adopted by UNESCO's General Conference in 1993. It was meant to further intercultural cooperation in the spirit of the International Year for Tolerance and a Culture of Peace. It emphasised an objective and multidisciplinary study of the slave trade as well as the analysis and understanding of the cultural, spiritual, ethnic and other interactions resulting from it in the Americas and the Caribbean (links with arts, music and religion in both America and Europe).
In September 1994, the conference at Ouidah (Benin) launched the 10-year project. The International Scientific Committee established earlier, met for the first time from 6 to 8 September to define the activities within the framework of the project, and emphasised that priority be given to the Atlantic slave-trade route (without neglecting the Trans-Saharan route to the Middle-East or the Indian ocean and other routes, dating from about the 9th century). National "slave route" committees are to be established in Member States as well as states concerned by the slavery issue that are not members of UNESCO. It is required of UNESCO and countries around the world to facilitate and promote teaching about the conditions surrounding the deportation and slavery of population groups (10 to 12 millions of Africans during almost 3.5 centuries) and the consequences of this.
Furthermore, 23 August was proclaimed "International Day to Commemorate the Slave Trade and its Abolition"; the date chosen refers to the rebellion of the slaves in Saint-Domingue in 1791, triggering off the revolution in Saint-Domingue and being the first step towards the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade.
Why teach about slavery and the slave trade?
Slavery and slave trade is a taboo subject because of the feelings that it generates, from intense emotion to culpability and shame. However, it is not an individual feeling but a community feeling that has to be addressed and dealt with as such. An example could be the post-war truth commissions where victims talk about traumas and give evidence which helps them get back a sense of dignity. It is therefore important to publicise the issue, talk about it in the media and teach it in schools.
The program should include the causes, the mechanisms, the abolition and the consequences of slavery in Africa, Europe and the Americas. An important issue that must be emphasised is the positive consequences or influences of slavery on western society. An equally important issue to emphasise is the comparison with issues of child labour, forced labour, violation of human rights.
The Slave Route issues can be taught from the 7th grade as part of the history program although many aspects can be incorporated in other subjects, such as geography, humanities, language arts and literature, music and art, with minor adjustments according to the school curriculum.
The specific objectives are:
1. To promote Tolerance among young people and a Culture of Peace; in particular with respect to racism in the world, and hatred between communities.
2. To raise young people's awareness to the importance of history in relation to underdevelopment in certain parts of the world, especially Africa.
3. To raise issues such as human rights and the importance of concepts of values such as freedom, equality, dignity and justice and their effective applications.
4. To introduce an understanding of common, universal responsibility in the making of history.
5. To warn against the dangers of practices such as child labour, forced labour in poor countries and "black" labour among illegal immigrants' communities in rich countries, and the economic and social implications of such practices (poverty, underdevelopment,...).
6. To point to the positive influences that are found in certain respects in Europe and the USA, e.g. in music, arts, the contribution to the development of world economy, the basis for new civilisations in the Caribbean and the Americas, and because our world would never had been the same without it.
III. General Suggestions for introduction in :
- social sciences :
- geography : an introduction to the slave routes connecting Africa to Europe, the Middle-East and the Americas.
- history : an introduction to the history of Africa; the causes, mechanisms, and effects of slave trade; and the interactions with the western world. One can mix historical facts and anecdotal information, e.g. extracts from slave narratives to make it more actual and close to the students.
- human rights studies : the concepts of slavery and freedom; the universal declaration of human rights; the convention on the rights of the child; anti-slavery conventions, child labour issues.
- language arts and literature can include human rights studies through the readings of classics or narratives.
- music and art : modern music influenced by slave utterances.
(Some of the activities involving personal or class projects can be entered in the national competition for the international summer camp project to provide an incentive and motivation for the students.)
- visits to museums and exhibitions
- production and organisation of exhibitions : the children can choose a theme related to the slave trade and organise an exhibition of photographs or drawings
- group presentations : the children can do their own research on a theme (e.g. through the internet) and present it in class (e.g. Slave rebellions in the colonies; Life on a plantation,...)
- play production : a play written, produced and presented by the class at the end of the year
- music and dance shows prepared by the students
- correspondence with students in the participating countries, exchange of activities ideas,...
- essay- and/or tale-writing
- debates and tribunal (role-playing exercises)
The list is non-exhaustive.
V. Resource material (A list of material available in Norway is attached, e.g. films and novels)
- textbooks : There is a lack of textbooks that deal with the history of slavery and the slave trade in a complete way. However, one of the objectives of UNESCO's Slave Route project is to contribute to the improvement of history and social studies books and prepare educational material
- maps, wall sheets (ancient and modern)
- films : it is possible to use documentaries on Africa as well as fiction films that deal with the subject whether directly or indirectly
- audio material : some of the modern music is influenced by slave utterances (jazz, blues, gospel,...)
- computers (use of internet to establish links between schools in different parts of the world and as an aid for school projects)
- oral traditions presentations : where possible, the use of story-tellers is an interesting activity for children and young people.
- Legal documents such as the Black Codes, legislation enacted to abolish slavery, Civil Rights, Convention on the Rights of Children, Human Rights Declaration, Independence movements.
VI. Integration in Norwegian schools
According to the curriculum for primary, secondary and adult education in Norway,
"...Education must promote democracy, national identity and international awareness...The aim of education is to expand the individual's capacity to perceive and to participate, to experience, to emphatize and to excel..." (p. 5).
"...Children and adolescents must be made to understand moral claims and allow them to inform their conduct. The canons that are valid in society - professional ethics, labour norms and business practices - have a determining influence on the quality of life in any given society..." (p. 8).
"...Education shall not only transmit learning; it shall also provide learners with the ability to acquire and attain new knowledge themselves..." (p. 14).
"...Teaching must be seasoned so that the young can savor the joy of discovery to be found in new skills, in practical work, research, or art..." (p.19).
"...Knowledge about past events and achievements unite people over time. The knowledge of history enhances our ability to set goals and choose means in the future...It (education) must show how our perception is the outcome of a long process of creation that spans many generations, has crossed many borders and breached many barriers..." (p. 29).
The Norwegian school curriculum offers various possibilities of integrating the slave route project and the slave trade in different subjects. In fact, slave trade is one of the themes covered in 7th grade in history classes. A special emphasis on the subject will not give the teacher more work, in particular when students are encouraged to develop themselves projects or presentations around this theme. The use of internet and websites available will provide a good teaching aid while relieving the teacher from the burden of gathering the information him/herself.
- History : Danish occupation, Slave trade, Cultures met by Europeans in Africa
- Geography : Comparing landscapes, resources and economy in selected countries in Africa,...(select countries in slave route; Gold Coast and the importance of "black gold" as merchandise)
- Humanities : overview of international work done on human rights by the UN and other organisations (introduction of UNESCO's slave route project, international days)
- English : readings such as Tom Sawyer (or Uncle Tom's Cabin), films, contact with people from Anglophone countries (e.g. St-Croix)
- Music : African-American music traditions (songs and dances)
- Domestic activities : work with different food products from other countries (Africa, Caribbean)
- History : Learn about freedom fights such as the American revolution, the French revolution and the Norwegian constitution (Compare with e.g. Black, Fugitive and Slave Codes)
- Humanities : rights and obligations for children and young people (introduction of child/forced labour, Convention for the Rights of the Child)
- English : Literature and contacts from Anglophone countries (correspondents in St-Croix, St-Thomas, or Ghana)
- Music : Encounter music and dance from other cultures
- Domestic activities : plan and prepare food, table arrangements from different countries and different occasions (e.g. Kwanzaa, African-American spiritual holiday, see annex.)
- Humanities : Racism (Tolerance; Slavery as a cause of racism)
- English : Literature and texts from important speeches, e.g. Martin Luther King (Nobel prize speech of Mandela?) , contacts with anglophone countries
- Music : Introduction to new dances and songs e.g. breakdance; sing and play popular songs (blues, jazz); learn about Afro-American music (rock, jazz) and how it is reflected in Norwegian music.
- Domestic activities : same as 8. Grade
- History : Development of Africa... compared to North-America, Europe and causes for such differences.
- Geography : Global economy; UN work; UN declaration of human rights and discussion of differences between rich and poor worlds; orientation in different parts of the world (e.g. slave routes)
- Art : find information on different cultures in art expression and development
- English : literature and songs texts (jazz, blues, negro spirituals)
- Music : Learn about the fundamental tendencies in the development of musical forms through times in social, cultural and historical contexts.
- Domestic activities : same as 8. grade
The upper secondary level offers the possibility to discuss the subjects a little deeper despite the tightness of the program; e.g. in language classes, one can choose a book over another, which has some connection to the history of slavery. As mentioned earlier, most of these subjects can be given as research projects to students.
(The image of the black in advertising during slavery and colonial periods; advertisements of slave sales)
(Comparisons in the building of forts in the colonies and in Europe; use of coral.)
(Heredity; comparison between ancient and modern theories; Races and justification for the enslavement of one people by another.)
- Human rights studies
(Freedom, justice, equality, tolerance, dignity and many more are all human rights which have been violated by slavery and can be discussed in this context. Other contemporary slavery issues are relevant here too.)
(Play production, possibly for the International Summer Festival on the theme of slavery.)
(Rain forest ?)
(Are the roots of Africa's underdevelopment anchored in slavery?)
· Foreign language 1: English
- Acquire general knowledge of the English-speaking world
- Acquire knowledge of historical and geographical conditions in the U.S.A. and the U.K.
- Acquire knowledge of the social conditions, social relations, customs and values in the U.S.A. and the U.K.
- Acquire knowledge about education, work, economy and environment in the U.S.A. and the U.K.
(One cannot discuss American society without mention of the institution of slavery; Britain has also an extensive history of slavery and a role in the abolition of the slave trade. Novels could be chosen within African-American/Caribbean literature, excerpts from slaves' narratives.)
· Foreign languages 2 & 3 (e.g. French and Spanish)
- Work with fiction and other cultural material.
- Acquire knowledge of history, geography, social conditions, literature, art and other cultural traditions within the language area.
(Both France and Spain have a history of slavery and books relating to the subject can be found in both languages.)
- Learning how to read a map,…
- Understand the geographical patterns that are the basis for commerce and communication/transport.
- Acquire knowledge of the Third World and the North-South relations and how the North-South problems can be solved.
(The Transatlantic Slave Route and the basis of the Triangular Trade as well as its consequences on Africa's development)
(Slavery and the Slave Trade are subjects that are discussed in the 7th grade; however, this important subject which is thought to be the cause of several unfortunate contemporary social conditions and situations in the world (e.g. underdevelopment, racism), must be discussed in the upper secondary. It may not seem close to Norwegians but has a direct connection to their history and it is one of the big events which have affected world history. It is a tragedy shared by Africans and Europeans/Americans alike.)
· History of Arts and Culture
(African art and culture have influenced many American and European artists such as Picasso, through slavery and colonialism periods.)
· History of Political Ideology
(The place of slavery in the political ideology of the 17th and 18th centuries and its relation to the concepts that were in application then)
(American and Norwegian systems; the importance of argumentation in e.g. the Amistad Case)
· Maritime subjects
- Knowledge of maritime history, traditions and peculiarities.
- Place Norwegian shipping in an international perspective.
(A study of the Fredensborg will be interesting since it is the most complete slave ship wreckage.)
· Mass Communication
(Films on slavery?)
(Gathering of data, Statistics concerning Africans from Africa through slave ships to the New World.)
- Be acquainted with different kinds of music
(One cannot ignore jazz and its roots in slaves' utterances, or other kinds of musical forms that developed from slaves' songs.)
· Music, dance, drama
(Sailing, forces, meteorology, energy)
· Religion and ethics
(One can easily discuss slavery in the context of religion and ethics and how the argumentation that blacks were not Christian and therefore did not have a soul affected the public opinion.)
· Social conditions and Health (public health?)
(Nutrition of slaves and conditions of transport on slave ships; life conditions on plantations.)
This has only been a suggestion of how the discussion of slavery and the slave trade, or related themes, can be integrated in almost all subject matters in secondary schools. We are certain that teachers have several other ideas on how to integrate that subject in their plans. We would be grateful if they could send us their suggestions so we can include them in our pages (www.unesco.no/slaveroute) . The source will be mentioned.
We have gathered various information on slavery (books, films, a chronology of important events and a list of interesting websites to consult). The lists will be updated regularly. We hope that this document will be helpful and we will be waiting for your suggestions and comments. You can contact us by mail, fax or e-mail at the following:
P.O.Box 1507 Vika
Fax: 22 83 16 89