Shahnaz Akhter


On the International Day of Remembrance, Shahnaz Akhter makes the case on why we should be marking this on the school calendars and incorporating this into our curriculum. This year's theme for the 2021 International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is: "Ending Slavery's Legacy of Racism: A Global Imperative for Justice.

While March 25th within the UK feels like any day in the school calendar, leading up to the Easter holidays, in the United Nations, it marks the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The day serves as an instance to remember the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. Marked internationally by a series of events, the UN holds a special general assembly and a series of events in which academics and practitioners come together to discuss the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade. These events are supported by the United Nations Remembering Slavery Programme's work, which runs an educational outreach programme designed to discuss the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade. It further organises visits to the UN, where students can see the permanent memorial to the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, The Ark of Return by Rodney Leon

At a time, when discussions of how we remember Britain's role in the transatlantic slave trade play out in parliaments and the broadsheets, student-led movements to show us that there is a desire to learn more about this in the curriculum. Conversations on decolonising the curriculum are now about more than reading lists. It is about discussions on the way in which our history is taught and questioning the structural roots of racism. This day serves as an opportunity for schools to discuss how we as a country or as individuals remember the victims. While Empire features on the curriculum, it is often taught through the lens of history, emphasising Britain's role in abolition and creating a disconnect between the British owned plantations and the horrors of the slave trade. By engaging with the idea of remembrance, we can begin discussions on how colonialism's hidden legacies permeate through society today. That this day comes so close to the UN International Day for the elimination of racism is a pertinent reminder that the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade are still prevalent today.

Incorporating Remembrance into the Curriculum

This academic year, we have been working with students across the country to examine the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade. The online format that this past year has brought has meant that we could have discussions that allowed us to see both the global and local impacts of colonialism both historically and how these continue to shape both our surroundings and lived experiences. Working with schools and ThinkHigher, we have begun a programme to introduce the students to colonialism's hidden legacies through online talks and lesson plans incorporating these into the existing curriculum.

Our programme began by showing a talk, Unveiling the Past, run by the Remembering Slavery Programme, which discussed the significance of preserving the burial grounds of those enslaved by the transatlantic slave trade. The discussion featured Cirai Rasool and Peggy King Jorde. Focusing on issues of memorialisation, students watching the talk learnt about the African burial monument in New York and the battle to preserve another burial ground in St.Helena and South Africa. Here we worked with students focusing on Social inequity who used spoken word to highlight the need to remember.

The second talk features Tracey Peterson of the Remembering Slavery Programme, Peggy King Jorde and Ben Richardson. The Hidden legacies of colonialism talk introduces students to three elements of colonialism that can be incorporated into the curriculum. The initial segment by Tracey Peterson introduced students to the work of the Remembering Slavery Programme and used her personal history to begin discussions of racism. For our students involved, this opened up discussions on how we define racism and whether we can start to combat racism through education by introducing discussions on colonialism in our curriculum. The second segment of the video introduces students to St.Helena, where a campaign is underway to prevent a local burial ground from being tarmacked over for a car park. Students from the Think Higher network have chosen to use this as part of their civic engagement, using it as an opportunity to engage with local politicians to raise awareness. The third segment by Ben Richardson focused on local history, showing how the wealth of the Empire shapes our everyday surroundings. Using Leamington Spa as a study, Ben took the students on a virtual tour, showing how the wealth gained through plantations funded the town's buildings, its links to Eugenics and directed students to how they can research their local histories. By incorporating the International Day of Remembrance into the school curriculum, there is an opportunity to shape conversations on history and civic engagement throughout the year.

The links to the Unveiling the Past Talk can be found here

The Hidden legacies of colonialism here

The United Nations Remembering Slavery Programme Website also has links to the further resources that schools can use.