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from the establishment of the black code to the abolition of slavery, centuries of barbarism

AA / Nice / Feiza Ben Mohamed

This Tuesday, May 10 marks in France the “national day of memories of the slave trade, slavery and their abolition” under the Taubira law, adopted in 2001.

This eminently important legislative text, passed under Jacques Chirac, recognizes in particular in its first article, “that the transatlantic slave trade as well as the slave trade in the Indian Ocean on the one hand, and slavery on the other hand, perpetrated from of the 15th century, in the Americas and the Caribbean, in the Indian Ocean and in Europe against the African, Amerindian, Malagasy and Indian populations constitute a crime against humanity”.

If today, everywhere in France, ceremonies are organized by the authorities to commemorate the end of slavery, the duty of memory remains necessary in order to transmit to the younger generations the historical elements which led to this barbarism, and this is what allowed France to put an end to it.

– Slavery and the slave trade: centuries of violence

Slavery, practiced for centuries by many societies, could take on two aspects: domestic and commercial.

Those who engaged in such practices thus reduced other human beings to slavery by making them servants, but also by a commercial use which allowed them to create market wealth intended to enrich themselves.

The slave trade takes on a completely different aspect. It is “the abduction and trade of black people from Africa, followed by their deportation to destinations where these men, women and children are reduced to slavery” as the memorial of the abolition of slavery points out de Nantes, on its online portal.

This same source recalls that there are three types of slave trade: the internal African slave trade which “provided servants, porters, agricultural workers”, the Muslim slave trade which took place from the 7th to the 20th century “towards the peninsula Arabia and the trans-Saharan slave trade bound for North Africa and the Middle East”, and the Atlantic slave trade organized by the Europeans bound for America in particular.

If the number of victims of the internal African slave trade is not established with certainty, the Muslim slave trade and the Atlantic slave trade would have made up to 12 million victims each.

– In France, the black code, an indelible trace of racism at its peak

In June 2020, France was the scene of numerous demonstrations against police violence. Activists who denounce these practices regularly point out that this violence historically targets non-white populations and therefore immigrants.

In their demands, many of them called for the removal of several statues representing French political figures with the statue of Colbert in their sights, which adjoins the National Assembly.

And for good reason, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister of Louis XIV, is the author of the “black code”, promulgated in 1685, and which in particular makes slaves, “movable beings”, via its article 44.

“The fugitive slave who will have been on the run for a month, counting from the day that his master will have denounced him in justice, will have his ears cut off and will be marked with a fleur-de-lis on one shoulder; if he repeats another month similarly from the day of the denunciation, he will have his hock cut off, and he will be marked with a fleur-de-lis on the other shoulder; and, the third time, he will be punished with death” even establishes article 38 of this code which legitimizes black on white, the corporal punishment of slaves.

– 1848: the abolition of slavery

“The first abolition of slavery by France dates from February 4, 1794. For the first time in history, the National Convention proclaimed the abolition of slavery, nearly four years after the adoption by the Assembly of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”, but this, “applied in all the French colonies, except to Bourbon Island and the Mascarenes, was revoked in 1802”, notes the Assembly National, in an article devoted to the events.

The decree of definitive abolition, published on April 27, 1848, establishes that “slavery is an attack against human dignity; […] by destroying the free will of man, it suppresses the natural principle of right and duty; […] it is a flagrant violation of the republican dogma: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.

The text formally prohibits “any corporal punishment, any sale of unfree persons” and establishes that “the soil of France frees any slave who touches it”.

Note that “the main instigator of this measure, Victor Schoelcher, is elected representative of the people in Guadeloupe and Martinique”.

“Opting for Martinique, he thus brought into the National Constituent Assembly his Guadeloupean running mate Louisy Mathieu, a former slave, typographer worker in a printing press in Pointe-à-Pitre, aged thirty-one, with Henri Wallon as his deputy. “, also notes the Palais Bourbon on its website.

– Memorial and gestures of appeasement

Since the establishment of the Taubira law which makes slavery a crime against humanity, the date of May 10 marks a day of commemoration.

In 2021, President Emmanuel Macron was widely criticized for the way he commemorated the events.

Present in the Luxembourg Gardens for the official ceremony, the Head of State did not speak on the subject.

“A silence can be solemn. That being said, it is still edifying that the President of the Republic has found nothing to say about more than two centuries of the History of France “said Christiane Taubira, who attended the commemoration and quoted by France Televisions.

And the former Keeper of the Seals noted: “five days ago, he was doing scales on Napoleon Bonaparte. So, we have the right to have the fascinations we want, this being the case, even when we have the cult of heroes, it is an era that does not lack heroic figures.

However, in his speech of May 10, 2019, he denounced “the horror of slavery” before saluting “the honor of resistance” against trafficking “and the happiness of emancipation”.

“It’s a French story. A universal history”, he declared before promising “a monument in the heart of Paris, a museum with enhanced influence” which should see the light of day in the Tuileries garden.

At the same time as this question of slavery, it is important to note that Emmanuel Macron has multiplied, over the past three years, memorial gestures, particularly aimed at Algeria to come to terms with his past.

He was nevertheless very clear on the issue of monuments and statues of personalities linked to slavery.

None of them will be “unbolted” and the history of France “will not be erased”.

Only part of the dispatches, which Anadolu Agency broadcasts to its subscribers via the Internal Broadcasting System (HAS), is broadcast on the AA website, in a summarized manner. Please contact us to subscribe.

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