Historical artifacts and structures around the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis tell of a rich past, inseparable from their roots in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. St. Kitts (St. Christopher) being the Mother Colony is said to have been among the first discovered by Christopher Columbus on his inaugural voyage. It was the first territory colonized by the British and ironically shares the name Christopher. This bit of well documented history is known all too well by the average Kittitian and Nevisian but not so for the history of our African ancestors. The details of their socio-economic contribution and pre-slavery history is sketchy to say the least and many Kittitians, Nevisians and people of the wider Caribbean have been robbed of the understanding of their strong, rich African heritage.
According to UNESCO, “Ignorance or concealment of major historical events constitutes an obstacle to mutual understanding, reconciliation and cooperation among peoples. UNESCO has thus decided to break the silence surrounding the slave trade and slavery that have affected all continents and have caused the great upheavals that have shaped our modern societies.”
The UNESCO Slave Route Project Committee was established to
spearhead activities to raise awareness in this regard. Local counterpart the UNESCO Scientific Slave Route Committee headed by Dr. Ken Ballentyne was established in 2011 with a mandate to collaborate with the government, civil society and academic institutions under the planning and implementation of UNESCO Slave Route project activities.
the St Kitts-Nevis Slave Route Project Committee, set about to activate, discussion, thought and action surrounding UNESCO’s main objectives of the Slave Route Project including:
- Contributing to a better understanding of the causes, forms of operation, issues and consequences of slavery in the world;
- Highlighting the global transformations and cultural interactions that have resulted from this history; and
- Contributing to a culture of peace by promoting reflection on cultural pluralism, intercultural dialogue and the construction of new identities and citizenship.
The period 2012- 2013 was an especially progressive season for the project in St. Kitts and Nevis as the idea of constructing a National Monument to the Abolition of the Slave Trade brought about heated discussions regarding its location and the feasibility of such a monument. The impact of these discussions on awareness was phenomenal and raised the profile of the UNESCO Slave Route Project locally.
Additionally, in 2014 the committee hope to reignite passion for the project as the Federation joined the International Community in celebration of the project’s 20th Anniversary. Initially the project sought to break the silence surrounding the slave trade, slavery and their consequences as well as to highlight the resulting transformations and promote intercultural dialogue and the shared heritage born of this human tragedy. In March the National Commission announced its intention to roll out a series of activities including:
- Lecture Series to educate and stimulate discussion and debate about issues directly related to Slavery and the Slave Trade.
- Research and document sites where slavery took place in St. Kitts and Nevis.
- A booklet of documented sites of slavery in St. Kitts and Nevis that can be used as an educational teaching tool.
- A map of the documented sites of slavery in St. Kitts and Nevis that can be used as a teacher’s aid in school and also to promote tourism.
- Continuing to coordinate the erection of a Monument to the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
The success of projects implemented by the National Commission already include:
– The production of a Text about local heritage sites to be utilized as part of the schools’ curriculum.
– Research that would facilitate the development of the plan to erect a monument to the Abolition of the slave trade.
– Raised awareness about the atrocities associated with the salve trade as well as the positive contributions of Africans in national development.
– Greater segment of society expressing interest in their cultural identity.