Harlem has a long history of dealing with the issue of slavery, from Columbia University grappling with it’s ties to slavery to the African Burial ground of slaves in East Harlem.
That’s why when Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, delivered remarks this afternoon at a UN General Assembly commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, it was something that caught our attention.
Here’s what she said:
“We gather today to commemorate a shameful and brutal period in the world’s history. We remember the over 10 million men, women, and children who lost their lives and their dignity at the hands of the transatlantic slave trade. The rare messages of hope that come from this terrible time are the stories of the courageous men and women who fought for and won their God-given right to freedom. Some of them made the ultimate sacrifice, dying in slavery, so that others may live in freedom. We can’t change this painful part of our history, but we can learn from it by remembering these remarkable people. We remember Elizabeth Freeman, an African American slave who was the first to sue for her freedom – and win – in a Massachusetts court in 1780.”
“Next week, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1963, when Dr. King was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, he wrote about the struggle for civil rights that he was leading in my country. Even from his jail cell, he wrote, ‘If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.’ He was right. As the former governor of South Carolina, the progress we have achieved since Dr. King wrote those words has been especially important to me. My state’s troubled history with slavery and discrimination is well known, and its lessons live on. Anyone who knows the South Carolina of today knows how much progress has been made, as we use these lessons to move forward as a people.”
“So while we are proud of what we have achieved, we do not forget the long and challenging road that got us here. May we go forward to build a freer and more inclusive world, informed by the lessons of history and inspired by the example of extraordinary people like Elizabeth Freeman.”
Full video and transcript of remarks: https://go.usa.gov/xQC4g