Voices from former French colonies reflect on painful slave trade legacy

It's been more than two decades since France recognised slavery as a crime against humanity – the first country in the world to do so. On the day France commemorates the abolition of slavery, RFI spoke to citizens from French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Reunion Island – former colonies and now French overseas departments – about this dark period.

Almost four million men, women and children lived as slaves in the French colonies until the abolition of the slave trade in 1848. Thousands of French citizens in those former colonies are the descendants of people that were enslaved.

France has two days to commemorate slavery: 10 May memorialises the slave trade, slavery and its abolition, while 23 May marks a national day for the victims of colonial slavery.

In 2001, on 10 May, parliament adopted the Taubira Law recognising as a crime against humanity the trafficking and slavery practiced from the 15th century on the African, Amerindian, Malagasy and Indian populations. It was approved by the Senate on 21 May.

It was tabled by a Socialist lawmaker from French Guyana, Christiane Taubira, who went on to become France's first black justice minister.

In 2006, a decree was signed by then President Jacques Chirac to turn 10 May into a national day of remembrance.

RFI asked citizens of French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Reunion Island what the day means for them.

Read more on RFI English

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