Visitors to the United Nations headquarters in New York will get a powerful reminder of the brutality of the transatlantic slave trade and its enormous impact on world history through a visually stunning new memorial that was unveiled last week in a solemn ceremony.
There were speeches intended to touch the emotionality of a system that operated for hundreds of years, killing an estimated 15 million African men, women and children and sending millions more into the jaws of a vicious system of plantation slavery in the Americas.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called slavery “a stain on human history.”
U.N. General Assembly President Sam Kutesa said slavery remained one of the “darkest and most abhorrent chapters” in world history.
It was only fitting that the ceremony take place at a site surrounded by the looming skyscrapers of New York. Slavery was the economic engine upon which American capitalism was built, providing the seed money for United States businesses to create the most vibrant economic system in the world. The enslaved Black person (whose gender is purposely vague to represent men, women and children) lying inside the dramatically shaped marble memorial, which is called The Ark of Return, is a symbol of the millions whose deaths led to the building of those skyscrapers, the visual emblems of American capitalism’s enormous financial windfall for the white beneficiaries of slavery and their descendants.
During his speech unveiling the memorial, Ban Ki-moon spoke directly to Black people in the Americas and the Caribbean who are descended from the enslaved Black people who were sacrificed.