Sarkozy says primary school pupils to study slavery

French primary school children will start studying the history of slavery to increase awareness in society of the suffering it caused.

Sarkozy says primary school pupils to study slavery

French primary school children will start studying the history of slavery from the next academic year to increase awareness in society of the suffering it caused, President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Saturday.

The role played by French merchants and shippers in the West African slave trade forms part of the history curriculum in secondary schools, although some campaigners say the issue is not studied thoroughly enough.

"It is a story that must be told in school books so that our children can understand what slavery was, measure the suffering it caused and the scars it left in the souls of those who cannot separate themselves from this tragic past," Sarkozy said at a ceremony commemorating slavery's victims where he announced the move.

NAPOLEON MADE SLAVERY LEGAL

France was one of the nations most active in the transatlantic slave trade. A first law abolishing slavery was passed in 1794, during the French Revolution, but Napoleon made slavery legal again in 1802. It was abolished for good in 1848.

The French parliament passed a law on May 10, 2001, declaring that the slave trade was a crime against humanity. Since 2006, France has held an annual national commemoration of slavery on May 10.

It is a theme that still resonates in France, which struggles to integrate many of its residents of African origin. Sarkozy said a greater awareness of slavery would "appease" society, although he did not explain exactly what he meant.

In the past, Sarkozy has made comments that offended many people of African origin. During his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president last year, he shocked public opinion with a speech suggesting Africans had failed to embrace progress.

"When the French have understood the history (of slavery), then it will become our common history, the history of all the French people and not only of some of them," Sarkozy said in his speech in a Paris park.

On the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean, where many residents are descendants of African slaves exported to work in farms, there is a greater emphasis on slavery in history lessons at school.

Sarkozy said slavery should be better studied through literary works such as those of Aime Cesaire, a poet and statesman from Martinique who died last month.

"I want the works of Aime Cesaire to be included in the new school curricula for lower and upper secondary school," Sarkozy said.

Cesaire, a founding father of the "negritude" movement that celebrated black consciousness, was a fierce critic of France's colonial past. In 2005, he refused to meet Sarkozy, then the interior minister, because Sarkozy's party had pushed for a law recognising the positive legacy of colonial rule.

Reuters
Last Mod: 10 Mayıs 2008, 18:00
Add Comment