Nantes FACING UP TO ITS HISTORY
Nantes, France’s largest slave port. Between the 15th and 19th centuries, numerous European ports such as Liverpool, London, Bristol, Nantes, La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Amsterdam and Lisbon were involved in the slave trade. During the 18th century, Nantes became France’s largest slave port. Shipowners, bankers, industrialists, traders, shopkeepers, shipbuilders and sailors all benefited to varying degrees from the trade.
Forgotten for a long time. In 1848, after a drawn-out battle and thanks in no small part to the campaign led by Victor Schœlcher, the abolition of slavery was voted. Nantes moved on, but between cynicism and a guilty conscience, a cloak of silence fell over the subject and it was forgotten.
It was not until the 1990s that the people of Nantes, along with the town council, actively sought to face up to their history. In 1992, with more than 400,000 visitors, the exhibition « Les Anneaux de la Mémoire » facilitated an understanding and analysis of these historical events.
Nantes comes to terms with its memories and begins new struggles for today and the future. Since, Nantes has continued to move along the path of these new-found memories. Over twenty years, this path has been punctuated with local and international projects: cooperation and twinning with African and South-American towns, support for associations, organisation of the World Forum on Human Rights, opening of rooms dedicated to the slave trade at the Nantes History Museum, opening of the Institute for Advanced Studies with its original approach to North-South relations, etc. Finally, in 2012, the building of a Memorial in homage to all those who fought in the past, fight today and will fight in the future against slavery marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of another: that of the present and future.