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Lesson Transcript

The Annual Day of the Memory of Slavery
In French, it’s called Journée annuelle de la mémoire de l'esclavage.
Do you know why May 10 is an important date in France? It’s the Annual Day of the Memory of Slavery. “Slavery” in French is esclavage and a “slave” is called an esclave. French people celebrate the abolition of slavery on this day. We’re going to tell you more about this day in this lesson.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
Who was the first black general in the French army’s history, a man who was actually a slave in the past?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
In the sixteenth century, the colonization of the New World called for new labor needs, so Europeans brought slaves in from Africa, or Afrique. With the revolution, deputies of the Convention abolished slavery once to stop revolts in the West Indies colonies. But general Napoléon Bonaparte repealed this measure and legalized slavery again on May 20, 1802. French people had to wait until the Republican fervor of the Revolution of February 1848, for slavery to be completely abolished in mainland France as well as Overseas Territories.
The date of May 10 corresponds to the adoption of the Taubira Law by Parliament on May 10, 2001. This French law recognizes slavery as a “crime against humanity” or, in French, crime contre l’humanité. President Jacques Chirac decided in 2006 to make May 10 the Day of Commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery in mainland France in memory of slaves and in commemoration of the ending of this practice.
On the Annual Day of the Memory of Slavery, several memorial events take place in mainland France and the Overseas Territories. For example, the Musée du Quai Branly, or Quai Branly Museum in Paris, which specifically displays collections of objects from African civilizations, participates actively in this day. Specific events are organized at the museum on this day, and collections related to the theme of slavery are put online on its website.
One famous abolitionist was a woman named Marie Olympe de Gouges, who was born in 1748 and executed by guillotine in 1793. She was especially known for her championing of women’s rights, but she also fought to promote the abolition of slavery through her writing, such as her famous play titled Zamore et Mirza meaning “Zamore and Mirza.”
Now it's time to answer our quiz question!
Do you know who was the first black general in the French army’s history, a man who was actually a slave in the past?
His name was Toussaint Louverture. He was a former slave born in Haiti in 1783. He led the slave revolt against the white colonists in 1791. Three years later the French Republic abolished slavery and Toussaint joined, becoming the first black general in the French army. The French Army is called Armée Française in French.
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