Transatlantic slave trade: legacies of the past & building the future

Prominent academics, researchers, authors and other global experts - including members of the International Scientific Committee of UNESCO’s Routes of Enslaved Peoples project - gathered from 9 to 11 June 2022 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, to discuss the causes, consequences and impacts of the transatlantic slave trade. This was the Committee’s first meeting in North America.
UNESCO’s Routes of Enslaved Peoples project - International Scientific Committee with ADG/SHS
Slavery is not something from the past, it still has tragic consequences today. We need to continue talking about the heritage and acknowledgment of the important contributions of enslaved people to our modern world. In parallel, racism and discrimination, which are still poisoning our world today, need to be eradicated.
Gabriela Ramos UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences

With a focus on “Legacies of the Past, Building the Future: mobilizing Afro-descent Stories”, this meeting set a new path for the project’s implementation with the:

  • development of an impact-oriented Action Plan to better structure the work of the Committee,
  • mapping of the existing memory sites that bear witness to the history of the slave trade and slavery all around the world;
  • issuing of an annual report by the Scientific Committee on their latest applied research;
  • discussions were initiated on the importance of modern slavery within the framework of the project.
The Committee is excited to advance our discussions in Halifax and hear from community members to learn more about African Nova Scotian stories, cultures and places of interest, like Africville, Beechville and Birchtown.
Myriam Cottias Chair of the Scientific Committee, a historian, professor and specialist of the history of slavery in the Caribbean
Holding these meetings in Nova Scotia did not only advance the work of the UN and our Scientific Committees but was also the opportunity to raise awareness about how Nova Scotia fits into the global story of the slave trade, as a site of settlement and black resistance, and a place with positive momentum to combat racism and inequity.
Dominique Day Chair of the United Nations Working Group on people of African Descent

The Committee heard from experts and community leaders on topics including: the Black Loyalists Experience in Canada and Sierra Leone, Interpreting Freetown, the role of education to ensure positive learning outcomes for Black learners in the Nova Scotia education system, the story of Africville and the work of the Black Cultural Centre to preserve, protect and promote African Nova Scotian heritage and culture.

I am honored to join this committee of experts in support of the Routes of Enslaved Peoples project. This work is important to ensure the world’s people know about the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its lasting impacts so that we may productively address the wrongs of the past in how we look to the future.
Dr Afua Cooper Member of the Scientific Committee and Professor of Black Studies at Dalhousie University Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology

UNESCO’s Routes of Enslaved Peoples Project

Since its launch in 1994, the UNESCO Routes of Enslaved Peoples: Resistance, Liberty and Heritage Project has contributed to the production of knowledge, the development of pedagogical contents and to the memory sites on the themes of slavery, its abolition and the resistance it generated.

Today, the Project’s main objectives are to produce and disseminate new interdisciplinary knowledge by making connections between the history of slavery and critical approaches to race and inequality; fight against racism and racial discrimination where they intersect with other forms of exclusion; promote tangible (memory sites) and intangible heritage born of cultural resistance to slavery throughout the world; integrate a gender equality perspective by showcasing the role of women in the history of slavery; develop capacity-building for the benefit of local communities and professionals working in the management and promotion of heritage and museums; advocate against contemporary forms of slavery.


UNESCO Contact

Yvette Kaboza,


Media Contact

Michelle Lucas

Communications Nova Scotia