Major Dutch cities pushing for abolition of slavery to become a national holiday
Representatives of the four largest Dutch cities have sent a letter to Tweede Kamer asking the Cabinet to own up to the 'hidden and uncomfortable’ colonial past of the Netherlands. The leaders of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht urged for the abolition of slavery to be celebrated as a national public holiday on July 1.
"By commemorating society takes responsibility, but it also commits itself to a society and a future in which there is no room for racism and inequality of opportunity. It should be a day to mourn and celebrate, to look at lessons learned from the past and a shared future,” it was stated in the letter.
They also pushed for the establishment of an agency that fights against racism and discrimination. The idea to appoint a National Coordinator against Discrimination and Racism was previously initiated by Minister Kasja Ollongren of Home Affairs.
In addition to the national holiday, the council chiefs of the four cities also asked for a national investigation into the country’s colonial past. Studies into the colonial past of the cities and their involvement in the slave trade and were previously published in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Utrecht and The Hague are also working on such studies. The four cities argued that the initiative needed to be implemented on a national level.
"It's not just cities that have a past. The Netherlands has a multicolored and polyphonic society, but personal stories are not shared enough," the letter read.
Within the Afro-Surinamese community, there have been calls for some time to make July 1 a public holiday, as it is in Suriname. A majority of the Amsterdam city council supported that request with a motion last year. The representatives of the four largest cities argued that nationwide research could prompt the Netherlands to finally apologize for its involvement in the slavery trade. 2023 will mark the 150th anniversary since the abolition of slavery was made law
The Amsterdam municipality also started handing out free copies of the book Amsterdam and the History of Slavery this month. With this initiative, the municipality hopes to educate the general public about the role Amsterdam played in the global slave trade in the past.