Amsterdam Mayor apologizes for city's role in slavery
Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema has offered a formal apology for the city’s participation in the Dutch slave trade in a speech given on July 1, the date that memorials are traditionally held in the Netherlands regarding the end of slavery. Amsterdam is now the first Dutch city to officially apologize for its role in fostering slavery during centuries ago.
"On behalf of the Executive Board of the Municipality, I apologize for the active involvement of the Amsterdam city council in the commercial system of colonial slavery and the worldwide trade of enslaved people," said Halsema.
"Not a single Amsterdammer living now is to blame for the past," she continued. "As a board, we do take our responsibility for this." Halsema spoke during the commemoration ceremony at the National Monument of Dutch Slavery Past in the city's Oosterpark.
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht have all acknowledged how the four biggest cities in the country directly and indirectly benefited from slavery from the 17th through 19th centuries. However, a formal apology was never provided.
An advisory group commissioned by the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations said a national holiday and a national remembrance attended by the king and members of the Cabinet could go a long way towards healing divisions that still linger nearly 150 years after the practice of slavery was abolished in the Netherlands. The four cities have also called for the date, known as Keti Koti, to be turned into a national holiday.
July 1, 1863 is when the Kingdom of the Netherlands abolished slavery in Suriname and the colonies in the Caribbean. It was not until ten years later that enslaved people in Suriname actually became free, according to NiNsee, the national institute for Dutch slavery history and heritage.
With some Covid-19 measures still in place, the ceremony on Thursday was only open to invited guests but was broadcast live.