Stockton University Remembers Slavery for U.N. International Day of Remembrance

For Immediate Release; photos on Flickr

Contact:         Susan Allen
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Galloway, N.J. – “We can’t talk about remembrance [of slavery] without hearing the music that got the people through this time,” said Donnetrice Allison, associate professor of Communications and Africana Studies. 

The General Assembly of the United Nations approved a resolution in December of 2007 declaring March 25 the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Stockton University’s celebration of the International Day of Remembrance today began with songs and narratives. Slaves sang “from the depths of their souls to be free,” said Louise Gorham-Neblett, an adjunct instructor.  

“Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world,” sang Stockton alumna Marissa Phifer with Professor of Music Beverly Vaughn on piano.

They uplifted the audience with spiritual, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” encouraging the audience to clap along to the beat.

Slavery exists in many forms throughout global history and continues to this day, explained Michelle McDonald, assistant provost, who has taught Atlantic history, but added that the transatlantic slave trade stands out in terms of its scale and its legacy.

The transatlantic slave trade “lasted from the late 15th- until the mid-19th centuries legally, and longer thereafter, and spanned three continents, forcibly bringing more than 10 million Africans to the Americas,” said McDonald.

She displayed an animation that illustrates individual slave ships as moving dots while they travel to their destinations. In just two minutes, 20,000 dots denoting voyages flew across the screen.                                                                                                                          

Melaku Lakew, professor of Economics, focused his presentation on slavery in South Africa, where natives became minorities to the slaves. “History neglects slavery in South Africa,” Lakew said. 

“Slaves created a culture to make their lives better. In spite of the difficulties, they overcame,” he explained.

Food, costumes, music and stories are all crucial in helping to preserve history.

“Forgetting is the biggest problem,” he said, urging everyone to take the time to reflect and remember.

Wondi Geremew, assistant professor of Developmental Mathematics, who grew up in Ethiopia, never learned about slavery in school.

“In math, it’s not always easy to solve an equation. Slavery is the same. It’s not easy to undo existing slavery. The best we can do is teach our children and students so it will never happen again in any shape or form,” Geremew explained.

Robert Gregg, dean of the School of General Studies, shared a personal experience from taking the citizenship test. “They ask tough questions,” he said, even for someone who studies American history.

One question asked, “why did the pilgrims come to the U.S.?”

Religious freedom is the common answer. Another answer is that the pilgrims went to Cape Cod, Massachusetts for the cod fishery that would help them provide food for slaves in the Caribbean, Gregg explained.  

These answers illustrate that “we tend to push aside what’s uncomfortable,” he said.

Donnetrice Allison encouraged the audience to continue the day’s conversations. The Holocaust and 9/11 are among the events we are told never to forget, but for some reason, we stop talking about slavery and move on, she explained.

“We have to recognize slavery and keep talking about its dehumanization ramifications that continue today,” she said.