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The Slave Market, Between History And Memory

The Slave Market, Between History And Memory
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In Petit-Canal are located the slave steps. An emblematic monument of the territory which has been the subject of a real mystification and heritage since the 1970s-1980s.

At the bottom of the village of Petit-Canal, the site called Slave Steps is a very visited place whose history is unknown. “There is no history,” says one historian.

This staircase is made of 54 stone steps. A number that would correspond to the dwellings present during the slave trade. According to legend, these steps were built at the time of the release of slaves, offered by the houses and the factory.

“The name Slave Steps is recent and abusive, continues the historian. An unsuspecting public gives it a story related to the sale of slaves. “

A Useful Construction

The sources about the steps are not the most explicit about the circumstances of their realization. But several historians agree that the construction is linked to the sale of slaves.

“The only mention we have comes from a parish priest evoking a building in 1853,” says one of the historians. This was said about five years after the abolition of slavery.

On the other hand, according to historians, the structure testifies to a unique fact in the department of the slanting of the village towards the east, on a plateau where the church was already located. “It is also the only parish in Guadeloupe that does not look in the direction of its current village. “

In the nineteenth century, the village concentrated all economic activities like the shops, crafts and markets along the small canal. The city of Petit-Canal was then a stronghold. “These steps were the way to get to the plateau. They were created for a utilitarian purpose which is none other than access to the church. “

The site “Slave Steps” has, over time, become a memorial area with a concentration of monuments from different periods evoking significant moments in the history of Guadeloupe. The monument to the unknown slave, which commemorates the first declaration abolition of slavery in 1794, the djembe (African musical instrument) which is quite large in itself by its size is located between the steps of the port and the bust of Colonel Louis Delgrès located at the foot of the steps.

Today in memory, we memorialize the objects of the site to maintain the memory of slavery. For example, plaques honoring the different African ethnic groups are placed on the stairs. The monument of freedom of 1848, celebrating the second and definitive abolition of slavery, is the oldest. It was erected above the steps behind the church and contributes for the most part, to the denomination discussed “Slave Steps”.

At their request, the historians interviewed refused to be quoted because of the problems that their points of view generates.

Ethnicities Engraved

On the steps, plaques recall the names of the different African ethnic groups like the Yorubas (people of the southwest, Nigeria, Togo, Benin), Congos (people of an ancient kingdom of the mouth of the Congo River), Ibos (south East of Nigeria), Ouolofs (Nigeria, Senegal and Congo), Fulani (in western Africa) and Bamileke (people in western Cameroon). At the foot of the steps stands the bust of Louis Delgrès, who fought to the death against the restoration of slavery in 1802.

 

Source by the FranceAntilles Tuesday 16 July 2019 – 06:00

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