Slavery Memorial Year 1 July 2023 to 1 July 2024

Historic involvement in slavery is a very painful, significant, and - until recently - underexposed part of our shared history. For a whole year, extra attention will be paid to this history throughout the Kingdom: the Slavery Memorial Year will run from 1 July 2023 to 1 July 2024.

Slavery Memorial Year

For over 300 years, adults and children from various parts of Africa, were abducted and shipped across the Atlantic in inhuman conditions - mostly by Dutch slave traders - to the former Dutch colonies of Suriname and the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten. The indigenous peoples of the numerous Dutch colonies were not spared either. In Asia, enslaved people were traded to areas under the administration of the United East India Company (VOC). For generations, people were born into slavery. They were forced into slave labour for their entire lives, serving the Dutch plantation owners.

On 1 July 1863, slavery was abolished by law in Suriname and the Caribbean islands, then colonies of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Nevertheless, a large proportion of the enslaved population had to continue working on the plantations under state supervision for a further 10 years in order to mitigate the "loss caused by this measure" to the plantation owners. Accordingly, for many in the then kingdom, slavery did not actually end until 1 July 1873. 1 July 2023 will mark 150 years since that event.

From 1858 until long after 1873, contract labour also subjected people from Asia to hard labour in Suriname under Dutch colonial rule.

During the Memorial Year, the Kingdom of the Netherlands will pause to reflect on this painful history. And on how this history still plays a negative role in the lives of many today. The Government of the Netherlands supports initiatives by or in collaboration with the various groups and communities with a relationship to historic slavery. In this way, the Slavery Memorial Year will develop organically from the ground up within our communities.

The grant schemes

June and July 2023 will mark the grand opening of the Slavery Memorial Year across the Kingdom, and July 2024 will mark its close. Through this memorial year, the Government of the Netherlands hopes to contribute to permanently increasing knowledge and interconnectivity within society.

In addition, the Cabinet will make two million euros available for the organisation of activities during Slavery Memorial Year by, for example, community organisations and cultural institutions. This will enable larger institutions and small local initiatives or individuals alike to apply for funding to organise social and/or cultural activities. This will be conducted through two cultural funds: The Mondrian Fund and the Cultural Participation Fund.

Initiators such as museums, theatres and archives, as well as private initiators such as artists, creatives or organisers, can apply for funding to organise an activity during the Slavery Memorial Year. The Mondriaan Fund and the Cultural Participation Fund will assess the applications independently, through a representative assessment committee with knowledge of historic slavery and the communities involved. Anyone in the Kingdom wishing to organise an activity as part of the Slavery Memorial Year can apply. Information can be found on the websites of the Mondriaan Fund and the Cultural Participation Fund.