Slavery and Archival Evidence

This is the ARA's statement on Slavery and Archival Evidence.  ARAis committed to educating and empowering everyone who works in record-keepingor uses our records to eliminate the ignorant and offensive opinions expressedabout slavery and widely reported in the media. 

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Slavery and Archival Evidence

Many of you will have recently seen or read comments about the operation and consequences of the transatlantic slave trade. As the professional body representing record-keepers in the UK and Ireland, we feel it important to stress that the evidence of slavery as the systematic dehumanisation and destruction of African peoples is widespread and abundant. Many local authority, university, business and charitable archives hold material relating to slavery and some have been founded or sustained by the profits it generated.

As the custodians of the nation's heritage it is incumbent upon us to ensure this shameful period in our history is not only preserved but is widely known. The provision of documentary evidence is central to refuting those who seek to downplay or deny the crimes against humanity perpetrated by all aspects of the slavery system.

As well as the evidence that exists, we are mindful of the voices not heard and the peoples that will never be known: the silences in our archives. The scale of the genocide: complete ethnicities, traditions, languages, faiths and communities destroyed by the 400-year trade is forever unknown and unknowable and their loss to the world incalculable. The effects, including white supremacy, racism and millions forcibly separated from their genetic and ethnic heritage are still felt today.

We are committed to educating and empowering everyone who works in record-keeping or uses our records to eliminate the ignorant and offensive opinions expressed about slavery and widely reported in the media. We welcome and support all efforts to do this and confirm our commitment to the joint statement we signed in June 2020 to ending racism in the heritage sector: https://www.archives.org.uk/news/807-joint-statement-of-intent-for-the-heritage-sector.html