Luke Pollard MP Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport
Today – the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade – will see the unveiling of Plymouth Hoe’s Peace Garden slavery memorial. The memorial commemorates the lives that were tragically lost to the slave trade, as well as paying tribute to the Plymouth residents who worked tirelessly to end slavery.
It is so important to recognise the horrific racism that existed in the past, which Britain played a large part in, as well as the racism which unfortunately still exists today. As with all tragedies, it is essential that we provide a time and a space for reflection, mourning, and learning on what has passed – the tragedy of the slave trade is no exception.
We have an incredible maritime history in Plymouth which we are so proud of. However, it is important to recognise the way in which stories of seafarers has been told over the centuries, such as the downplaying of the role that Elizabethan sailors such as Sir John Hawkins played in the slave trade. We cannot change history, and nor do we seek to, but we can use it as a reminder of the atrocities of the past and as a way of remembering the victims of slavery and oppression.
We should also remember the role that the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines played in stopping the illegal slave trade. When the British Government passed the Slave Trade Act in 1807, the task of enforcing it fell to the Royal Navy. The Navy’s ships were tasked with intercepting ships carrying slaves, with or without international co-operation. Many sailors lost their lives during the pursuit of illegal slave ships, and these lives should be commemorated too.
If you would like to visit the memorial, it can be found at Plymouth Hoe’s Peace Garden.
If you would like to learn more about Plymouth’s contribution to the slave trade, visit the 100 Journeys gallery at The Box.