Bordeaux on Thursday put explanatory plaque on five streets in the name of slave traders, an attempt to remember praised by anti-racism activists, although some, in the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement, want to go further.
While statues of slave traders or former colonists are thrown into Bristol, Boston or Miami, Bordeaux prefers “memory pedagogy”. This former slave port, one of the largest in Europe, has placed June 11, explanatory plaque on five streets in the name of the slave traders.
For rue David-Gradis (1665-1751), a plaque explains that he armed ten ships for the slave trade but that he also bought land that became the city’s first Jewish cemetery. “It is for this reason and because his descendants were also Bordeaux remarks that his name was given this street.”
“Racism was born out of the slave trade,” said Marik Fetouh, vice mayor in charge of equality and the fight against discrimination. “Racism is there to motivate human trafficking and the classification between superior and inferior.”
Like Nantes or La Rochelle, the Girondine capital succeeded in the slave trade, with 508 slave expeditions, but also the lucrative trade in colonial goods produced by slaves. From 1672 to 1837, 120,000 to 150,000 African slaves were deported to America by Bordeaux shipowners.
An attempt to remember began ten years ago
These five plaques are part of an effort to remember that began a decade ago, after a “memorial journey” in the city, rooms dedicated to slavery at the Musée d’Aquitaine or the installation of “a statue of Modeste Testas, a slave deported to Santo Domingo.
“The measures that the city of Bordeaux has taken in recent years have been strong,” admits Karfa Diallo, founder of Mémoires et Partages, an association that has driven local politicians in the last twenty years to face this shadow. .
Karfa Diallo would now like the initiative to cover about twenty streets, including “those who lived in slavery, who owned colonial plantations in America”.
“Rename a street”
In early June, he had sent an “open letter” to the municipal candidates in the former slave harbors of Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Le Havre and Marseille, as well as Biarritz, where he condemned a district called La Négresse.
“It is urgent to rename, or at least explain and contextualize, the hundred streets, squares, districts and monuments that in France violate Republican principles and feed the evil beasts of racism,” he wrote.
But today, he believes, the latest anti-racist movements require “that a symbol fall,” he said, and prayed “that we change the name of a street” in these cities. We have to “respond to the impatience of this youth who shakes us up,” he says.